Human Arts Ensemble (charles “bobo” Shaw)

The Human Arts Ensemble was a musical and theatrical cooperative founded in St. Louis, MO, in 1971 by free jazz musicians who had been associated AACM and BAG (Black Artist’s Group). Around 1970, public funding began to dry up for arts organizations that were suspected of having ties to radical political groups, and drummer Charles Bobo Shaw had the idea of creating a new artistic co-operative that was open to any person without regard to race. The resulting Human Arts Ensemble was thus able to proceed within a radical political agenda and pursue its unique brand of guerilla theater, yet get the public support it needed to do so. The Human Arts Ensemble ultimately proved an important training ground for jazz musicians who were interested in free improvisation. Among musicians who spent some time jamming with The Human Arts Ensemble were Luther Thomas, Joseph Bowie, Marty Ehrlich, John Lindberg, and even a young John Zorn, along with more established artists such as Lester Bowie and Oliver Lake. The album Under the Sun, recorded in 1973, appeared on the Arista/Freedom label in 1975 to wide critical acclaim and even some decent sales despite its avant-garde orientation. Part of the appeal of Under the Sun was its blending of funk grooves with free improvisation. The Human Arts Ensemble continued to present elaborate musical pageants in the St. Louis area until 1977. At that time, part of the key membership relocated to New York, with others electing to stay behind in St. Louis. The group existed only briefly in New York, as Joseph Bowie ultimately became more deeply involved in forming his band, Defunkt, and the remaining Human Arts Ensemble members drifted off to other pursuits. from allmusic

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