The Art Ensemble of Chicago is an avant-garde jazz ensemble that grew out of Chicago's AACM in the late 1960s. The group continues to tour and record through 2006, despite the deaths of two of the founding members.
The Art Ensemble is notable for its integration of musical styles spanning jazz's entire history and for their multi-instrumentalism, especially the use of what they termed "little instruments" in addition to the traditional jazz lineup; "little instruments" can include bicycle horns, bells, birthday party noisemakers, wind chimes, and a vast array ofpercussion instruments (including found objects). The group also uses costumes and face paint in performance. These characteristics combine to make the ensemble's performances as much a visual spectacle as an aural one, with each musician playing from behind a large array of drums, bells, gongs, and other instruments. When playing in Europe in 1969, the group was using more than 500 instruments.