The quartet was one of the seminal if short lived groupings of AACM musicians dedicated to a chamber, new music sort of presentation. Of course before them was Anthony Braxton's trio with Wadada Leo Smith and Leroy Jenkins. The Art Ensemble of Chicago live in the first decade of their existence and even after that were known to devote some of their live sets and parts of their albums to more abstract, less rhythmic compositions-improvisations of course, and this quartet was a more intense exploration of that territory as Roscoe conceived it. The initial studio album on Sackville gave us a good listen to what they were doing. Live at "A Space" 1975 expands and elaborates that.
In the quartet was of course Roscoe on saxes, the legendary Muhal Richard Abrams on piano, a young and very much upcoming George Lewis on trombone in his recorded debut, and Spencer Barefield on guitar, a sensitive, attuned musician who plays an important role in the group but on this live date an extraordinarily spare one.
The bonus additions to the CD release include a version of Trane's "Naima" and versions of "Dastura" and "Nonaah". The pieces here from the original vinyl release are "Tnoona," "Music for Trombone and B-Flat Soprano", "Cards", and "Olobo".
The music gives us another look at the quartet in a live setting. George Lewis sounds quite inspired but then so does Mitchell and Abrams. There are moments of excellent interplay, such as the three-way version of "Cards", there are solo moments where group members have a chance to express something on their own--with Abrams and Lewis turning in some especially excellent moments, and there is the whole advanced vibe of the group and its abstractive expressiveness.
All of it is most definitely worth hearing, even if you know the studio date. The quartet did not exactly get on the top-40 charts in those days, and of course that was because they were too good! The CD shows you why.