The Art Ensemble of Chicago’s greatest strengths were their versatility and eclecticism. Les Stances a Sophie is a great example of their best qualities, as they swing between mellow soul jazz, free jazz skronking, Euro-classical adaptations, delicate world fusion, retro bluesing, and points in between. I don’t know if you could point to the group as being ultimate masters of any one style, but that didn’t ever seem to be their intention. They came up at a time when lots of the last barriers in music had been torn down, and these guys made a case for the beauty found in stitching all the various strands together in intriguing ways. The individual pieces are familiar, but the tapestry feels genuine and fresh. It would be hard to hear this and not immediately find something to like, even if the entirety takes some time to absorb.