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Archie Shepp: Knowing the Life

By Published: August 23, 2007
AAJ: Also that part of your career where you engaged more avant-garde forms was, on the whole, rather short.

Archie SheppAS: Well, relatively—but I wouldn't say so short because the eight or ten years I was with Impulse!, that's pretty much all I did. During that time, I took advantage of having a budget and hired the best musicians around New York. I never limited myself to a style of music, avant-garde and so forth because I've always liked traditional music, so-called jazz music, standards and the works of Ellington (I recorded Duke Ellington's songs alongside my so-called avant-garde originals).

AAJ: And there were things even more far-reaching like Attica Blues.

AS: Yeah, things like that on which I'm really trying to make contemporary and make relevant my blues direction and my interest. I did record a number of blues items including that one. I recorded something with Woody Shaw later on for Impulse! [For Losers (Impulse!, 1971)], on which we did a number of blues-type songs.

AAJ: Has it been fairly difficult since that time to get together the groups you've wanted for certain projects?

AS: You know, this business is generational—another reason I don't like the term "jazz is because it's topical. It always refers to what's—or who's—currently on top. Giving five stars or four stars, there's no sense of retrospect, of what came before and really how important that is. The fact that we really do have a classical tradition; Ben [Webster], Don [Byas], Coleman Hawkins, Sidney Bechet or Louis Armstrong represent my classical musicians. Some people call it "classical jazz, but it's really the roots of this music and ingeniously evolved the folk music into fine-art music.

Thank you to Archie Shepp, Monette Berthomier and the staff at All About Jazz New York for making this interview possible.

Selected Discography

Archie Shepp, First Take (Archieball, 2005)

Archie Shepp and Max Roach, Force (Uniteledis, 1977)

Archie Shepp and Horace Parlan, Goin' Home (Steeplechase, 1977)

Archie Shepp, Attica Blues (Impulse, 1972)

Archie Shepp and Chicago Beau, Black Gipsy (America-Universal, 1969)

Archie Shepp, Live in San Francisco (Impulse, 1966)

Archie Shepp, Four for Trane (Impulse, 1964)

The New York Contemporary Five, In Europe (Sonet, 1963)

Bill Dixon and Archie Shepp, Quartet (Savoy, 1962)

Cecil Taylor, The World of... (Candid, 1960)

Photo Credits
Top Photo: Hans Speekenbrink
Bottom Photo: Madli Liis Parts

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