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CD/LP/Track Review

Archie Shepp: The New York Contemporary Five (2010)

By Published: July 8, 2010
Archie Shepp: The New York Contemporary Five Although saxophonist Archie Shepp is listed as the leader of this release, The New York Contemporary Five was really a collective; a short-lived, free jazz super-group from the early 1960s. The band, with a front line of Shepp, cornetist Don Cherry
Don Cherry
Don Cherry
1936 - 1995
trumpet
and alto saxophonist John Tchicai
John Tchicai
John Tchicai
1936 - 2012
saxophone
, was recorded live at the famed Jazzhus Montmartre in Copenhagen, Denmark on November 15, 1963. Originally released as a two-volume set on the Sonet label, volume one of that set is reissued here for the first time on CD in the U.S. by Chicago's Delmark Records.

Cherry's "Cisum" opens the disc with a bold fanfare, as if to declare the arrival of a bold musical endeavor, intent on championing new sounds, heavily influenced by Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
b.1930
sax, alto
, Thelonius Monk, John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
and Cecil Taylor
Cecil Taylor
Cecil Taylor
b.1929
piano
. The subsequent solos by each of the horn men explore open-ended blowing, anchored by the hard-hitting pulse of drummer J.C. Moses
J.C. Moses
b.1936
and bassist Don Moore. A brief reading of the melody to Monk's "Crepuscule With Nellie" leads into two compositions by Coleman, from whose quartet Cherry had recently departed: "O.C.," has a swinging, angular line and a whirling solo from Shepp who blends guttural groans, blues moans and frenetic flurries into a cohesive intensity; "When Will the Blues Leave" is given a rather straight-ahead rendering in comparison to the other tracks on the disc. Here, Cherry plays it cool, with a 1950s Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
vibe—Shepp and Tchicai even use Davis' "Walkin'" as a background riff. With the tempo slightly accelerated by tune's end, Moses delivers an inspiring drum solo.

A conversational atmosphere between Moses and Cherry sets up Shepp's "The Funeral," followed by bursts of ensemble interplay and a meaty bass solo by Moore. The final track, Tchicai's swinging "Mik," allows the Danish-born saxophonist an extended, bop-inspired solo spot. The late Bill Dixon

Bill Dixon
Bill Dixon
1925 - 2010
trumpet
arranged this tune, as well as much of the music on the disc. Dixon was a behind-the-scenes sixth member of the group, whose writing contributed to its overall sound.

Having stood the test of time, this historically important—but shamefully underappreciated—live recording of The New York Contemporary Five sounds fresh and far-reaching almost fifty years later.


Track Listing: Cisum; Crepuscule With Nellie; O.C.; When Will the Blues Leave; The Funeral; Mik.

Personnel: Don Cherry: cornet; John Tchicai: alto saxophone; Archie Shepp: tenor saxophone; Don Moore: bass; J.C. Moses: drums.

Record Label: Delmark Records

Style: Free Improv/Avant-Garde



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