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Live Reviews

Angel City Jazz Festival: Hollywood, CA, Oct. 5, 2012

By Published: November 11, 2012
Saxophonist Archie Shepp
Archie Shepp
Archie Shepp
b.1937
saxophone
, a leading voice in the avant-garde jazz of the 1960s, unquestionably provided the highlight of the evening's program. Shepp tore right into the original "Hope Too," dedicated to the late and criminally under-appreciated pianist, Elmo Hope
Elmo Hope
Elmo Hope
1923 - 1967
piano
. As Shepp punctuated his potent, bluesy tenor with visceral honks and yelps, the rhythm section, led by pianist McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
b.1938
piano
's long-time bassist Avery Sharpe
Avery Sharpe
Avery Sharpe

bass, acoustic
, swung its collective butt off. It took awhile, but this band finally got most of the feet in the audience tappin' to the swingin' beat, a somewhat unexpected development for those familiar with Shepp's earlier, "out" style.

An even more unexpected turn of events came on Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
's "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," when Shepp, the sax man who, along with John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
, stunned listeners at the 1965 Newport Jazz Festival with the "new thing," stood up and, with a deep and mellow voice, sang the tune's familiar lyrics. The band, now joined by Akinmusire (with whom Shepp has been touring of late), closed with a blues dedicated to the seminal and tragic blues diva, Bessie Smith
Bessie Smith
Bessie Smith
1894 - 1937
vocalist
. Shepp alternately shouted and blew his sax with primal inspiration, like a down-home preacher deliverin' a Sunday sermon. Meanwhile, drummer Steve McCraven extended the lineage theme back even further into the nation's antebellum era, performing a traditional "hambone," slappin' out the rhythm on his body, old school style. The appreciative audience responded with a long and well-deserved standing ovation for Shepp, who gave a clinic on the oft-pursued but infrequently achieved original sound.

Once again, Angel City Jazz has staked its claim as one of the most progressive jazz fests around. In year's past, Somazzi and Angel City Jazz have consistently booked the finest jazz musicians, including many who rarely appear here like Henry Grimes
Henry Grimes
Henry Grimes
b.1935
bass, acoustic
, Wadada Leo Smith
Wadada Leo Smith
Wadada Leo Smith
b.1941
trumpet
, Oliver Lake
Oliver Lake
Oliver Lake
b.1942
saxophone
, {{Nels Cline} and many more. More importantly, Somazzi has never compromised his artistic vision by including commercially popular bands, as nearly every other so-called jazz festival has done. Except, perhaps, for New York's Vision Festival and a handful of other music fests, Angel City is one of those rare productions where serious jazz lovers can safely go in the US without fearing the dreaded and deadly smooth jazz virus, or worse. No such worries here!

Photo Credit
All Photos: Chuck Koton


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