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Some of the most exciting jazz albums to listen to are those that try to strike a middle ground between the mainstream and the Avant-garde. One such example is Archie Shepp’s Fire Music : an often-fascinating album, rich in compositional and improvisational prowess. Employing a sextet including drummer Joe Chambers and alto saxophonist Marion Brown, Shepp puts together a record that is both challenging and accessible to most listeners.
Fire Music ’s masterpiece is undoubtedly “Hambone.” A multi-part composition, the song’s highlights are the opening theme, Ted Curson’s complex trumpet musings and a bluesy section featuring a tough and funky solo by Brown. The track’s momentum is maintained with the thematically dense “Los Olvidados” which features another sterling contribution by Curson. The spoken word piece “Malcolm, Malcolm-Semper Malcolm” is a tribute to Malcolm X and features bassist David Izenzon and drummer J.C. Moses. Concluding the album is a bizarre version of “The Girl from Ipanema,” with an solo by Shepp that is frankly, quite boring. Regardless, Fire Music is an album that belongs in any serious jazz fan’s collection.
As an added bonus on the 1995 CD reissue, a live version of “Hambone” recorded in March of 1965 is included.
Track Listing: Hambone; Los Olvidados; Malcolm, Malcolm-Semper, Malcolm; Prelude
to a Kiss; The Girl from Ipanema; Hambone (live version)
Personnel: Archie Shepp - tenor saxophone; Ted Curson, Virgil Jones - trumpets;
Joseph Orange, Ashley Fennell - trombone; Marion Brown - alto
saxophone; Fred Pirtle - baritone saxophone; Reggie Johnson, David
Izenzon - bass; Joe Chambers, J.C. Moses, Roger Blank - drums
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.