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
First time I met Lee Konitz, my mentor who completely changed my life, in 1992. He was giving a masterclass at the Cologne Conservatory (Germany) where I was a freshmen (with playing experience around three years total)
First time I met Lee Konitz, my mentor who completely changed my life, in 1992. He was giving a masterclass at the Cologne Conservatory (Germany) where I was a freshmen (with playing experience around three years total). He saw an alto sax on my neck and said: Hey, how about you there, would you like to play something for us? I played a piece with the piano. OK, said Lee, how about you play something unaccompanied? Oh yeah! I was deep into transcribing Sonny Stitt and pretty much into playing as fast as possible as many right notes as possible. So I played Oleo in about 300 beats per minute and was very proud of myself. Lee was tapping his foot all the way through. Hmm, he said, that was in time and all that... (I thought - yeah, of course, haha!) and then he said, You've got a lot of quantity, how about quality? It took me 15 years to realize what he meant.