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 was first exposed to jazz by my father, who was a rabid fan when he was younger, in the early to mid 1950's. We lived in NYC and he was a regular at places like the Village Vanguard and Birdland. One of his favorite stories involved meeting Charlie Parker and Miles on 52nd St
I was first exposed to jazz by my father, who was a rabid fan when he was younger, in the early to mid 1950's. We lived in NYC and he was a regular at places like the Village Vanguard and Birdland. One of his favorite stories involved meeting Charlie Parker and Miles on 52nd St. Needless to say, Jazz and Blues were always on the stereo in our home. I was steeped in these exciting sounds, and they make up some of my earliest memories.