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Archie Shepp: I Hear A Sound

Mark Corroto By

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Track review of "Attica Blues"

Lest we forget. And certainly, how could we forget the struggles of the late-sixties and early- 1970s against racism, oppression, the Vietnam War? With the assassinations of JFK, MLK, Malcolm X, and Bobby Kennedy and the counter-culture movement scrambling the American identity, some believed the country was ripe for its own revolution.

Music was (and I cannot now honestly say 'is') on the front lines of the rebellion. Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young's reaction to Kent State, "Ohio," was recorded less than 3 weeks after the National Guard killed 4 civilians. Charles Mingus' "Fables of Faubus" criticized the Arkansas governor over his denial of integration of the Little Rock schools. Likewise drummer Max Roach wrote his "Freedom Now Suite" and Joe McPhee's 1970 release Nation Time (Atavistic, 2000).

Besides John Coltrane's "Alabama," maybe the most powerful protest song, was Archie Shepp's "Attica Blues," recorded in response to the 1971 riot at Attica Prison in New York, in which 33 died. Shepp released an album of the same title in 1972. It would be seventeen years before an analogous release, "Fight The Power" by Public Enemy was heard.

In 2013, more that forty years after its release Shepp and his Attica Blues Orchestra revisits the song from a live date in France, a country that is seemingly re-enacting America's racial conflicts with its immigrant Muslim population. I Hear A Sound opens with this hard-hitting blues. Reggie Washington's thumping bass incites the hand-clapping pulse before the full force tsunami of funky horns, guitar and vocals hits. The 75-year old saxophonist retains his dusky voice, both on tenor saxophone and vocals. His distinctive yowl is preserved here, and it is as brawny and formidable as ever. Where other avant jazzmen might eschew the blues and funk, Shepp embraces an accessible sound in service of his message. The layers of horns, strings, and backing vocals creates a maelstrom as powerful as the message behind the music. Chapeau!

Track Listing: Attica Blues

Personnel: Personnel: Archie Shepp: tenor and soprano saxophones, voice; Amina Claudine Myers: piano, voice; Tom McClung: piano; Famoudou Don Moye: drums, congas; Reggie Washington: bass; Pierre Durand: guitar; Stéphane Belmondo: trumpet; Izidor Leitinger: trumpet; Christophe Leloil: trumpet; Olivier Miconi: trumpet; Sébastien Llado: trombone; Simon Sieger: trombone; Romain Morello: trombone; Michaël Ballue: trombone; Raphaël Imbert: alto saxophone; Olivier Chaussade: alto saxophone; François Théberge: tenor saxophone; Virgile Lefebvre: tenor saxophone; Jean-Philippe Scali: baritone saxophone; Manon Tenoudji: violin; Steve Duong: violin; Antoine Carlier: viola; Louise Rosbach: cello; Marion Rampal: voice; Cécile McLorin Salvant: voice.

Title: I Hear A Sound | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Archie Ball Records


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