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Archie Shepp Attica Blues Orchestra: I Hear the Sound

Chris May By

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Recorded in France in 2012 and 2013, I Hear the Sound is a live recording of saxophonist Archie Shepp's oratorio, "Attica Blues," co-written and arranged with Cal Massey in 1971, which was first heard on an Impulse! album a year later. Most of that album, Attica Blues, is revisited, with some adjustments to the running order of the tunes. In addition, Duke Ellington's "Come Sunday" is woven into the middle of the suite, and Shepp's "Mama Too Tight," the title track of a 1967 Impulse! album, serves as a coda.

The background: On September 9, 1971, a riot broke out in the State Correctional Facility in Attica, New York State. For five days, a large group of prisoners controlled part of the prison, where they held thirty-three guards and civilian staff hostage. On September 13, the prison was retaken by force. Thirty-nine people were killed: twenty-nine prisoners and ten hostages, all of them shot by guards and troopers.

Shepp recorded Attica Blues in response and tribute to the rebellion. The oratorio, which is drenched in the blues, is a nuanced work that, characteristically for Shepp, embodies as much prettily lyrical intimacy as it does raging, righteous anger. The libretto is sung by Shepp and Amina Claudine Myers.

I Hear the Sound uses an orchestra of approximately the same size as that on Attica Blues. There is an American core—pianist Myers, drummer and percussionist Famoudou Don Moye, bassist Reggie Washington, pianist Tom McLung and (on one track) trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire—with mainly-French horn and string sections. It is a terrific ensemble, well conducted by Jimmy Owens, who first worked with Shepp, as a trumpeter, in the 1960s.

"Attica Blues" is an important part of African-American jazz history and it is revisited here with conviction. Still musically compelling and still, sadly, socially relevant.

Track Listing: Attica Blues; Arms; Blues for Brother G. Jackson; Come Sunday; The Cry of My People; Quiet Dawn; Déjà Vu; Steam; Goodbye Sweet Pop’s; Ballad for a Child; Mama Too Tight.

Personnel: Archie Shepp: tenor and soprano saxophones, voice; Amina Claudine Myers: piano, voice; Tom McClung: piano; Famoudou Don Moye: drums, congas; Reggie Washington: bass; Darryl Hall: bass (5); Pierre Durand: guitar; Stéphane Belmondo: trumpet; Izidor Leitinger: trumpet; Christophe Leloil: trumpet; Olivier Miconi: trumpet; Ambrose Akinmusire: trumpet (5); 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 the Sound | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Archie Ball Records


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