165

Archie Shepp: I Know About The Life

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
Archie Shepp: I Know About The Life When a jazz musician goes from avant energy music toward age-old standards, the move is usually viewed in one of two ways. Either the artist receives criticism as a traitor who backed off from a forward vision, or he earns respect for moving the spirit of his music in a new direction. Tenor saxophonist Archie Shepp has seen more than his share of both. Purity is in the ear of the beholder, it seems.

Shepp's quartet date I Know About The Life was recorded in 1981 and originally issued on Sackville. This reissue brings the music to digital format in a more than satisfactory fashion, although it oddly preserves the misspelling in the artist credits. Shepp is joined here by pianist Kenny Werner, bassist Santi Debriano, and drummer John Betsch. This particular combination serves as a generous platform for the leader to say what he needs to say.

Thelonious Monk opens and closes the program with "Well You Needn't" and "Round Midnight" respectively. The former sails along with the off-kilter rhythmic bent that characterized the original. Shepp has no trouble settling into a hard-swinging groove, making the transition from head to solo without so much as a pause. His tone is beautifully raw, thick with irregular overtones, throaty and slurred. He accrues a series of short phrases to form a coherent statement. But when it comes to composition, he respects the song form; there's no doubt it came from Monk.

The gentle title track borrows Kenny Werner's particular talent for lyrical expression, placing the pianist in more of a forward position. Here Shepp replaces his craggy tone with a softer, rounder sound, though there's plenty of timbral color to go around. "Giant Steps" acknowledges the leader's debt to Coltrane in an articulate fashion, with eight minutes of no-holds-barred improvisation along those strange minor third sequences. It has the most sharp and edgy moments on the record. The closer, "Round Midnight," has a lazy, smoky feel of recovery, though it picks up briefly as it closes.

Whatever your opinion may be on out cats coming in, this record provides timely and effective evidence that it's possible to bring the adventure and tone of the avant-garde down to earth. These standards have enough of "the life" to make them viscerally real, and even more conservative listeners will find them refreshing.

Visit Hat Hut on the web.


Track Listing: Well You Needn't; I Know About The Life; Giant Steps; Round Midnight.

Personnel: Archie Shepp: tenor saxophone; Kenny Werner: piano; Santi Debriano: bass; John Betsch: drums.

Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Hat Hut Records | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read The Picasso Zone CD/LP/Track Review The Picasso Zone
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: February 23, 2017
Read The MUH Trio – Prague After Dark CD/LP/Track Review The MUH Trio – Prague After Dark
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: February 23, 2017
Read Les Deux Versants Se Regardent CD/LP/Track Review Les Deux Versants Se Regardent
by John Sharpe
Published: February 23, 2017
Read Molto Bene CD/LP/Track Review Molto Bene
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 23, 2017
Read Fellowship CD/LP/Track Review Fellowship
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 22, 2017
Read E.S.T. Symphony CD/LP/Track Review E.S.T. Symphony
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 22, 2017
Read "Undertaker Please Drive Slow" CD/LP/Track Review Undertaker Please Drive Slow
by Glenn Astarita
Published: January 15, 2017
Read "Mt. Crushmore" CD/LP/Track Review Mt. Crushmore
by Karl Ackermann
Published: January 8, 2017
Read "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" CD/LP/Track Review Let's Call the Whole Thing Off
by Edward Blanco
Published: August 29, 2016
Read "The Declaration of Musical Independence" CD/LP/Track Review The Declaration of Musical Independence
by Mark Sullivan
Published: September 25, 2016
Read "Vocturnal" CD/LP/Track Review Vocturnal
by Budd Kopman
Published: June 16, 2016
Read "Songbook Sessions: Ella Fitzgerald" CD/LP/Track Review Songbook Sessions: Ella Fitzgerald
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: March 26, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!