Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved design across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.

213

Archie Shepp: I Know About the Life

Robert Spencer By

Sign in to view read count
I Know About the Life is a 1981 recording, now happily reissued by that splendid avatar of avant-garde music, Werner X. Uehlinger of Hat Hut Records. The rap on Shepp is that after his moment of glory in the Sixties and his no-holds-barred Impulse discs, he lost his edge, or his interest, or his nerve, and retreated. He himself is on record saying that avant-garde music was not commercially viable, and that he wanted to make some music that his family and friends could listen to. But any suggestion that that signaled a retreat should be dispelled by this disc.

Shepp's tenor playing has never been more fluent, more versatile, or more expressive, than it is on these four tracks. Aided by utterly superb backing from Kenny Werner, Santi Debriano, and the incomparable John Betsch, he tears into two Monk tunes, one by Coltrane, and one of his own compositions to demonstrate that the "outside" players of the sixties made a great many discoveries (some of them hardly new, but actually dating back to the earliest days of jazz) that could enrich and revitalize "standard" jazz playing. On "Giant Steps," for example, Shepp shows that he is every bit the match of Coltrane's extraordinarily fleet harmonic playing, but he takes his solo to another level as well, investing what had been a sleek and exuberant original with a pathos, a cry, that adds immeasurably to the expressive range of the music.

Likewise, the Monk tunes, which are too often played simply as exhibitions, or as jaunty excursions into what the performers obviously consider to be the quirky world of Monk's changes. But Shepp approaches this music with a seriousness and daring that pays off to remarkable effect, adding a blistering emotionality to each and plumbing depths that few other interpreters even seem to realize are there.

This exquisite reissue should establish I Know About the Life in its rightful place among Shepp's works and give it a permanent place in any list of the greatest recordings of the period. Bravo.


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.

Title: I Know About The Life | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Hat Hut Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Live at Pyatt Hall CD/LP/Track Review Live at Pyatt Hall
by Jack Bowers
Published: January 23, 2018
Read Flying Heart CD/LP/Track Review Flying Heart
by Troy Dostert
Published: January 23, 2018
Read The 3Dom Factor: Live in Krakow CD/LP/Track Review The 3Dom Factor: Live in Krakow
by John Sharpe
Published: January 23, 2018
Read Solano Canyon CD/LP/Track Review Solano Canyon
by Glenn Astarita
Published: January 23, 2018
Read Lucas CD/LP/Track Review Lucas
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: January 22, 2018
Read In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording CD/LP/Track Review In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: January 22, 2018
Read "Live At The Magic Triangle" CD/LP/Track Review Live At The Magic Triangle
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 11, 2017
Read "The Seasons" CD/LP/Track Review The Seasons
by Edward Blanco
Published: March 29, 2017
Read "First Light" CD/LP/Track Review First Light
by Mark Sullivan
Published: September 18, 2017
Read "Dream Within A Dream" CD/LP/Track Review Dream Within A Dream
by Ian Patterson
Published: June 22, 2017
Read "Through The Hours" CD/LP/Track Review Through The Hours
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: May 12, 2017
Read "Planets + Persona" CD/LP/Track Review Planets + Persona
by Glenn Astarita
Published: March 29, 2017