Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

188

Archie Shepp: Kwanza

Chris May By

Sign in to view read count
Albert Ayler flamed like phosphorous for a few years, spoke like an Old Testament prophet, wore leather trousers and died young in mysterious circumstances. Archie Shepp burned just as bright, but has lived to a ripe age, growing to embrace the mainstream, and has had one foot in academe for much of his career. The two saxophonists, along with John Coltrane, personified the Impulse! label during its giddy zenith, but Ayler's highly marketable legend, now of mythic proportions, has grown to overshadow Shepp's contributions to the label and the "new thing."

Kwanza catches Shepp at his most funked up and glorious. It was recorded over four sessions, between September 1968 and August 1969, a time when psychedelia and Blackism's twin recalibrations of jazz convention were at their most fervid. Primal R&B values were fascinating the avant-garde, along with what would now be called world music and an avowed, Maoist anti-intellectualism (the latter essentially an affectation, and one hilariously observed by Tom Wolfe in Radical Chic And Mau-Mauing The Flak Catchers, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1970).

Shepp, though himself an intellectual, was part of this back-to-the-roots-and-outwards movement. Kwanza, and the nearly contemporaneous The Way Ahead (Impulse!, 1968), recorded with the same core musicians, were his mature statements in a trajectory which had hit the backbeat with the New Orleans fonk-informed Mama Too Tight (Impulse!, 1966).

Surrounding himself with the cream of the "new thing" players, Shepp maintained his commitment to free and collective improvisation, but combined it now with structured arrangements rooted in gospel and the blues. Bass ostinatos, keyboard vamps and drum backbeats drive the music, along with raw R&B horn charts and sweating, testifying horn solos.

Ace fellow travellers like organist/pianist Dave Burrell, trombonist Grachan Moncur III and trumpeter Jimmy Owens help Shepp keep the unexpected happening against these repititious, cyclical structures. First-generation bebop baritone saxophonist Cecil Payne, a relative old-timer here, blows his fine wild heart out on Cal Massey's "Bakai."

Kwana is roughly contemporaneous with Ayler's most considered R&B statement, New Grass (Impulse!, 1968), whose visceral passion it approaches without wholly abandoning the cerebral in the process. There are close affinities too with the work of some artists on the post-Alfred Lion, late-1960s Blue Note label, recently compiled on the double-disc set Righteousness. A great little chunk of history, and with the power still to move the listener.


Track Listing: Back Back; Spoo Pee Doo; New Africa; Slow Drag; Bakai.

Personnel: Archie Shepp: tenor saxophone, vocal (3); Jimmy Owens: trumpet (1,3); Martin Banks: trumpet (2); Woody Shaw: trumpet (4); Grachan Moncur 111: trombone (1,3); Matthew Gee: trombone: (4); James Spaulding: alto saxophone (1); Clarence Sharpe: alto saxophone (4); Charles Davis: baritone saxophone (1,3); Cecil Payne: baritone saxophone (4); Robin Kenyatta: flute (2); Dave Burrell: organ (1), piano (3); Andrew Bey: piano (2); Cedar Walton: piano (4); Wally Richardson: guitar (1); Bert Payne: guitar (2); Bob Busnell: bass (1); Albert Winston: bass (2); Walter Booker: bass (3); Wilbur Ware: bass (4); Bernard Purdie: drums (1); Beaver Harris: drums (2,3); Joe Chambers: drums (4); Leon Thomas, Tasha Thomas, Doris Troy: vocals (2).

Title: Kwanza | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Impulse!


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Bad Hombre CD/LP/Track Review Bad Hombre
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 12, 2017
Read Aladdin's Dream CD/LP/Track Review Aladdin's Dream
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 12, 2017
Read Glow of Benares CD/LP/Track Review Glow of Benares
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: December 12, 2017
Read Magic Circle CD/LP/Track Review Magic Circle
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: December 12, 2017
Read A Gathering Foretold CD/LP/Track Review A Gathering Foretold
by Geannine Reid
Published: December 12, 2017
Read Swinging In The Holidays CD/LP/Track Review Swinging In The Holidays
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 11, 2017
Read "Unification" CD/LP/Track Review Unification
by Troy Dostert
Published: June 26, 2017
Read "June" CD/LP/Track Review June
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 19, 2017
Read "Signals" CD/LP/Track Review Signals
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 13, 2017
Read "Jersey" CD/LP/Track Review Jersey
by Troy Dostert
Published: September 16, 2017
Read "Journey To The Mountain Of Forever" CD/LP/Track Review Journey To The Mountain Of Forever
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: June 17, 2017
Read "The Brightest Minute" CD/LP/Track Review The Brightest Minute
by Jack Bowers
Published: August 25, 2017

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!