Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

408

Archie Shepp: Kwanza

By

Sign in to view read count
This big band session collects all of Archie Shepp's virtues as a composer, saxophonist and jazz dramaticist and puts them into one glorious package. Like the African-American holiday this album is named after, it's an imposing hybrid form, a sprawling mass of experimental jazz circa 1969 sharply peppered with funk, blues, and myriad musical evocations of an imaginary "Africa."

Not only was Shepp consistently soloing with as much dynamic originality as he would ever do—gruff, hoarse, but consistently and logically lyrical—his assemblage of players was absolutely at their peak. The shamefully under-recognized trombonist Grachan Moncur III plays with furious splendor on his own composition, a moody tone-poem summoning up some utopian African vision, "New Africa." Moncur is equally sensational when teamed with the brassy front line of Shepp, trumpeter Jimmy Owens, and saxophonists James Spaulding and Charles Davis on the "James Brown-Meets-Free Jazz" funk workout "Back Back." Vocalist Leon Thomas controls his zealous yen to yodel, and uses it with great grace and taste on Shepp's brief anthem to Black liberation, "Spoo Pee Do," whose title is a Philly slang term for "everything's fine."

Since it is nearly impossible to listen to '60s Shepp without evoking his mentor, John Coltrane, it is fascinating to hear Shepp's cover of Cal Massey's "Bakai," an ungainly repetitous vamp that even Coltrane couldn't make interesting on an earlier Prestige recording. With the help of trumpeter Woody Shaw, Shepp creates a blisteringly dramatic anthem out of Massey's tedious original that makes Coltrane's version seem pale by comparison.

Shepp always had a melodramatic flair in the '60s. This led to a sometimes contrived and self-consciously "streetwise/New Jazz" approach that flowered on Mama Too Tight (1966) and Attica Blues (1972), both grander in concept than in execution. His melodramatic excesses are in check here, his choice of players impeccable. Kwanza sounds fresher than the last six albums by any Marsalis family member of your choice. And only the liner notes, written in an unconscious parody of Amiri Baraka at his most windy, date the product.

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

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Upcoming Shows

Related Articles

Read Day to Day Album Reviews
Day to Day
By Paul Naser
May 24, 2019
Read Theia Album Reviews
Theia
By Jim Worsley
May 24, 2019
Read Ain't Nothing But a Cyber Coup & You Album Reviews
Ain't Nothing But a Cyber Coup & You
By Dan McClenaghan
May 24, 2019
Read Nexus Album Reviews
Nexus
By Jakob Baekgaard
May 23, 2019
Read The Second Coming Album Reviews
The Second Coming
By Daniel Barbiero
May 23, 2019
Read Luminária Album Reviews
Luminária
By John Sharpe
May 23, 2019