408

Archie Shepp: Kwanza

By

Sign in to view read count
Archie Shepp: Kwanza 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).

Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Impulse! | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read Petite Afrique CD/LP/Track Review Petite Afrique
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 29, 2017
Read Organ Monk, The Breathe Suite CD/LP/Track Review Organ Monk, The Breathe Suite
by Roger Farbey
Published: April 29, 2017
Read The Wild CD/LP/Track Review The Wild
by Mark Sullivan
Published: April 29, 2017
Read Soul Garden CD/LP/Track Review Soul Garden
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: April 29, 2017
Read The Authorized Bang Collection CD/LP/Track Review The Authorized Bang Collection
by Doug Collette
Published: April 29, 2017
Read Cross My Palm With Silver CD/LP/Track Review Cross My Palm With Silver
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 28, 2017
Read "So Beautiful, It Starts To Rain" CD/LP/Track Review So Beautiful, It Starts To Rain
by John Sharpe
Published: December 11, 2016
Read "Louisiana Soul Revival Featuring Doug Duffey" CD/LP/Track Review Louisiana Soul Revival Featuring Doug Duffey
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: November 21, 2016
Read "MG50 Peace & Fire" CD/LP/Track Review MG50 Peace & Fire
by Mark Corroto
Published: July 12, 2016
Read "Further Explorations" CD/LP/Track Review Further Explorations
by Karl Ackermann
Published: May 23, 2016
Read "Twin Talk" CD/LP/Track Review Twin Talk
by Mark F. Turner
Published: September 19, 2016
Read "Shovel Down" CD/LP/Track Review Shovel Down
by Doug Collette
Published: December 18, 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!