164

Archie Shepp: St. Louis Blues

Mark Corroto By

Sign in to view read count
Several recent sightings of the ‘bird’ known as Archie Shepp signal, perhaps, his return to the American dialogue on jazz. Last year, Shepp made a guest appearance on guitarist Jean-Paul Bourelly’s African/urban Boom Bop record and the year before he was the featured guest of Kahil El’Zabar’s Ritual Trio recording, Conversations. Shepp’s voice in the 1960’s ‘new thing’ in jazz fueled John Coltrane’s Ascension recording, plus those by Cecil Taylor, Max Roach, and the New York Contemporary Five. The fiery jazzman and playwright turned into a college educator and did not take an active public role in America’s jazz revival of the 1980s and 90s (at least not within the context of domestic jazz releases).

This 1998 European recording, licensed to the domestic label Jazz Magnet, hopefully opens the door for a stateside presence to Archie Shepp. He has assembled a trio of his sixties peers (plus percussionist Leopoldo Fleming) including the innovative, free-drummer Sunny Murray, a staple of the bands of Albert Ayler and Cecil Taylor and bassist Richard Davis, the timekeeper for Eric Dolphy, Andrew Hill, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Wes Montgomery, and Elvin Jones. St. Louis Blues, like his duo records with Horace Parlan for Denmark’s SteepleChase Records, reduce each composition to its essence. Like the late recordings of Billie Holiday, Shepp favors substance over technique and style, although he displays plenty of style throughout. What other modern (living) tenor saxophonist, besides Sonny Rollins, can be identified after a couple notes? Shepp’s bluesy, gravel voice is a reminder not only of the post-Coltrane era, but what it is to develop one’s own distinctive sound in jazz.

Shepp and Davis play in duo on the title track and “God Bless The Child,” with the tenor saxophonist adding vocals to both. They take these tunes and most of the recording at a leisurely pace, opting for sentimentality over pyrotechnics. Even Kenny Dorham’s “Blue Bossa” crawls, resonating blues over bossa nova. This is an intimate, small-room recording, where amplification is nonexistent. Drummer Sunny Murray plays the role of colorist, eschewing the ‘beat’ for shadings and remedies. Favorites include Shepp playing off Fleming’s thumb piano and hand drumming on their co-written tune “Limbuke” and the “Omega,” a meditation on the expression of John Coltrane’s late period. A fine outing, let’s hope this is just the beginning.


Track Listing: St. Louis Blues; Et Moi; Blue Bossa; God Bless The Child; Total Package; Steam; Limbuke; Omega.

Personnel: Archie Shepp

Title: St. Louis Blues | Year Released: 2001 | Record Label: Jazz Magnet Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Déjà Vu CD/LP/Track Review Déjà Vu
by Troy Dostert
Published: September 20, 2017
Read Woody Guthrie - The Tribute Concerts CD/LP/Track Review Woody Guthrie - The Tribute Concerts
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: September 20, 2017
Read Two in a Box CD/LP/Track Review Two in a Box
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 20, 2017
Read Discussions CD/LP/Track Review Discussions
by Glenn Astarita
Published: September 20, 2017
Read Just Friends: Live at the Village Vanguard CD/LP/Track Review Just Friends: Live at the Village Vanguard
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: September 19, 2017
Read Introducing the Simon Eskildsen Trio CD/LP/Track Review Introducing the Simon Eskildsen Trio
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: September 19, 2017
Read "Il Dodicesimo Nano" CD/LP/Track Review Il Dodicesimo Nano
by Jim Olin
Published: January 10, 2017
Read "Cross My Palm With Silver" CD/LP/Track Review Cross My Palm With Silver
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 28, 2017
Read "Syzygy" CD/LP/Track Review Syzygy
by Paul Rauch
Published: March 6, 2017
Read "Transient" CD/LP/Track Review Transient
by Roger Farbey
Published: April 3, 2017
Read "Constant Change 1976-2016" CD/LP/Track Review Constant Change 1976-2016
by John Sharpe
Published: July 19, 2017
Read "Rekihndled" CD/LP/Track Review Rekihndled
by Doug Collette
Published: April 8, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.