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.

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 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 "Speechless" CD/LP/Track Review Speechless
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 27, 2017
Read "Schönbrunn" CD/LP/Track Review Schönbrunn
by Tyran Grillo
Published: March 1, 2017
Read "Rekihndled" CD/LP/Track Review Rekihndled
by Doug Collette
Published: April 8, 2017
Read "Malamute" CD/LP/Track Review Malamute
by Glenn Astarita
Published: January 27, 2017
Read "Collage of Moments" CD/LP/Track Review Collage of Moments
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: February 17, 2017
Read "New Angle" CD/LP/Track Review New Angle
by Jack Bowers
Published: August 13, 2017