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Max Roach & Archie Shepp: The Long March

Glenn Astarita By

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Bebop was considered a radical departure for jazz music during its formation in the 1940s and 1950s, pioneered by drummer Max Roach, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie among others. Coupled with tenor saxophonist Archie Shepp's 1960s avant-garde jazz proclivities, the artists respectively helped procure a prismatic and non-traditional perspective on the jazz idiom. However, their discographies indicate sojourns into more mainstream ventures as well. This duo outing was captured live at a 1979 performance at Jazzfestival Willisau in Switzerland and highlights the instrumentalists comprehensive approach to jazz.

Roach launches the festivities with one of his infamous, lyrical and melodic drumming vamps. As he cycles through a consortium of energized, polyrhythmic metrics on a piece inspired by and titled after 1960s modern jazz drummer "J.C. Moses." Then Shepp follows with a bluesy and airy solo spin on Duke Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady." And it all equates to an asymmetrically engineered modern, free-form rendition, accelerated by his steely-edged lines during the bridge.

On the title and twenty-six minute duet "The Long March," they exercise a multifarious procession, teeming with acutely-placed dynamics and swarming motifs, while affording themselves room to breathe and expand. In addition, Roach's monstrous solo is augmented by the duo's seamless ability to throttle back flows along with a throng of oscillating undercurrents.

The duo alternates a laid-back approach with spirited soloing jaunts on its take of John Coltrane's "Giant Steps." Here, Shepp lashes out via spirited upper-register phrasings and scorching flurries, as the musicians bring it all back home towards the finale. But they lower the temperature with Roach's mid-tempo swing and memorably melodic composition, "It's Time," where their resonating interactions, segue into a frenzied set of circumstances. The Long March offers a glistening testament to the jazz-duet format, as these revered artists convey a paradigm of ingenuity. It's largely about clarity of execution and music extracted from the soul.

Track Listing: CD1: J.C. Moses; Sophisticated Lady; The Long March; U-JAA-MA. CD2: Triptych; Giant Steps; South Africa Goddamn; It's Time.

Personnel: Max Roach: drums; Archie Shepp: tenor saxophone.

Title: The Long March | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Hatology

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