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Archie Shepp is in fine form on his latest CD, Tomorrow will be Another Day. The New Archie Shepp Quartet is an excellent group composed of Shepp on tenor, soprano and vocals, Amina Claudine Myers on piano and vocals, Cameron Brown on bass and Ronnie Burrage on drums and wave drum. The recording is a nice mix of songs and moods, and the combination of Shepp and Myers is formidable: both are strong performers with long histories, and their collaboration is an exercise in mutual charisma.
The CD starts off with a swinging version of "Blue Monk," light and joyful. The rest is composed of four songs by Shepp and two by Myers. The Myers compositions are both gospels: "Call Him" features her rollicking vocals and the more stately "It's All Right" is lovely and heartfelt. Myers is a powerful pianist and singer with deep roots in gospel and jazz and in these songs she successfully combines these influences. Shepp's songs "Tomorrow Will Be Another Day" and "The Stars are in Your Eyes" showcase his melodic gifts, and "Kwanza" is an up-tempo song with impassioned wailing by Shepp and propulsive bass work by Brown. The highlight of the CD is the final song, the Shepp composition "Mama Rose," recorded live at the Inntoene Festival in Austria. Shepp stretches out and blows to his heart's content, then cuts loose with lyrics inciting the audience to revolutionnever let it be said that Shepp has gotten soft in his later years!
Shepp sounds great on all the tracks, playing with vigor, drive and inventiveness. He's clearly inspired by his cohorts, particularly Myers, whose strength complements his own. And Brown and Burrage are an excellent rhythm section, providing crisp, swinging support. If you haven't checked out Archie Shepp in a while, Tomorrow will be Another Day is a good opportunity to catch up.
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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