Sunday, May 24, 2015

Shepp, Heard

Sunday has come, and with it a birthday tribute to one of my all-time favorite musicians and people, ever. No, it's not him. Although he's awesome and formative and the basis of modern songwriting, it isn't him.
No it's not Bob Dylan (74 today) and it isn't Patti Labelle (looking fine and still at it at 71), luminary as those folks might be. We wish them both a very happy birthday today, but we're gonna go with the man some call The Malcolm X of Jazz, Archie Shepp.
Poet. Afrocentrist pioneer. Saxophone colossus on multiple reeds, winds, horns and all. Teacher. Revolutionary. Keeper of the flame, who played on Coltrane's Ascension. Funny how he and Dylan started at the same time, just about. They are both absolutely titanic figures and among the monumental legends of our lifetimes, this much is certain. But Archie here is severely underrated -- jazz being the invention America often seems least proud of -- and every bit as powerful as Mr. Zimmerman in a recording studio or onstage. And still doing it, even at four years Bob's senior.
I was lucky enough to see him at Davies Symphony Hall as part of the SF Jazz Festival about 10 or 12 years ago, so cross that off the bucket list for Joshy. When you think of the remaining living legend saxophone deities, you pretty much think of Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter and Archie Shepp... the latter perhaps the most radical and visionary of them all.
Incorporating poetry and songwriting into his arsenal very early on, Archie's music runs the gamut from spoken word intonations over bowing cellos to free-blowing volcanic reed explosions in front of a 29-piece big band and everything in between. I would almost call what Archie does Progressive Jazz, in that it jumps off from the traditions of early-20th-Century New Orleans through to post-bop modal stuff and kind of leaps into uncharted, nearly performance art territory. There are elements of chanson, soul, rock, funk, even classical music and psychedelia occasionally, but they never overwhelm the central jazz and improvisatory approach of the many pathways Archie's music travels.
I was walking around the other day with this wild, double-disc compilation of my favorite Archie Shepp tracks of the last 50+ years in the headphones, and I found myself singing (speaking?) along to one of the poems... who makes you sing along to speech? That's how much I love this music and this man. To commemorate the occasion of his 78th birthday today, I am going to post that mix -- containing as it does completely unique, not-sold-in-stores edits of several of his longer, more labyrinthine tracks -- plus a scintillating, absolutely delicious avi video file of Archie leading Germany's HR Big Band through a program of John Coltrane standards from Trane's gorgeous and seminal Africa/Brass record, aired in 2011.
Archie Shepp
Shepp, Heard

01 I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good) (vocal - China-Lin Sharpe)
02 Hipnosis (edit)
03 The Wedding
04 Attica Blues
05 The Cry of My People
06 Scag
07 Song for Mozambique (vocal - Bunny Foy)
08 Mama Rose
09 Sophisticated Lady (vocal - Jeanne Lee)
10 Money Blues (vocal - Joe Lee Wilson)
11 Wise One
12 Here Comes the Family (with Family Of Percussion)
13 Golden Lady (with Abbey Lincoln)
14 Theme from 'Proof of the Man' (with Dollar Brand)
15 Blues for Brother George Jackson
16 On This Night (If That Great Day Would Come) (excerpt)
17 Blasé (edit) (vocal - Jeanne Lee)
18 Back Back
19 Damn If I Know
20 There Is a Balm In Gilead (vocal - Jeanne Lee)
21 Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child (with Horace Parlan)
22 The Magic of Juju (edit)

Total time: 2:39:01
disc break goes after Track 10

Archie Shepp & HR Big Band
42nd Deutsches Jazz Festival
Frankfurt, Germany

01 announcement
02 Song of the Underground Railroad
03 announcement
04 The Damned Don't Cry
05 announcement
06 Ujaama
07 announcement
08 Greensleeves
09 announcement
10 Africa
11 announcement
12 On the Nile

Total time: 1:11:28

Archie Shepp - tenor saxophone & announcements
Charles Tolliver - conductor, arranger
Frank Wellert - trumpet
Martin Auer - trumpet
Thomas Vogel - trumpet
Axel Schlosser - trumpet
Günter Bollmann - trombone
Peter Feil - trombone
Christian Jaksjø - trombone
Manfred Honetschläger - bass trombone
Heinz-Dieter Sauerborn - alto saxophone
Oliver Leicht - alto saxophone
Ben Kraef - tenor saxophone
Karl-Martin Almqvist - tenor saxophone
Rainer Heute - bass saxophone
Peter Reiter - piano
Martin Scales - guitar
Thomas Heidepriem - bass
Jean Paul Höchstädter - drums

avi file from the 2011 digital WDR-TV broadcast

949 MB FLAC & 984 MB AVI/May 2015 archive link
I zipped the two things separately, so feel free to grab one, both or neither. And don't forget that although there might be more well-known and fetishized musos born on May 24th, none has had a more committed, more inspirational, and more varied career in the shaping of sound than today's honoree. So take a moment with me to celebrate Mr. Archie Shepp... born this day in 1937 and still going superbly strong <3 --J.