barabara sounds sez:
All Shepp is good Shepp in my book. I just love the way he blows, the tone and timbre he produces, whether it's fiery and free or — as on this set laid down in 1995 — lyrical and soulful. He's got a great crew alongside him, and gets away with some singing on a couple of tracks too. My personal favorites are the opening number, Little GIrl Blue, and Shepp's beautiful take on the seminal Blue in Green (an extra track): if the version you know is the Miles/Bill Evans original, then this gives a whole new point of reference.
The only negative in my book is the cover (though it's actually restrained for the Venus catalog, which can sport some pretty erotique art).
One point remains unclear though: the album says the drummer on this date was Idris Muhammad; the discographies suggest it was Billy Drummond. You make your own mind up.
His sax playing... is nothing short of phenomenal. Proof that one can spend years exploring the outer reaches of an instrument's capabilities, and bring the knowledge gained into a readily accessible medium like these ballads. There are places in the music where it almost seems as if Mr. Shepp is letting the instrument play itself. For instance when he freely floats back and forth between octaves. On several tunes, he makes the instrument alternately sound like a trumpet, oboe, clarinet, and back to sax.
Blue blowing from Archie Shepp -- a great set of ballads from later years, recorded at a time when Shepp had stepped back inside considerably from his styles of the past -- but still brought a great depth of soul to his recordings! The tunes here are mostly familiar numbers, but Archie blows them with a tone and timing that's amazing -- an approach that's almost comparable to the late years of Coleman Hawkins, at least for its understated brilliance. Other group members are great too -- and include John Hicks on piano, George Mraz on bass, and Idris Muhammad on drums -- the last of whom is wonderfully restrained on the date. Titles include "More Than You Know", "Little Girl Blue", "Blue & Sentimental", "If I Should Lose You", and "Alone Together".