May 20, 2010

Archie Shepp — Soul Song

barabara sounds sez:
More Shepp, this is one of my favorite albums of his, all modal sweeps and swoops, propelled by a great, dynamic rhythm section with Marvin "Bugalu" Smith going all out on drums and Kenner Werner on keyboards. I love the extended gospel incantations of Mama Rose and the long modal improv of Geechee. But the highlight (IMHO) is the stately title track, with Werner matching Shepp start to finish — all in 4 short powerful minutes. There's a bonus track on this CD reissue, My Romance, on which Shepp gets all lyrical. This was laid down in Germany in 1982. I do wish I'd seen him in this era, but I only managed to catch him later on.
Yawno disagrees — but there again, his reviews are almost always disagreeable ;-)

Since it's still available from enja here, this one is only up strictly short-term.
Grab it while you can coz it won't be here long. And now it's gone.

AMG (Scott Yawno) sez:
This is one of Archie Shepp's more erratic sets. On the 15-minute "Mama Rose," the great tenor... plays his somewhat out-of-tune soprano and takes an eccentric vocal..The 18-minute "Geechee" is a fine, lengthy workout for Shepp's emotional tenor...

Personnel: Archie Shepp soprano & tenor sax, vocals; Kenny Werner piano; Santi Debriano bass; Marvin "Bugalu" Smith drums

Tracks: 1. Mama Rose; 2. Soul Song; 3. Geechee; 4. My Romance

May 15, 2010

Archie Shepp Quartet - Blue Ballads

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".

May 6, 2010

Jane Ira Bloom - Mighty Lights

barabara sounds sez:
More fine music from the neglected and mostly OOP enja catalog. Jane Ira Bloom plays soprano sax, one of the few who do, and she produces some good sounds with it. In more recent years she has used live electronics in her sets, but this 1982 joint is strictly mainstream. She has some top musicians alongside her here — Fred Hersch on piano; Charlie Haden on bass; and Ed Blackwell on drums — and this swings nicely.

Two things worthy of note about Jane Ira Bloom: she was the first musician to be commissioned by the NASA Art Program — though I haven't heard any of her three musical compositions. She also has an asteroid named after her.

AMG (Chris Kelsey) sez:
This was, in a way, Jane Ira Bloom's debut, in that it was the first of her albums to be put out by a label she did not herself own -- her first two records were self-produced. Even at such an early stage in her development one can hear the attention to craft that would always characterize her work, though her skills at this point were not what they would later become. Bloom's control over the horn was occasionally dubious, but she evidenced an attractive tone and a coherent (if a bit immature and self-conscious) manner of phrasing. Her tunes were already quite sophisticated and distinctive, pointing to the even more ambitious composer into which she evolved. On the other hand, her band for this album will probably not be excelled for the rest of her career. Charlie Haden and Ed Blackwell are pretty heavy company for such a callow young musician to be keeping, and pianist Fred Hersch is certainly no slouch. Obviously, the rhythm section's work raises this music to a higher plane than it would have reached had not Bloom the wherewithal to engage the services of these gentlemen.