Monday, November 13, 2006

Archie Shepp - Kwanza (Impulse, 1974, 2006)

This is an overlooked gem of a recording that was just re-released by Verve/Impulse after years as a vinyl only rarity. This album has a curious history, being recorded during 1968 and 1969 and then only slipping out during the end of the original Impulse tenure in 1974. These recordings have a fairly large group of performers including among others Grachan Moncur III on trombone, James Spaulding on alto saxophone, Charles Davis on baritone saxophone, and Dave Burrell on organ. The music itself is a very interesting blend of funky R&B and spiritual "cosmic-groove" free-jazz that was Impulse's stock and trade during the late 1960's. The opening track "Back Back" is the best example of this with some righteous honking over a slippery organ groove. Moncour's "New Africa" allows the band the opportunity to stretch out on a freer angle, without ever sinking into just perfunctory blowing. The only mis-step in the Leon Thomas vocal feature "Spoo Pee Doo" which really never takes flight. Apart from that though, this is a fine album of modal to free jazz which should give open eared jazz listeners a lot to enjoy.

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