Thursday, July 05, 2007

Archie Shepp - The Impulse Story (Verve/Impulse, 2006)

Archie Shepp recorded for Impulse Records from the mid-60's to the early 70's after his friend and mentor John Coltrane helped him secure a recording contract. This disc samples several of the recordings he made during that period, and makes for an excellent overview of his early music, giveing examples of the different facets of music he recorded for Impulse. Free-ish jazz is prominent of course, as he was involved in the "New Thing" of the period, but that wasn't the only trick in his bag by a long shot. Shepp was also interested in groove and texture, and of all the quasi-free musicians of that period he may have been the one most interested in composition and the music's past, particularly the "tough tenors" like Don Byas and Ben Webster. He investigated many types of music including ballads like Duke Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady" samba on Jobim's "Girl From Impanema" jazz and spoken-word hybrids on "Scag" and "Malcolm, Malcolm - Semper Malcolm," and a heavy dose of R&B on many tracks, particularly the standout "Mama Too Tight." Shepp's sandpaper rough tenor saxophone is at the center of all of these recording, but there are significant contributions from the likes of Roswell Rudd and Grachan Moncur III on trombone. Liners are a solid snippet of Ashley Khan's book "The Impulse Story" and there are some nice photos. This disc does the best thing a sampler can - make you want to to dive deeper into the artist's music.

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