Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Archie Shepp - The New York Contemporary Five (Delmark 1967, 2010)

Recorded in 1963 in Copenhagen as the "new thing" really began to make waves and present a different path from mainstream jazz, The New York Contemporary Five was a collective group (although under Shepp's nominal leadership here) with Don Cherry on cornet, John Tchicai on alto saxophone, Archie Shepp on tenor saxophone, Don Moore on bass and J.C. Moses on drums. This live album has a raw live sound that actually helps the sound of the music which has a rough and ready feel, with the band playing the brand of free-bop that had the music evolving from the bop based music of the past to the free sounding music being spearheaded by their colleagues Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane. Cherry's "Cisum" opens the album with the band playing in a very fast and confident manner. Cherry in particular sounds excellent, his tone on the instrument is ripe and pure and and he pushes and pulls the music at will. Just to show that they hadn't completely broken with convention, they give a relatively straight and very respectful version of Thelonious Monk's "Crepuscule With Nellie" which treats the beautiful melody with gentle respect. The band gets right back into it with "O.C." and Ornette Coleman selection brought by Don Cherry, which gives the band a lot of open ended space to play in the manner of Coleman's blues drenched free jazz. "When Will the Blues Leave" is Coleman's as well, and Shepp in particular digs into the deep soulful music, with a guttural and exciting solo. "The Funeral" is a slow dirge that features some excellent bass work from Moore, providing a brief respite before the group comes back with a fine up-tempo collective improvisation on "Mik." This is a very interesting time capsule that shows the development of "free jazz" was an evolutionary experience as much as a revolutionary one. Drawing on jazz of the past and opening it up to the innovations of the present allowed this group and several other like minded bands to push the boundaries of the music. The New York Contemporary Five - amazon.com

Send comments to Tim.