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November 28, 2012

"On This Night" / "New Thing At Newport" - Archie Shepp

Call Me by My Rightful Name by John Coltrane & Archie Shepp on Grooveshark I spent Thanksgiving in the MCM wonderland known as Palm Springs, California. Modernity stretched to every corner of this world.  Driving back to San Diego to catch our flight I tuned into their local Jazz station. The drive was soothed by a broadcast Archie Shepp's On This Night.... Man this was good. And I haven't heard it before (shame on me!).  Shepp is a master at having balance in his music.  He fuses delicate arrangements with strong willed playing.  This, along with his arrangements and raspy tonality are an ideal equation for the New Thing style.

Since I do not own this record, I am reluctant to write about it. However, this recording immediately brought to mind the Split LP he did with John Coltrane entitled New Thing At Newport.  Which makes sense because NTAT was released right after On This Night.  For me, Archie Shepp always seemed to bridge the gap between Post Bop and Free Jazz.  A reason why I put him on such a high pedestal.  I completely admire his recordings, personally, and thoughts regarding the history and continuation of Jazz Black Art Music.

Leaning on the freer side, New Thing At Newport offers a rare glimpse at a quartet that featured Bobby Hutcherson on vibes, Barre Phillips on fiddle bass, and Joe Chambers on drums.  I mentioned Shepp's raspy tonality above. A sound that is created by substantial drive on the reed of his saxophone, this aesthetic also reminds me of older Rock/R&B music.  Shepp's tonality allows him to stand out from a sea of tenor players.

Shepp is typically rooted in the blues.  A nice anchor to have when traversing abroad to the freer side of music.  No matter how rare or obtainable it is, early Shepp recordings are a gem.  Whether he is playing far out or far in, I always sense that feeling of the Blues.  Another reason why I applaud Archie Shepp.
1965 - Impulse.
Archie Shepp - Tenor Sax, Vocals; Bobby Hutcherson - Vibes; Barre Phillips - Bass; Joe Chambers - drums.
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