Reviews that mention Archie Shepp

March 17, 2016

Archie Shepp

Live at the Donaueschingen Music Festival
MPS EAN/UPC 4250644878640

While it may hardly sound credible in 2016, about 40 years ago it appeared as if Archie Shepp was going to enter the history books as the most accomplished tenor saxophonist following John Coltrane. In hindsight it’s became apparent that the aleatoric advances from Europeans like Evan Parker plus more direct Energy Music extenders like Charles Gayle or protean thinkers such as Roscoe Mitchell soon eclipsed Shepp. When he turned so-called traditional, even neo-mainstreamers like Joe Henderson’s playing revealed Shepp’s tonal inadequacies. Like an angry radical glorying in his establishment confrontations during the 1960s, Shepp has become a New Thing parody. Croaking the blues, recycling Swing ballads, struggling with intonation and raging vocally more than playing, the Shepp of four decades ago would have characterized today’s flashily dressed Shepp as one of those bourgeoisie entertainers he was struggling against. MORE

January 26, 2016

John Coltrane

A Love Supreme: The Complete Masters
Impulse B0023727-02

Arguably the best-known session in modern Jazz with the possible exception of trumpeter Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue five years earlier, A Love Supreme has since 1965 been universally acknowledged as the paramount achievement of saxophonist John Coltrane and his classic quartet. But like variants of familiar fairy tales which are subject to neoteric interpretations following the unearthing of ancillary information or up-to-date translations, A Love Supreme music involves more than the four tracks that made up the original LP with pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones. Packaged with a 30-page book of analysis, musical notation and photographers plus 2½ additional CDs of music, this set could be regarded the same way as a Mishna, Catenist or Cursus commentary on the bible. While preserving the original text or LP, the additions deepen and amplify the experience. MORE

August 11, 2014

Label Spotlight

BMC Records
By Ken Waxman

Although it may seem far-fetched to compare any firm involved with creative music to a vertically integrated conglomerate, Budapest Music Center (BMC) and BMC Records (BMCR) are in a small way a variant of this model. That’s because BMC Records, which has released almost 200 CDs since 1997, is just one part of BMC.

Organized in 1996 to promote Hungarian composers and musicians, today BMC encompasses not only BMCR, but also a Web site in both Hungarian and English; the Budapest-based Opus Jazz Club; and programs jazz during the Hungarian capital’s music festivals. All this is the creation of one man, trombonist and teacher László Gőz, BMC’s owner and producer of nearly all its sessions. BMCR`s full-time staff is label manager Tamás Bognár, Christian Böndiscz: distribution/communications, and György Wallner: international relations. Each participates in A&R decisions, though proposals are approved by Gőz. “He’s owner of BMC,” Wallner points out. “He provides the money for it.” MORE

July 4, 2013

Festival Report:

JazzWeksttatt Peitz
By Ken Waxman

More than 40 years after East Germany’s so-called free jazz paradise regularly attracted Woodstock-sized crowds to this town, about 20 kilometres from the Polish border – and three years after it was revived after a 29-year government-nudged hiatus – JazzWeksttatt Peitz is still working to define its identity

Celebrated in its earlier days as perhaps the one place young East Germans could camp in the open air and experience Western-styled peace and love vibes, albeit with a jazz rather than a rock soundtrack, the festival celebrated its 50th program June 7-9, inviting 21 acts to perform in four different venues, with “open air” now an enclosed tent with rows of chairs. MORE

November 10, 2011

The New York City Jazz Record Interview:

With Fred Ho
By Ken Waxman

Composer, bandleader, baritone saxophonist, political activist and cancer survivor, Fred Ho has forged a singular path since the mid-1980s. Known for his multi-media creations, evoking his Asian heritage alongside African-American influences, Ho has received numerous awards, while his fight with colon cancer is documented in a new book.

The New York City Jazz Record: Both of your big bands are being featured this month. What distinguishes one from the other?

Fred Ho: My core band is the Afro Asian Music Ensemble [AAME], founded in 1982. The AAME is a sextet often used as the instrumental ensemble for many of my operas, for example, Warrior Sisters, Night Vision, Voice of The Dragon Episodes 1, 2 and 3, etc. The Green Monster Big Band was founded at the end of 2008 just after my diagnosis of a third cancer tumor and I was only given 1 in 30,000 chances of living. I wanted one last venture with my favorite musicians so a big band was logical. Until The Sweet Science Suite: A Scientific Soul Music Honoring of Muhammad Ali which premieres this month and includes dancers-choreographed by Christal Brown, the AAME was the group that played the scores to my operas. The AAME celebrates its 30th season for 2011-2012. Before composing new works for the Green Monster Big Band I listened to all the important big band recordings of the 20th century in order NOT to regurgitate any of these influences, but to create a big band repertoire that would represent the apex of the African-American large form. MORE

July 17, 2011

Music Is Rapid Transportation

Edited by Daniel Kernohan
Charivari Press

Traveling the Spaceways

Sun Ra, the Astro Black and other Solar Myths Paper

Edited by John Corbett, Anthony Elms and Terri Kapsalis

White Walls/University of Chicago Press

To be informative and useful, books on music must be conceived of through a combination of enthusiasm and expertise. Too much of the former and the publication slides into salivating hagiography; too much of the later and it becomes a dry, pedagogical discourse. Luckily both these volumes avoid the obvious pitfalls, but there are times when extraneous or superfluous material affects both. MORE

December 19, 2010

Archie Shepp

The New York Contemporary Five
Delmark DE 409

New York Art Quartet

Old Stuff: October 1965

Cuneiform Records RUNE 300

Back in the turbulent days of the early 1960s when the New Thing was really new, North American gigs for the pioneers of Free Jazz were at the same premium that they are for advanced players today. That’s when the wholesale exodus to work in Europe for longer or shorter stays began. These prime slices of birthing Energy Music capture two acclaimed, ostensible New York bands, performing to wider acclaim in Copenhagen. MORE

March 8, 2010

Wicked Theory, Naked Practice: A Fred Ho Reader

Edited by Diane C. Fujino
University of Minnesota Press

Composer, bandleader and baritone saxophonist; theorist about American Black, Asian and what he terms Womyn’s liberation; plus a committed revolutionary socialist, Fred Ho writes essays that are as uncompromising and defiant as his composing.

This wide-ranging collection elucidates his evolving philosophy from 1984 to 2006 while tracing his development as he terms it “From Banana to Third World Marxist”. Although his essays on the twists and turns of identity politics seen through the prism of dialectical materialism and Mao Zedong-styled Communism may alienate readers interested in music, politics are his very fabric. As he states: “When people ask me how long I’ve been playing the saxophone, I tell them as along as I’ve been in the struggle. When activists ask me how long I’ve been in the movement, I tell them as long as I’ve been playing the saxophone.” MORE

September 26, 2006

John Law/Cornucopia Ensemble

Out of the Darkness

With Out of the Darkness, London-based pianist John Law and ensemble has created a pleasant, well-executed work which yokes classical and jazz influences into a mixed mosaic. But enjoyment of this achievement is tempered by the uneasy feeling that no one associated with this project seems to realize that successful jazz-entwined with-classical associations have been the norm for many years.

Someone whose affiliations since the 1990s have included playing Free Jazz with the likes of saxophonist Paul Dunmall, contemporary mainstream with saxophonist Jon Lloyd and performing concerts that feature arrangements of classical pieces by Ravel, Tchaikovsky, Mahler and Gershwin, Law is by all accounts a masterful pianist. Yet as a composer combining classical and jazz impulses, he’s like a playwright who suddenly creates a sentimental comedy about an upper class English professor who teaches a Cockney girl how to speak and pass for a well-born lady. MORE

May 22, 2006


Hungarian Bebop
Budapest Music Center Records BMC CD 066

Not quite truth in packaging when it comes to the title, not everyone playing on this fine mainstream effort is Hungarian, nor is what they pay strictly bebop.

The ringer on the date is pioneering American New Thing saxophonist Archie Shepp who brings along a version of his signature tune “Steam”. The rest of the band is Hungarian, under the leadership of Budapest-based reedist Mihály Dresch – his regular quartet joined by cimbalom player Kálmán Balogh on the leader’s “Sorrow, Sorrow”. MORE

October 7, 2002


Sunshine & An Even Break (never give a sucker)
Fuel 2000 Records 302 061 215 2

Potentially the time when Energy music of both the American and European varieties reached the zenith of acceptance, 1969 was also unique because it suddenly seemed that the very fabric of society was ripping apart.

Riots were commonplace on both continents. Radicalized students were staging sometimes-violent demonstrations to demand more liberalized education processes and to protest against local repression and the war in Viet Nam. Fringe groups had turned to kidnapping, bomb throwing and arson in Europe, while in the U.S., the Black Power Movement had moved into its short-lived, so-called revolutionary phrase. MORE

August 13, 2001


Live in New York
Emarcy 013 482-2

Time changes everything, or if not time, age. At least that's the conclusion you can make about the fervent reception former enfants terribles Archie Shepp and Roswell Rudd received when they reconvened a band they co-lead in the mid-1960s for a gig at a New York night club that lead to the recording of this accomplished CD.

In reality, the response shouldn't be much of a surprise. For between the updated tailgate forays trombonist Rudd introduced and the sophisticated piano and vocal (!) stylings of Shepp, this performance at the Jazz Standard -- and think of the implications of that name -- was probably the most accomplished mainstream show to hit Manhattan since the late Doc Cheatham's 1980s heyday. MORE

May 15, 2001


St. Louis Blues
Jazz Magnet Records JAM-2006

In the almost 40 years since his first recording, tenor saxophonist Archie Shepp has gone from being perceived as a fire-breathing revolutionary to someone concerned with intensifying and codifying the tradition -- and this CD is part of that new role.

Unlike most neo-cons who seemed to have discovered Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington around the time they filed their Earth, Wind & Fire albums in their parents' record collection, Shepp -- born in 1937 -- was exploring blues, gospel and Duke Ellington tunes as early as the late 1960s. However, the good media copy provided by his uncompromising Black Nationalistic rhetoric tended to obscure his other concerns. MORE

April 29, 2001


Savoy/Atlantic 93008-2

Historical documents sometimes give the contemporary listener a new perspective of the past. It's the same with reissues. This thought-provoking disc, divided between a Bill Dixon 7-Tette and Archie Sheep's New York Contemporary 5 (NYC5), show that in many cases the seemingly monolithic New Thing of the mid-1960s was as diverse as its participants.

Recorded after the music had announced its broad presence following the Dixon-organized October Revolution concert series and before Shepp became a known quantity with his Impulse Records discs, the session pinpoints the divergent paths of the erstwhile partners.