Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Archie Shepp - Paris 1969, part 1


Yasmina, A Black Woman

BYG Actuel 4

Recorded 12th August, 1969

Side One

  1. Yasmina, A Black Woman

Side Two

  1. Sonny’s Back
  2. Body and Soul


1st tune;

Clifford Thornton (cornet), Lester Bowie (trumpet), Arthur Jones (alto sax), Archie Shepp (tenor sax, voice), Roscoe Mitchell (bass sax), Dave Burrell (piano), Malachi Favors and Earl Freeman (basses), Philly Joe Jones (drums), Sunny Murray (drums), Art Taylor (rhythm logs), Laurence Deveraux (balafon)

2nd tune;

Archie Shepp and Hank Mobley (tenor saxes), Dave Burrell (piano), Malachi Favors (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums)

3rd tune;

Archie Shepp (tenor sax), Dave Burrell (piano), Malachi Favors (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums)

Archie Shepp was a very busy man in August 1969. He recorded 3 sessions for the French BYG label in that month, each only a few days apart – this one, a 14th August session which resulted in the album “Poem for Malcolm” and another on 16th August which led to “Blasé”. 1969 was a fertile time for free jazz, with many of it’s players decamping to Paris and recording for BYG or other labels such as Free America.

This particular session was the result of collaboration between Shepp’s current band and members of the Art Ensemble of Chicago (as represented by Lester Bowie, Roscoe Mitchell and Malachi Favors). There were numerous other big names involved – not all of them people you’d normally associate with free jazz – Hank Mobley and Philly Joe Jones to name two.

Side one is entirely taken up by the 20-minute plus “Yasmina”, an exercise in groove-based improvisation that both Shepp and the members of the Art Ensemble were to repeat later in their careers. This is one funky piece of free jazz – there’s a fair bit of blowing going on over the top, but the rhythm section keeps a solid groove going – a circular piano line anchoring the whole thing down whilst the soloists set off on their flights. The whole thing is pretty effective, with only the slightly shoddy audio quality letting it down.

On a different tack entirely, side two’s opener, “Sonny’s Back”, starts out in a pretty standard hard bop inspired vein, perhaps to accommodate Hank Mobley, heard here on tenor trading lines with Shepp. Despite the band taking the whole thing fairly straight (well, relatively straight – this is Archie Shepp, after all) there is some nice playing here, and a palpable sense of enjoyment in the ecstatic shouts of the rhythm section. The closing “Body and Soul” is taken at a more sedate tempo and is a lovely example of Shepp playing it sweet.

Although they all have their merits, this is probably my favourite of the three Paris sessions, with some great playing and a real sense, in “Yasmina” of the sort of places the jazz avant-garde was headed in the next few years. Shepp’s own exploration of the groove-based extended blowout surely reached it’s peak in 1975’s “Hipnosis” from the “A Sea Of Faces” LP, a 26 minute free improvisation perched on top of the most hypnotic groove on the planet.

My copy of this recording is a one of a reissue of several albums from the BYG Actuel series - a complete list of this series can be found here.

No comments: