Sunday, November 13, 2005

Awards Night, part 2

The “Better Than It Has Any Right To Be” Award, Part 2

Let me tell you a story…

Regular readers of these pages will no doubt of worked out by now that I’m a bit of an Archie Shepp fan, ‘a bit’ being somewhat of an underestimation. The only problem is how difficult it can be getting your hands on his records through conventional channels here in the UK. Now, for some time I’ve had a great affection for the track “Le Matin Des Noire” from the “Red Hot on impulse!” compilation (that got me started on this road, but that’s another story). It’s a lovely track, with some fascinating playing from Shepp, totally different from anything else I’ve heard from 1965. And it features fine support from Bobby Hutcherson on vibes… Stop! this is for another review…

Anyway, the astute amongst you may be aware that “Le Matin Des Noire” is from 1965’s “The New Thing At Newport”, which also features a couple of live tracks from John Coltrane. This is an album I’ve always wanted to acquire, but it’s been rather difficult. Although still a current impulse! release, according to the official website, and although it’s available on the iTunes music store (but I’m not buying it there), finding a CD has proved impossible. None of the music stores near me carries a copy. Hunting on the web has proved fruitless.

Imagine my excitement, then, when I discovered it for sale through an American organisation who’s name I shall not mention. And imagine my surprise when I finally received the package containing my CD, opened it, and saw what was inside…


Enter The Spirit
Stretch Records
Recorded 1993

AARGH! I was disappointed, I can tell you. One look at the sleeve tells you that this is not Archie Shepp, or indeed anything like him (other than the sax, of course). Albums with sleeves of such an incredibly dodgy nature are sadly all too common in jazz. It doesn’t have to be this way – look at Blue Note, for example.

You can’t judge a book by it’s cover, so they say, so I decided to give this a try, since it was here. And, you know, from my vantage point of a few weeks on, this is a fantastic album. Think melodic hard bop, but in a good way. Then add a dash of tenor, some interesting keys, and the excellent Chick Corea, and you’re almost there. Oh, and plenty of fine unison playing – always a favourite of mine, as regular visitors will know.

I’d never come across Bob Berg before this CD landed on my doormat, but a little research has thrown up some interesting facts. Although he was initially attracted towards free jazz in the 1960’s (while playing with Jack McDuff?) he went on to perform in a hard bop style with such legendary names as Horace Silver in the 1970’s, and Miles Davis in the 1980’s. His sound is not particularly new, but the overall feel of the album is great and the playing from all concerned is solid. That might sound like faint praise, but this really is a fine recording, and all the more enjoyable for the serendipitous way it arrived in my life.

Wondering about part 1? Click here.

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