Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Archie Shepp - For Losers


ARCHIE SHEPP
For Losers
impulse! AS-9188

Recorded 1968-9/ Released 1971


1. Stick 'em Up
2. Abstract
3. I Got It Bad (and that ain't good)
4. What Would It Be Without You
5. Un Croque Monsieur (Poem: For Losers)

PERSONNEL

On 'Un Croque Monsieur', 'I Got It Bad', 'What Would It Be Without You' (26.08.1969)

ARCHIE SHEPP; tenor sax, soprano sax
WOODY SHAW; trumpet
MATTHEW GEE; trombone
CLARENCE SHARPE; alto sax
CECIL PAYNE; baritone sax
CEDAR WALTON; piano
WILBUR WARE; bass
JOE CHAMBERS; drums
CHINA-LIN SHARPE; vocals

On 'Stick 'em Up' (09.09.1968)

ARCHIE SHEPP; tenor sax
MARTIN BANKS; trumpet & flugelhorn
GRACHAN MONCUR III; trombone
MARTIN KENYATTA; alto sax
ANDREW BEY; piano
ALBERT WINSTON; fender bass
BERT PAYNE; guitar
BEAVER HARRIS; drums
LEON THOMAS; vocals
DORIS TROY; vocals
TASHA THOMAS; vocals

On 'Abstract' (17.02.1969)

ARCHIE SHEPP; tenor sax
JIMMY OWENS; trumpet & flugelhorn
GRACHAN MONCUR III; trombone
JAMES SPAULDING; alto sax
CHARLES DAVIS; baritone sax
DAVE BURRELL; organ
WALLY RICHARDSON; guitar
BOB BUSHNELL; fender bass
BERNARD PURDIE; drums

This 1971 release brings together material from three sessions spread across 1968-9 featuring three different bands. After the full-on sonic assault of the previous years' 'Pitchin Can' and 'Coral Rock' I can imagine Shepp fans picking this one up and saying "Woah! What's all this about?". For while there is free jazz here, it's hidden beneath an accessible surface that takes the form of funky soul-jazz ('Stick 'em Up', 'Abstract'), sweet balladry ('I Got It Bad', 'What Would It Be...') and a Yasmina style funky freak-out.

'Stick 'em Up' stands out as being unlike anything else in Shepp's discography. Over a funky backbeat worthy of James Brown, Leon Thomas provides a R&B vocal (unlike anything else I've heard him do, either) and the band play tight, well arranged parts. Archie pops up with short solos all over the place, applying his abrasive tone to straightahead material where it actually fits quite well. 'Abstract' is almost, but not quite, more of the same - while it's still tight and funky there's more of a jazz feel in the solos and overall structure of the piece. In fact, it's very much in a soul-jazz style, and would fit nicely on a Cannonball Adderley LP were it not for the unhinged soloing of Shepp.

The ballads provide a nice change of pace and another early example of Shepp playing it sweet, something he would do more and more throughout the 1970s. 'I Got It Bad', in particular, has nary a challenging harmony in sight - unthinkable for a Shepp recording of the period! 'Normal' service is resumed with the closing 'Un Croque Monsieur'. Shepp sets up an insistent, funky theme counterpointed nicely by Payne's baritone (note - this theme was lifted, in it's entirety, and used to great effect in Stereolab's 'Outer Bongolia' from 2000's 'First Of The Microbe Hunters' mini-LP. Not jazz in the slightest, but still worth a listen). Once he's set it up, Shepp wanders off on soprano and explores every possibility that the theme suggests, as well as a few more besides. Chambers sounds increasingly dissastisfied with this and around the 7-minute mark leads the group into a collective free-improvisation that'll have the hardcore Shepp fans feeling right at home. This fades into the 'For Losers' poem, but is rescued by Walton's huge piano riff that drives the band through the remaining choruses.

Now for the problem - availability. This is a hard album to come by. I got lucky online and managed to get my hands on a Japanese CD reissue. Vinyl copies appear to be very hard to find, and are likely to be expensive if Shepp's other impulse! recordings are anything to go by. Enjoy 'Stick 'em Up' on the radio player, and keep your eye out for a copy of this, you won't be disappointed.

1 comment:

Tim said...

I find that title amusing given the Coltrane and Miles Davis "For Lovers" compilations I see in some stores these days.