Archie Shepp

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Fire Music

The Ben Webster of avant-garde tenor, Shepp is a unique, surreal figure whose erratic output is often quite disappointing, but this album is (on the whole) an exception. Backed by a horn section of saxes, trumpets and trombones, most notably altoist Marion Brown and Mingus-trumpeter Ted Curson, the clear highlight is ‘Hambone’, an intriguing, tentative anthem that breaks into advanced harmonies and insistent riffs behind the experimental, vocalised solos: Shepp’s fury, quite unlike that of his peers, was the occasional harsh growl or strangled scream erupting from out of sinister soft slurs, purring and pitch-bending. There is also some political poetry, very much of its time, a surreal Webster-esque version of ‘Prelude to a Kiss’, and a long and boring version of ‘Girl from Ipanema’ (for some reason).