He populates his musical world with themes and stylistic elements provided by the greatest voices of jazz: from Ellington to Monk and Mingus, from Parker to Siver and Taylor. His technical and emotional capacity enables him to integrate the varied elements inherited by the Masters of Tenor from Webster to Coltrane into his own playing but according to his very own combination: the wild raspiness of his attacks, his massive sound sculpted by a vibrato mastered in all ranges, his phrases carried to breathlessness, his abrupt level changes, the intensity of his tempos but also the velvety tenderness woven into a ballad. His play consistently deepens the spirit of the two faces of the original black American music: blues and spirituals. His work with classics and with his own compositions (Bessie Smith’s Black Water Blues or Mama Rose) contributes to maintaining alive the power of strangeness of these two musics in relationship to European music and expresses itself in a unique mix of wounded violence and age-old nostalgia.
The scope of his work which registered in the eighties a certain urgency (at the cost of a few discrepancies) is a witness to the fact that in 1988 Archie Shepp was with Sonny Rollins one of the best interpreters in the babelian history of jazz.
With his freedom loving sensitivity Archie Shepp has made an inestimable contribution to the gathering, the publicizing and the inventing of jazz.