Keep Your Heart Right
We Are The Blues
Slide By Slide
Recorded at the "The Jazz Standard", NYC, September 23 & 24, 2000
** also issued on EmArcy 013 482-2
I was very interested in listening to this issue as it features a group of players who were at the cutting edge of the "Avant Garde" movement in the mid to late nineteen-sixties. Shepp and the two trombonists worked, in various combinations, on such albums as "Mama Too Tight", "Live In San Francisco" and "The Way Ahead". These were all highly important documentations of the music of their time, and amongst the first performances in this genre that I was exposed to.Through time, maturity and experience, on the part of the artists featured here, the music has altered somewhat, and the level of intensity has become, in most places, more relaxed. This has the advantage of making this type of music far more accessible to the average listener. Archie Shepp has always been one of my favourite saxophone players. He has a big sound and, whilst his playing is punctuated with shrieks, growls, wails and distorted notes, the influence of Ben Webster is never far from the surface. Over the years Shepp has added to his style so that he is capable of playing in a modern/mainstream manner- which can be heard most effectively on the opening selection, which, after a short recitation by Amira Baraka, drops into a medium tempo "boppish" groove. Shepp is an able pianist and, whilst not being the greatest vocalist in the world, acquits himself more than adequately in a pleasing baritone voice a la Eckstine. Roswell Rudd is a gifted composer and instrumentalist. His playing reveals his roots in early jazz and passes through many styles along the way. He is a trombonist who makes most effective use of the slide (rather than treating the instrument as if it were an overgrown trumpet). Grachan Moncur is an excellent foil for Rudd as can be heard on many selections, especially when they are voiced together. The blending of their tones is most effective. Reggie Workman is, quite simply, one of the great bass players in the history of jazz. He has worked with seemingly everyone form John Coltrane to Don Byron. His playing on this session provides the underpinning for each performance and generates a real feeling of swing. Andrew Cyrille is perhaps best known for his work with Cecil Taylor but proves to be the ideal drummer for this group. He is ever present but unobtrusive and interacts well with other musicians throughout. The music is wide ranging from the swing of the title track through laid back intensity of "We Are The Blues" to the rage of "Steam". This is music that breaks away from the normal format of theme/solos/theme. There is a strong feeling of ensemble throughout with contrapuntal lines, polyphony and group improvisation all featuring at various points. The recitations by Baraka are most apt and actually complement the music (I am not normally a great fan of poetry and jazz ). I will certainly play this disc many times and would strongly recommend it to anyone who is looking for something a little different.
Dick Stafford, professional reed player and teacher living in Coventry