Category Archives: Archie Shepp

Pharoah Sanders plays live in Washington DC & wins award

Pharoah Sanders was 75 in October 2015 and he marked the milestone with a short residency at the delightfully named Bohemian Caverns in Washington DC. There’s a very positive review by Jackson Sinnenberg here.

Also in October, Pharoah was honoured, along with Archie Shepp, Gary Burton and jazz benevolent society Director, Wendy Oxenhorn. They were recipients of The National Endowment for the Arts 2016 NEA Jazz Masters awards for their significant accomplishments in the field. You can read more about this here.

No news of any British gigs at present though.


Classic Albums on in 2014


Happy New Year to all visitors, new and old. Here’s my 100th post on downwithit.

I still have an unfinished task from 2014 which is to look back at all the classic sets that I reviewed here in 2014. By classic I mean anything other than a new release so there are one or two sets from the present millennium included here. A quick count indicates that I wrote about 26 of these albums in 2014, so I think I can conclude that I wasn’t idle, especially given that I also wrote about a number of contemporary sets and offered up some live reviews.

What follows may be a bit of a trudge through a list, but I have linked to all the reviews and if any catch your interest, please click and take a look.

On NYD 2014 I started with a bang by taking a look at John Coltrane’s Blue Train, one of my all-time favorites that I urged everyone to obtain and listen to if they hadn’t done so already.

This was followed up by Lee Morgan’s The Sidewinder and a track that inspired numerous imitations.

My January postings dipped into dinner jazz in the form of Grover Washington Jr’s All The King’s Horses and British hard bop from the 1980’s UK jazz revival via Tommy Chase and Groove Merchant.

Thoughts of Tommy Chase led into fresh territory and I decided to devote some time to exploring the current scene, which was something that I really enjoyed during the course of 2014. If you want a recap of the newly released albums that I reviewed last year, they can be found here and my trawl of live performances is referred to here. I’m not sure if my ramblings have encouraged the purchase of a single album or attendance at any gigs but if they have, please leave a comment and let me know.

I wrote five reviews in February 2014 opening with Horace Parlan’s piano trio set Movin’ And Groovin’. I followed this up with Johnny Griffin’s Big Soul Band. I wavered about posting on that one because I thought that it was something of a departure from the classic small band context and that it would not fit- but it seemed to be OK and remains a popular review according to my stats.

Fred Jackson’s great Hootin”N Tootin’ was next up. At the time, I checked Wikipedia which did not give a date of death. Hopefully Fred still is with us and is enjoying a peaceful retirement at the grand age of 85 years old. If anybody knows more, please tell us.

A further less well-known Blue Note set, John Jenkins With Kenny Burrell was placed in the spotlight, before I took a look at Thembi by my favourite living saxophonist, Pharoah Sanders.

March 2014 saw me take an overdue look at Yusef Lateef (more to come in 2015) and Jazz Mood, his first set as a leader from 1957. The Cats, a fine session featuring John Coltrane followed and I made my first visit to a Grant Green recording on these pages with Grant’s First Stand.

In April, I brought news a a real gem: Heavy Sounds by Elvin Jones and Richard Davis, another set to listen to even if you have to beg steal or borrow. A slow journey north up the motorway system led me to grapple with Bobby Hutcherson’s Happenings. The same trip north gave me time to take a look at The Hot Club Of San Francisco’s Veronica and I got hold of a copy of Jimmy Smith’s lacklustre a less then incredible Softly As A Summer Breeze.

In May Sonny Clark’s Sonny Clark Trio was followed by another Sonny in the form of Sonny Rollins On Impulse, which sounds like a compilation album but isn’t. Later in the month, my local second-hand record store yielded up a copy of John Coltrane’s Ole.

I took another look at Grant Green with his lesser known Iron City, featuring a strong version of Hi-Heeled Sneakers, before returning to Blue Note and Harold Vick’s Steppin’ Out and later in September with Joe Henderson and Inner Urge.

I took the view that Archie Shepp and Dollar Brand’s Duet was slightly spoiled by Shepp’s poor sax technique on a couple of tracks, but I enjoyed Hank Mobley’s great Roll Call, Grant Green’s Green Street and Freddie Hubbard’s Ready For Freddie.

2014 was the year in which a bit of research yielded some more answers about Freddie Roach’s later years and I shelled out for a first pressing of All That’s Good which turned out to be much better than a shocking review suggested it would be.

I’ve already got a the first few reviews for 2015 in mind, so please come back soon and see what I’ve been listening to and remember that comments are most welcome.

One New Year’s Resolution– the quality of the photography at downwithit must improve. No excuses!


Archie Shepp & Dollar Brand: Duet

Although I’m something of a newcomer to the work of Archie Shepp, I have enjoyed listening to Abdullah Ibrahim for over 20 years, indeed I had the good fortune to attend a solo performance in a venue up the road from where I live in the late 1980’s. This set brings two distinctive musicians together and it was one of those orders placed in anticipation that it would live up to its promise.

Duet was recorded at Columbia’s studios in Tokyo in 1978, with a Japanese producer. I don’t usually comment on the recording quality but Shepp’s sound on this album compels me to do so. Overall, the reproduction is extremely clear and detailed but there is a devil in that detail, to my ears.

Archie Shepp’s playing detracts from what could have been a great set. From his opening notes on Fortunato it seems as though he is pecking at the mouthpiece, playing with short breaths and letting too many notes end with a badly controlled pitter-patter sound. It’s almost as though he is playing his tenor sax with a similar mouth action to Hannibal Lecter when he says ‘Clarice th th th th th’ early in The Silence Of The Lambs. It could be the microphone placement and too much studio accuracy, but to this (tenth rate) former saxophonist it just sounds like very sloppy playing. The track itself is a slow and subdued piece, best suited to reflective early hours listening, perhaps.

Barefoot Boy From Queens Town (To Mongezi) is a great piece of Township Jazz- light without being trite and a delightful composition. Typical of a certain vein of Abdullah Ibrahim’s work. But there is a surprise here. It was only when I looked at the sleeve credits that I discovered that it was actually written by Archie Shepp (whose playing is more appealing on his soprano sax here).

Left Alone has a wistful, yearning sort of feel to it. Blues for the hours after midnight, perhaps with a fine single-malt whisky close to hand, if that’s your poison.

Theme From ‘Proof Of The Man’ had me mining Google as I wanted to find out what nature of the underlying production was. As this wiki link shows, it is a Japanese / American detective film which seems bleak and ends up with a pile of the bodies of all main protagonists. I may seek it out sometime, or maybe not. It’s another tone poem. Abdullah Ibrahim does not let us down but, once again Shepp’s playing falls short for the reasons referred to above.

Ubu-Suku, at just over 4 minutes is the shortest track by some way and, to my ears, is a bit of an aimless meander.

You can listen to the closing track, Moniebah courtesy of YouTube. It offers a mellifluous and satisfying conclusion to a good album, which could and should have been great. Archie Shepp isn’t really Hannibal Lecter, but he has played far better elsewhere.

To play, touch or click on the arrow.

The band etc: Archie Shepp (soprano, alto & tenor saxophones); Dollar Brand (piano) Recorded: Nippon Columbia 1st Studio, Tokyo, Japan (06/05/1978). Producer: Yoshiro Ozawa. Cover Photography: To follow. Issued by Denon.