Two previously unreleased 1960s performances by Don Cherry in quintet format. The first show was recorded in Denmark in 1963 (but a different date that the release on Storyville) and showcases the New York Contemporary Five, featuring Cherry with Archie Shepp, John Tchicai, Don Moore and J.C. Moses.
The octet Archie Shepp surrounded himself with in 1966 was filled with new and old faces. The twin trombones of Roswell Rudd and Grachan Moncur III embodied this, but so did bassist Charlie Haden and trumpeter Tommy Turrentine, while familiar figures like drummer Beaver Harris and tubaist Howard Johnson had been part of Shepp's regular band. There are four tracks on Mama Too Tight, all of them in some way acting as extensions of the opening three-part suite, "A Portrait of Robert Thomson (As a Young Man). Here again, lots of free blowing, angry bursts of energy, and shouts of pure revelry are balanced with Ellingtonian elegance and restraint that was considerable enough to let the lyric line float through and encourage more improvisation. This is Shepp at his level best.
"Serious collectors and devoted Sheppherds only…" By 1985 Archie Shepp's tone on tenor had declined quite a bit from just a few years earlier. This should have been a strong set for the sidemen (trumpeter Enrico Rava, keyboardist Siegfried Kessler, bassist Wilbur Little and drummer Clifford Jarvis) are excellent and the repertoire is both diverse and challenging. However Shepp fouls up "Naima" by playing his out-of-tune soprano, talks and sings on the 18-minute "Little Red Moon" more than he plays tenor and his sax sounds quite sloppy on "Whisper Not" and "Sweet Georgia Brown." Despite some good moments from the supporting cast, this is one to skip.
Reissue with the latest remastering. Features original cover artwork. Comes with a descripton in Japanese. A real gem from the great Archie Shepp – an overlooked treasure from his years as a straight jazz musician – a time we come to appreciate more and more as the years go by! The Shepp heard here is one who's still got all the raw tone and bite of the old days, but also finds a way to swing things on a set of familiar standards – so that he's cutting these great raspy lines out of tunes you might already know – but which are taking on a whole new life in the process.
From 1964, Archie Shepp's first date as a leader featured – as one would expect from the title – four tunes by John Coltrane, his mentor, his major influence, and his bandleader. The fact that this album holds up better than almost any of Shepp's records nearly 40 years after the fact has plenty to do with the band he chose for this session, and everything to do with the arranging skills of trombonist Roswell Rudd. The band here is Shepp on tenor, John Tchicai on alto, Rudd on trombone, Trane's bassist Reggie Workman, and Ornette Coleman's drummer Charles Moffett. Even in 1964, this was a powerhouse, beginning with a bluesed-out wailing version of "Syeeda's Song Flute." This version is ingenious, with Shepp allowing Rudd to arrange for solos for himself and Tchicai up front and Rudd punching in the blues and gospel in the middle, before giving way to double time by Workman and Moffett. The rawness of the whole thing is so down-home you're ready to tell someone to pass the butter beans when listening.
The jazz world was immersed in controversy in 1965 when the bands of John Coltrane and Archie Shepp appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival. Coltrane's own style was undergoing constant evolution, his lines more convoluted and explosive, his sound increasingly ranging to vocal cries and metallic abrasions. He had also become a figurehead of the "avant-garde" or "New Thing," an established star who provided a public forum for younger musicians and the creative ferment largely taking place out of public hearing.