The New York Contemporary Five marked a relatively brief chapter in Archie Shepp's career; they existed for barely two years and played almost exclusively in Europe. Today, the group is recognized as an important stepping stone in the mainstream of the emerging free movement of the early '60s, when Shepp had yet to claim his place alongside John Coltrane in the vanguard of "the New Jazz".
The record was recorded live in Copenhagen in 1963. The sound bears a strong resemblance to Ornette Coleman's during the same period, and even includes Don Cherry (performing on a "battered Civil War cornet"), who appeared on a number of Coleman's records between 1958 and '61. The Five pivot between straightforward, hard-swinging post-bop numbers (Coleman's "When Will the Blues Leave") and exploratory improvisations (Shepp's "The Funeral").
There's little that hasn't been written already about these musicians. Suffice it to say that the present set finds them in excellent form. An egalitarian ethos permeates the performance; the musicians are equal partners, and no one horn predominates. A highlight is the album opener "Cisium", on which J.C. Moses' drums provide a frantically shifting tonal backdrop to a set of raw, energetic solos.--Zachary Young, OffBeat Magazine, January 2011 issue, [...].