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Archie Shepp is more famously known for his Fire Music (Impulse!, 1965), his avant-garde antics at the Village Vanguard in the mid-1960s and for his work with Cotrane in the same period, than for Four For Trane, his first recording on the Impulse! label.
The album has renditions of four Coltrane compositions: "Syeeda's Song Flute", "Mr. Syms", "Cousin Mary" and "Naima". The first opens with a richly orchestrated introduction, which is then sharply contrasted against Shepp's tremulous, fractured delivery. Roswell Rudd offers pointed comments in the background and follows with a similarly abstract solo. The trombone had clearly evolved into unrecognisable territory since the days of J.J. Johnson and Kay Winding!
The first bars of "Mr. Syms" almost presage a dark landscape, but Shepp's arrangement is lithe and subtly textured, bringing out the passion in the composition with an understated eloquence. Alan Shorter, older brother of Wayne, contributes a remarkably impressionistic solo, setting the tone for Archie's equally poetic statement. Pity that Alan Shorter's remaining discography is so thin.
Four For Trane is a mysterious album: it is an avant-garde tribute to a living master who had yet to record his most significant avant-garde albums, A Love Supreme (1964), Ascension (1965) and Interstellar Space (1967), all on the same label as Shepp's. Trane himself appears in a contrived portrait on the cover, on which Shepp stares ahead pensively with pipe in mouth.
"Naima" is arguably the most compelling piece on the album - possibly Coltrane's most played "standard", it is magically arranged by Roswell Rudd, comparable to a tone-poem of Ellingtonian profundity. The solos are breezy and almost nebulous in their commitment to non-definition. The performance reveals both a veneration for Coltrane's compositional austerity and formal beauty, and at the same time a bleak conception of emotion far removed from Coltrane's burning urgency.
This fascinating record, a work of clarity and elegance amid the frenzy of the "New Thing", ends enigmatically with a Shepp composition whose title reveals a bizarre humour: "Rufus (Swung, his face to at last to the wind, then his neck snapped)".
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on 17 May 2012
In Ashley Kahn's excellent The House That Trane Built: The Story of Impulse Records Archie Sheep states that this album was the result of months of trying to get Bob Thiele to given him a recording date. He called his office daily only to be fobbed off by Lillian, Thiele's secretary; Bob was out to lunch or some other excuse. Eventually Archie asked John Coltrane to put in a word for him and the following day Bob Thiele took his call. He clearly did not want to record Shepp, too avant-garde, so he tried to antagonise him into walking away by insisting on only John Coltrane compositions but Shepp was ready and was keen on the idea anyway,; he and his band had been rehearsing these number for week anyway.

At first in the studio Thiele was rather dismissive and rude but after recording three numbers he said " I've got to call john and tell hime this stuff is great." Coltrane then drove over to from Long Island to Englewood at 11 o'clock at night to hear the results. The cover photograph was taken at that time, Shepp points out that Coltrane is not wearing any socks and was probably in bed when he got the call. This is not how we music fans imagine things happen for our heroes but it makes this all the more fascinating an album, especially since this was the first of a run of 10 Impulse albums he recorded as leader between 1964 - 1969: Fire Music /Imp,On This Night (not counting New Thing At Newport)Live In San Francisco through to Impulse 2-on-1: For Losers / Kwanza he recorded another 3 albums in 1971 - 1972 for that label the last of which was The Cry Of My People These later albums became more mainstream, including vocal, song structure etc, but this man infuses so much musicality into everything he does, it is never a sell out, just as this album might have become in less confidant hands.

Do not be put off by the avant-garde label, I know my parents were very suspicious of it. They introduced me to loads of great music: My Favorite Things for example, but there were areas they would not go to. I think they were still reeling from the schism that be-bop had created.

If you are serious about having a jazz collection then this is one you need.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 13 October 2012
Recorded in New Jersey on August 10, 1964, 'Four For Trane' is one of the truly great albums of '60s jazz.
With leader Archie Shepp on tenor saxophone, were Roswell Rudd(trombone), John Tchicai(alto saxophone), Alan Shorter(trumpet), Reggie Workman(bass) & Charles Moffett(drums) playing brilliantly arranged versions of four John Coltrane tunes plus one Shepp original.
The late jazz writer, Keith Shadwick, has described Shepp's soloing as "awash with humanity and humour" a phrase that can be equally applied to much of the powerful, bluesy music on this marvellous album.
'Four For Trane' is a neglected masterpiece that's on a par with Coltrane's famous 'A Love Supreme' recorded a few months later and is essential listening for anyone who appreciates passionate and adventurous modern jazz.
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