a brand new purchase of afro-american sax legend Archie Shepp presented here in a re-released re-packaged Charly records cd of very good quality in tracks that span quite a variety of styles : free-jazz ,free-ish hard bop, ballad, exploratory free, groovy political vocal / spoken word.
in essence this BYG Actuel /Charly 2013 release offers Shepp recorded over two different sessions with both the Art Ensemble of Chicago etc n the excellent 20 minute Algierian/African influenced "yasmina" that boasts firey sax duos, tight + intense large ensemble with fervent playing from all concerned. probably the best track here that recounts Coltrane's earlier + marvellous "Africa" from the similarly large ensemble "Africa/Brass" lp. 2nd track here- "sonny's back" is quite straight forward Sonny Rollins influenced swinging hard bop with the expected quartet of sax,piano,bass,drums. fine hard bop but hardly essential when compared to the opening track.
ballad workhorse - "body and soul" again is ok but not of the Coltrane level of inspiration for me - tentative rather than soulful but a little average for me. Shepp is clearly exploring post-ballad expression via fragments of the melody but it lacks cohesion. next track ,the extended "rain forest / oleo" that tries to gel but ultimately sounds like its trying to hard with free sax lines - exploratory + raw. the introduction solo sax lines start the piece very well then the band join for a free-jazz free for all with trombone,piano + a drum solo then Shepp returns to add some needed focus. interesting "fire music" . a grower in the lineage of late Coltrane's Meditations take 1 for small group.
final track however, "mama rose" end this fine compilation on a high note with Shepp on intense soprano sax with a tight yet very groovy backing from double drums,bass + piano that included bop legend Philly Joe Jones also. there's an excellent video upload of "poem for malcom / mama rose" also on you tube of Shepp in action from this era. the wonders of the net! the packaging, photos + liner notes are very good also by the way. just a shame that the rather average "body and soul" + uneven "rain forest / oleo" lets an otherwise important release down slightly.
overall though - highly recommended for free jazz fans rather than the traditionalists. four stars going on five of important late 1960's exploratory jazz. Shepp's earlier "fire music" lp is a better place to start though.