When I began to listen to Free Jazz in the early eighties one of my favourite sounds was the hoarse wail of Archie Shepps saxophone. I remember afternoons where I listened to his version of “The Girl From Ipanema” from the “Fire Music” LP again and again and again, turning the volume a little more up after every chorus. I loved – and still do – the mixture of tunes deeply rooted in african american popular culture (ok, not the case with “Ipanema”) with Shepps aggressive but soulful cry. In those days I listened to Shepp when I needed something more earthy than Coltrane or Albert Ayler, my other favourites of that time.
When I was still living in germany, I had the chance to see Shepp every other year, mostly with his quintet. This changed when I moved to Switzerland in 1991. From that point on I saw Shepp only three times. The first time in Bern, sometime in the early nineties. This was a duo concert with Jeanne Lee. This started great with some solo songs by Lee, a tenor long solo by Shepp and a true duet number. After that, things got a little weird because Shepp had brought a tape along featuring drums, bass and piano. The latter was played by Shepp himself. It was nice, but rather devoid (naturally) of sontaneous interactions between Lee and the virtual band.
Archie Shepp at Rote Fabrik, Zürich, November 30, 2013
The next time I saw Shepp was on July 31, 1998, when he played at the Aktionshalle of the Rote Fabrik in Zürich with his quartet featuring Richard Clements, Wayne Dockery and Steve McCraven. I remember that concert as having been great and a listen to the soundboard tape that someone gave me much later tells me I am right. I went to this concert with my friend, the late jazz researcher Otto Flückiger . As followers of this blog may know, Otto tried to document – on tape and later on video – every jazz concert he witnessed. He filmed parts of the concert, sometimes only one minute long, sometimes longer. Amongst all the footage I only found one complete track. Since the audio from Ottos camera was not too good, I decided to synchronize the video with the sound from the tape.
So here’s Archie Shepp and his quartet in 1998 doing “The Reverse”, a little rap inspired tune by Shepp. If you want a nice regular issue of this track, be sure to check the three versions of this tune (two of which feature Hip Hop legend Chuck D. of Public Enemy fame) that are contained on Shepps 2CD “Gemini” released on his own label, Archiball.
And then finally two weeks ago Shepp played at the Unerhört! Festival with pianist Tom McClung. This took place at the Rote Fabrik again, but this time at the Clubraum, another Hall of the cultural space that used to be a factory.
I filmed only parts of the concert because I realized that handling the camera all the time keeps me from enjoying the music – which I did very much. As with the Matana Roberts concert last year, it looks like a witnessed a totally different concert than the reporter from the smaller of the two local newspapers, who wrote about Shepp’s “intonation problems”. If there were any, they did not disturb me at all.
So here are Shepp and the great pianist Tom McClung playing “The Stars Are In Your Eyes”, a tune of which Shepp announced that he did write it for Sarah Vaughn, but never had the opportunity to give it to her:
The next clip gives you the duo playing Fats Waller’s “Ain’t Misbehavin’” with Shepp also singing. I did not film this song, but made up a little picture show accompanying the audio recording:
I took up the video camera again only to catch the encore, a beautiful version of Thelonious Monk’s “Round Midnight” – which in fact it was when the concert ended: