Archie Shepp

On Green Dolphin Street

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By 1977, saxophonist Archie Shepp began to draw heavily from other, older sources for his session material. His releases for the Denon label (1977 to 1978) took on the Duke Ellington songbook (Day Dream), offered renderings of traditionals (Goin' Home), and showcased a number of other songwriters (Ballads for Trane). On Green Dolphin Street continues in this vein with three jazz standards (the title track, "I Thought About You," and Tadd Dameron's "The Scene is Clean") placed alongside two Shepp originals. At times, Shepp's tone seems to have a misplaced intensity, but the line he walks is always fine. In the next measure, he will offer beautiful, lyrical restraint. On "I Thought About You," his bursts of near-squall on soprano are tempered with the following light staccato or quiet, slowly dissolving notes. On his own "Enough," he achieves an otherworldly sound, somewhere between singing and crying, that lies at the outer reaches of the harmony. His tenor playing is more conventional, though its rough, rich texture adds degrees of emotion to "On Green Dolphin Street," "The Scene Is Clean," and his own, rather conventional "In a Mellow Blues," as he paints the outer edges of his tone with brilliant hues. The fact that Shepp is playing against such a conventional acoustic jazz backdrop gives On Green Dolphin Street its unique tension. The accompanists are a tamer group, working closer to the framework the songs provide. Still, Joe Chambers (drums), Sam Jones (bass), and Walter Bishop, Jr. (piano) are a sophisticated rhythm section managing to balance this with an adept flexibility. Shepp's unique voice breathes new life into these standards, paying them the ultimate compliment; On Green Dolphin Street argues and convinces that these songs deserve to be sung again.

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