Archie Shepp

Black Gipsy

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Black Gipsy is an interesting album, not just because it's one of the very few dates where Archie Shepp plays soprano exclusively, but because the album also features a harmonica player, Leroy Jenkins on viola, and a vocalist named Chicago Beauchamp (aka Chicago Beau), who also performed with the Art Ensemble of Chicago and Jimmy Dawkins. This is in addition to Clifford Thornton, Noah Howard, Sunny Murray, and the great Dave Burrell on piano. On "Black Gipsy," after an intro by Jenkins, Murray and bassist Earl Freeman set up a powerful martial groove, pushed by Burrell's low-end piano work. The horns and harmonica use this as a launching point, while Chicago Beauchamp sporadically spouts his street poetry. "Epitaph of a Small Winner" is something of a travelogue suite, starting in Rio de Janeiro with a light, upbeat melody. Casablanca is next, where the proceedings become a bit mellower and mysterious, then it's on to a near bluesy romp for the last stop in Chicago. "Pitchin' Can" closes the album with more ensemble playing over another upbeat theme based on a simple ostinato. This music gets intense, but melody is always at its core: this is not just a free blowing session. The rhythm section keeps things well grounded, aided greatly by Burrell's marvelous comping while the horns and harmonica take the melodies and run with them. Good stuff.

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