Live in New York

Roswell Rudd / Archie Shepp

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Live in New York Review

by Alex Henderson

Recorded live at New York's Jazz Standard in 2000, this generally excellent CD marks the reunion of two avant-garde improvisers who were separated for way too long: tenor man Archie Shepp and trombonist Roswell Rudd. The jazzmen played together a lot during the turbulent 1960s but, regrettably, they didn't record together at all in the 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s. After more than 30 years apart, was that old chemistry still there? Absolutely. A 63-year-old Shepp (who doubles on piano) and a 65-year-old Rudd have no problem bringing out the best in one another whether they are embracing pieces from the 1960s (including Shepp's remorseful "Steam") or turning their attention to songs they wrote in the 1980s or 1990s such as Rudd's "Bamako" and Shepp's "Hope No. 2." Some people might wish that the veteran jazzmen paid more attention to their 1960s work, but Live in New York isn't meant to be an exercise in nostalgia. Shepp and Rudd (who are joined by trombonist Grachan Moncur III, bassist Reggie Workman, and drummer Andrew Cyrille) aren't trying to recreate the past -- nor should they. But that doesn't mean that they aren't excited about being reunited; they bring a wealth of enthusiasm to their post-bop and avant-garde performances -- none of which are as extreme as some of the blistering free jazz that Shepp provided in the 1960s. Shepp's "Déjà-Vu," in fact, is a hauntingly pretty torch ballad that finds the saxman singing. Although Shepp's singing isn't in a class with his tenor playing, he still manages to get his points across on "Déjà-Vu" -- which is an ironic song title for an album that avoids being nostalgic. Shepp and Rudd keep things unpredictable on this inspired reunion.

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