Archie Shepp

Perfect Passions

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Recorded in 1978 in Warsaw, Poland, this set of Archie Shepp's was played before it became his journeyman live gig. The greasy rhythm section includes Wilber Little on bass, the amazing Clifford Jarvis on drums, and German pianist Seigfried Kessler on piano. There are three tunes in the set: one of the finest and most involved harmonic performances of "Mama Rose"; "Billy Strayhorn's Lush Life," which is a mirror image of Coltrane's 19546 read, and goes on for a full 20 minutes. Finally, there is a shorter and more workmanlike reading of Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood," which nonetheless captures all of the emotion in the original. But it's "Mama Rose" that shows Shepp at his best, turning the modal structure of the tune to his own intervallic dimensional favor. Shepp goes meditating on breath and scales, and Jarvis anticipates his every move and gives him the platform to roll out onto. It's astonishing, the intensity he gets to, especially while keeping the melodic fragments together and stringing them together with long open legatos of Eastern original and intricate modal density. "Lush Life" is its stellar opposite, with Shepp staying deeply in the roots of blues and swing, and Little doing some beautifully spacious arco work on the bass. There is a problem, however, when one considers that this is on the notorious (read: pirate) West Wind label. The recording quality is less than stellar, and there's more than a good chance that Shepp never saw a dime from this recording. That said, the performance is so stunning, it would be worth purchasing and then sending Shepp a check through his management.

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