Marion Brown's Three for Shepp is the image-in-the-mirror companion to Archie Shepp's Four for Trane recorded the year before. The program is equally divided between Brown's originals, which occupy the first half of the album, and Shepp tunes that take up the latter half. What is immediately striking is how similar in tone, color, and texture the two men were when it came to composition. Brown arms himself here with crack bands for these recordings. Pianist Dave Burrell and drummer Bobby Capp accompany trombonist Grachan Moncur III and Norris Sirone Jones on bass on Brown's own material and Stanley Cowell and Beaver Harris sub in the piano and drum chairs on Shepp's. Brown's "New Blue" is a slow modal study in blues from the post-modal school. In fact, given the airiness and strange intervals played by Brown and Moncur, it is a new kind of modal blues. "Fortunato" is the vanguard take on post-bop swing. It honks, squeaks, and turns itself around to meet knotty changes from Burrell playing in the middle register. Of the Shepp material, "Spooks" is a kind of political statement that swings like mad. Using an early swing rhythm, 8/12, Cowell vamps his ass off on a three-chord figure and the band careens from New Orleans to minstrel-show stomp to blues to bebop, with Moncur playing a solo that could stop a clock. "West India" is a reverential, shimmering blues number, cooled out from edginess or striated distended harmonics. Despite the title, its simple structure uses both West Indian and almost Caribbean rhythms and melody lines -- calypso anyone? -- and then marries them to an African modal structure for the ultimate celebratory effect. "Delicado" is anything but. It's an out, machine-driven post-hard bop number with Cowell and Brown driving the band into a frenzied free for all, fed in amazing time by Harris. This is a classic Impulse! recording of the period by an overlooked master.
Three for Shepp Review
by Thom Jurek