Archie Shepp

Yasmina, a Black Woman/Poem for Malcolm

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The pairing of these two BYG/Actuel albums on a single disc is a compelling way to encounter saxophonist/composer/poet Archie Shepp during his stay in Paris in 1969. Yasmina, a Black Woman and Poem for Malcolm were recorded just three weeks after Shepp and his bands had recorded Blasé in Paris and Live at the Pan-African Festival in Algiers. Yasmina was recorded with various members of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, who were residing in Paris at the time. The title cut is over 20 minutes long and features a large band including drummers Philly Joe Jones, Sunny Murray, and Art Taylor along with a balafon player. Other players were trumpeter Lester Bowie, Clifford Thornton on cornet (instead of his usual trombone), saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell, pianist Dave Burrell, and both Malachi Favors and Earl Freeman on bass. It is a blowing session, but there are arrangements, changes, and a sense of dynamics that develops over time and works well. "Sonny's Back" is a swinging bop tune with Jones, Favors, and Burrell, a popping bluesy cut that offers a view of Shepp steeped in the tradition. The same goes for the beautiful ballad "Body and Soul," with Shepp nodding deeply to Ben Webster. Poem for Malcolm is three tracks long as well, the most interesting of which is the opener and longest here, "Rainforest/Oleo," where Shepp goes from the outside in with trombonist Grachan Moncur III, pianist Vince Benadetti, Jones, and Favors, with a great guest appearance on the "Oleo" portion by saxophonist Hank Mobley, who does some engaging interplay with Shepp on the tune. "Mama Rose," with Burton Greene, Alan Silva, and Jones, is where he picks up on the theme used on "Malcolm, Malcolm, Semper Malcolm" with his long recitation. It's raw, in your face, and wonderful -- although he recorded the piece numerous times and better. There is something about the immediacy of this recording that makes it special.

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