Thursday, January 27, 2011
Black Art Music: Archie Shepp- Pitchin Can (1969/70)
Here's a raw dose of Fire Music from Mr. Shepp. Most of the record is taken up with a long, two-part track, "Uhuru," a gargantuan 1970 blowout with no less than three percussionists (the wonderful Muhammad Ali on drums); Lester Bowie, Alan Shorter and Clifford Thornton on horns, somebody getting weird with a slide whistle, and Shepp scorching earth with his tenor. This is big nasty Paris-style free jazz, and while it's not as focused and mind-blowing as Coral Rock (my favorite from this period, a total masterpiece), it's bluesy and soulful enough, and Shepp's playing lyrical enough, to maintain a throughline of intelligibility throughout-- a quality often lost on these big band free jazz sessions, with varying degrees of success. Sometimes when sweating my way through an Art Ensemble of Chicago joint, or Noah Howard's Black Ark, for example, I begin to wonder if I'm just getting brain-fuggled or if I'm on the precipice of catharsis. With Shepp, everyone has a part to play, and his sax is usually the star player and spirit guide, so no matter how wild it gets, you can hang with it, break that fever and feel that catharsis.
There's another track on here, the eponymous "Pitchin' Can", a 1969 session with Chicago Beau and a host of other notables. It was included on a Cd reissue of Black Gipsy, for those wondering why this track was omitted from my post that album, but here we find it in the context of its original release. This composition is a little more laid back than "Uhuru", with harmonica and viola lending it a rural color and Beau hollering here and there. Not incredible on a Biblical scale perhaps, and a bit short, really, but an excellent, excellent, highly enjoyable piece of work.
PITCHIN CAN (192)
To those of you who mentioned you'd like to hear Doodlin' and Attica Blues Big Band: Oh so would I. Can anyone lend a hand? More Shepp to come.