Sunday, June 27, 2010

Archie Shepp - Mama Too Tight

The octet Archie Shepp surrounded himself with in 1966 was filled with new and old faces. The twin trombones of Roswell Rudd and Grachan Moncur III embodied this, but so did bassist Charlie Haden and trumpeter Tommy Turrentine, while familiar figures like drummer Beaver Harris and tubaist Howard Johnson had been part of Shepp's regular band. There are four tracks on Mama Too Tight, all of them in some way acting as extensions of the opening three-part suite, "A Portrait of Robert Thomson (As a Young Man)." Shepp had hit his stride here compositionally. The track is, at first, a seeming free jazz blowout, but then traces the history of jazz, gospel, and blues through its three sections. Certainly there is plenty of atonality, but there is plenty of harmonic and rhythmic invention too. The piece, almost 19 minutes in length, has an intricate architecture that uses foreshadowing techniques and complex resolution methods. The title track is a post-bop blues swinger with a killer front-line riff turning in and out as the trombones go head to head. And finally, "Basheer," with its Eastern modality that transposes itself toward blues and folk music, becomes a statement on the transitional ties the '60s were ushering in musically. Here again, lots of free blowing, angry bursts of energy, and shouts of pure revelry are balanced with Ellingtonian elegance and restraint that was considerable enough to let the lyric line float through and encourage more improvisation. This is Shepp at his level best. - by Thom Yurek, AMG

Artist: Archie Shepp
Album: Mama Too Tight
Year: 1966
Label: Impulse (20-bit Remasterd, 1998)
Total time: 38:23

Tracks:
1.  A Portrait of Robert Thompson (As a Young Man) (Archie Shepp) 18:57
2.  Mama Too Tight (Archie Shepp) 5:25
3.  Theme for Ernie (Fred Lacey) 3:21
4.  Basheer (Archie Shepp) 10:38

Personnel:
Archie Shepp (Tenor Saxophone)
Perry Robinson (Clarinet)
Tommy Turrentine (Trumpet)
Grachan Moncur III (Trombone)
Roswell Rudd (Trombone)
Howard Johnson (Tuba)
Charlie Haden (Double Bass)
Beaver Harris (Drums)

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