Friday, August 6, 2010

Archie Shepp - A Sea of Faces

Although this performance from 1975 was known and appreciated by the then fans, some jazz critics, lamenting at the evolution of Shepp's music (thought to deviate from the royal road of politico-musical correctness), have failed to notice its remarkable qualities. While I agree with those connoisseurs that some details in this recording are less inspiring (Burrell's piano solo on "Hipnosis", Shepp's own piano playing on "I know 'bout the life", etc.), such criticisms virtually fade into nothing when you allow yourself to be carried away by the 25 minute "Hipnosis" (Grachan Moncur's obsessive theme). It offers one of the darkest, most exciting and sweeping tenor sax explorations to be found on Shepp's recordings (along with "Yasmina a black woman" and the now untraceable "Coral Rock" from the late sixties), intense and devoid of clichés. This millésime of Shepp may have become somewhat less acid, less fatty in the mouth and (whether you like it or not) more reconciled with tradition than the Impulse years' venturer. But the man is at the height of his powers here, not the captive of any one idiom but at home in many, including 'free'. Most of the time the music swings heavily and irresistibly. Shepp doesn't reduce his fellow musicians to the status of bystanders here. Bunny Foy is an excellent vocalist (on "Song For Mozambique" and "I know 'bout the life"), Charles Greenlee takes an exciting trombone solo on "Hipnosis", Cameron Brown on bass is outstanding throughout. - by Paul Cortois,

Artist: Archie Shepp
Album: A Sea of Faces
Year: 1975
Label: Black Saint (1993)
Running time: 49:09

1.  Hipnosis (Grachan Moncour III) 26:10
2.  Song for Mozambique/Poem: A Sea of Faces (Semenya McCord/Archie Shepp) 8:05
3.  I Know About the Life (Archie Shepp/Aishah Rahman) 5:20
4.  Lookin' for Someone to Love (Cal Massey) 9:34

Archie Shepp (Tenor and Soprano Saxophone, Piano, Vocals)
Charles Greenlee (Trombone and Tambourine, Vocals)
Cameron Brown (Double Bass)
Beaver Harris (Drums, Tambourine and Vocals)
Dave Burrell (Piano) - 1,2,4
Bunny Foy (Maracas and Vocals) - 1-3
Rafi Taha (Vocals) - 2


  1. I used to own this one, and always liked it a lot, not least for the great Beaver Harris' drumming. Thanks a lot!



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