Label: BYG Records
Format: LP, Coloured
Florida-born saxophonist, composer, poet, actor and playwright Archie Shepp was one of the most articulate exponents of politicized black culture in the late ‘60s, a time of enormous upheaval and radical thought. Relocating to Paris he made a number of highly influential albums, such as Blasé, that broached the essential themes of freedom and racial equality, and tapped into the bedrock of African-American music. Gospel and blues were a major part of the work, which also had a strong avant-garde sensibility. The band featured stellar vocalist Jeanne Lee and members of Art Ensemble Of Chicago. These trailblazing artists who combined jazz, poetry and radical politics made a definitive musical statement.
Blasé crosses the sacred-profane divide and liberally traveling through time and space, to create as much pre-jazz as free jazz, the tag given to Shepp for which he had much ambivalence. His artistic outlook was always broad, taking him from a graceful reprise of Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Lady to the upbeat bustle of Touareg, a rhythmic tour de force for the Shepp-Jones-Favors trio that reflects the great inspiration Shepp drew from his appearance at the historic Pan-African festival in Algiers in July, 1969, shortly before he went into the studio to record Blasé.
Black music has always had a fascinatingly complex relationship with its own history. Echoes of the past are continually heard in the present. What was once deemed old quickly becomes new. A song from one generation can enjoy a revival in another. If Blasé teaches us one thing it is that younger artists have always felt the spirit of their elders in heaven and on earth. As the Duke said ‘all god’s chillun got rhythm.’