- Number of Discs: 2
- Released: July 12, 2004
- Label: Snapper Uk
Tracks on Disc 1:
- 1.My Angel
- 3.There Is a Balm in Gilead
- 4.Sophisticated Lady
Tracks on Disc 2:
- 1.Brotherhood at Ketchaoua
- 2.We Have Come Back
2 LPs on 2 CDs: BLASE (1969)/LIVE AT THE PAN AFRICAN FESTIVAL (1969).
Personnel includes: Archie Shepp (tenor saxophone); Jeanne Lee (vocals); Lester Bowie (trumpet, flugelhorn); Clifford Thornton (cornet); Grachan Moncur III (trombone); Chicago Beau, Julio Finn (harmonica); Dave Burrell (piano); Alan Silva, Malachi Favors (bass); Philly Jo Jones, Sunny Murray (drums).
BLASE recorded at Studios Davout, Paris, France on August 16, 1969. LIVE AT THE PAN-AFRICAN FESTIVAL recorded live in Algiers on July 29-30, 1969. Includes liner notes by Jacques Denis.
Personnel: Archie Shepp (tenor saxophone); Jeanne Lee (vocals); Lester Bowie (trumpet, flugelhorn); Dave Burrell (piano); Sunny Murray (drums).
Who knows how many times these historic BYG/Actuel recordings have been issued either on vinyl or CD. England's Charly picks them up this time -- Varese Sarabande did so in 2001 for a fine-sounding presentation of what certainly are historic dates. Blas? was recorded in Paris in 1969 with vocalist Jeanne Lee, Lester Bowie, and Malachi Favors from the Art Ensemble of Chicago (who were living there at the time); pianist Dave Burrell (who had been recording with Lee); drummer Philly Joe Jones; and (on the opening two cuts, "My Angel" and "Blas?") a pair of harmonicats, Julio Finn and Chicago Beau. There are five cuts on this set, four of them Shepp originals that take free jazz to a place it had never gone before, and would have a hard time reconciling with later. "My Angel," with its deep Deltas blues roots, jazz improvisation, soulful vocals, and funky backbeat, is a poignant if joyous cut that uses the jazz idiom to bring in nearly the entire African-American musical heritage. "Blas?" does the same in a ballad form that is so utterly black it shines. As a two-chord minor-key vamp by Burrell and Shepp's bluesy tenor usher it in, Jones seemingly randomly enters with his own sense of time between measured choruses. Favors enters haltingly, a little more time passes, and the harmonicas blow down home. As it slowly unfolds, Lee eventually gets into the act with her tortured love thang, and Shepp underscores her every phrase. The final three cuts that made up the original album's second side begin with Shepp's take on "There Is a Balm in Gilead," with beautiful trumpet work by Bowie; Lee's performance makes it one of the most moving reads of this folk song ever recorded. One wonders what Duke Ellington might have thought about Burrell's wailing free intro to "Sophisticated Lady," but Shepp and company actually reinvent the tune itself -- minus Bowie -- with reverence, panache, and soul. The set ends with "Touareg," a wailing blowing tune with Favors and Jones. It's intense, freewheeling, and full of incredible work by all three musicians, closing one of Shepp's finest outings ever. It's joyous, not angry; it screams, but these are screams of recognition and joy, not pain.
The second CD here, Live at the Pan-African Festival recorded in Algiers in 1969, finds the Shepp band made up of Clifford Thornton, Grachan Moncur III, Sunny Murray, Burrell, and Alan Silva with a host of players who were street and master musicians of the region. If "Brotherhood at Kechaoua" sounds chaotic and crazy, that's because it is. It is the sound of bliss and ecstasy outside of Western time signatures, modes, or scales. The native players create a chanted pounding rhythm, and the Shepp band adds flourishes and struggles to keep up, but it's the locals here who shine. The second track, "We Have Come Back," is far more cohesive and much longer -- twice as long, in fact, at over 31 minutes in length. This time it's Shepp and crew who set the pace, but even here the local Tuareg musicians find a trancelike quality in Sunny Murray's drums and push him deep into a new groove, circling it around. Echoes of blues and R&B are heard here by Shepp's crew, but it's the horns and hand drums that move the tune outside itself and into the stratosphere. This baby is worth picking up if you want to have your head rearranged, to be sure, but it's also one of the most perfect collaborations between jazz and African folk musicians on record. ~ Thom Jurek