Fundraiser 2019 — Donate now!
KFJC 89.7FM
Album Review

Archie Shepp – ?Attica Blues? – [Impulse!]

Hunter Gatherer   1/5/2005   CD, Jazz

This is a 3/2003 reissue of an album originally released in 1972.

Saxophonist Archie Shepp is one of the pioneers of free jazz. He has a degree in comparative literature, is a composer, and is a published playwright and poet. He’s also a radical who makes no secret of his anger about social injustice.

So given the topic of the Attica prison riots (in which a four day revolt was squashed by 1,000 state troopers who killed 29 inmates and 10 hostages) I was looking forward to popping in this CD and hearing about what a shit whitey is.

But Mr. Shepp is smarter than that. Plenty of rage is here, and you can hear it in his alto and soprano saxophone lines throughout the whole CD. You can especially hear it in the cacophonous funk-based free jazz (free funk?) of the title track.

The rage almost gives way to despair later in the CD with lyrics like ‘I would rather be a plant than a man in this land.’ Even on the prettiest song Ballad for a Child, discordant strings belie the lyrics ‘What the world needs is a baby’s smile.’

2, 4, and 7 are spoken word ‘invocations? of which 4 is the most interesting. ‘Blues for George Jackson? refers to the Black Panther leader shot to death under suspicious circumstances while in prison.

There are elements of R&B, soul, funk, and even big band underneath the jazz elements, making each track seem familiar but not quite comfortable.

Most of the songs track through, so watch the endings. Also, the last track features some spontaneous (to put it nicely) singing by a 7-year-old.

–Hunter Gatherer

you heard it 25 times on kfjc! most recently:
add comment
Your comment may be revised by KFJC editors.
Copyright © 2019 KFJC 89.7 FM
12345 S. El Monte Road Los Altos Hills, California 94022
Public Inspection File