Archie Shepp: Cousin Mary
Archie Shepp (tenor sax)
Four For Trane (Impulse A-71)
Alan Shorter (flugelhorn).
Composed by John Coltrane, arranged by Archie Shepp.
Recorded: Englewood Cliffs, NJ, August 10, 1964
Rating: 94/100 (learn more)
Archie Shepp's first Impulse album comprised four tunes by John Coltrane ("Syeeda's Song Flute," "Mr. Syms," "Cousin Mary," and "Naima") plus one Shepp original ["Rufus (Swung, his face at last to the wind, then his neck snapped)"]. The minor blues "Cousin Mary" is a pretty straight-forward jazz tune, and Shepp gives it a pretty straight-forward treatment—arrangement-wise, at least.
After a quick reading of the head, Shepp gets down to business, improvising a gruff, vocalic tenor solo that spends a great deal more time going against the grain of the fast tempo than it does engaging it. Shepp's lines are smears of paint across the canvas of steady pulse—a country blues solution to an ultra-modern puzzle. Flugelhornist Alan Shorter follows with an economical solo, heavy on chromatics, moving around and about the beat in a manner similar to Shepp's. John Tchicai goes a step further, breaking the pulse into shards with his self-enforced lyricism (and bringing the rhythm section along with him), before reconnecting with the swing and generally complicating matters in his own ingenious way. Bassist Reggie Workman and drummer Charles Moffett create at a high level, connecting well with one another and the horns.
This is an inspired performance—one that pays heartfelt tribute to the album's dedicatee, yet at the same time suggests further idiomatic growth.
Reviewer: Chris Kelsey