Archie Shepp: Rufus (Swung, his face at last to the wind, then his neck snapped)


Rufus (Swung, his face at last to the wind, then his neck snapped)


Archie Shepp (tenor sax)


Four For Trane (Impulse A-71)

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Archie Shepp (tenor sax), John Tchicai (alto sax), Reggie Workman (bass), Charles Moffett (drums).

Composed by Archie Shepp


Recorded: Englewood Cliffs, NJ, August 10, 1964


Rating: 97/100 (learn more)

Archie Shepp got his deal with Impulse largely through the good graces of the label's star attraction, John Coltrane. Fittingly enough, Shepp's first album for the company was a tribute to his sponsor. The album consists of four Coltrane tunes arranged by Shepp, with "Rufus" his sole original. Coincidentally or not, the tune is arguably the album's most interesting composition. The performance isn't too shabby, either.

"Rufus" consists mainly of a start-and-stop freebop melody played in a shaggy unison and harmony by Shepp on tenor sax and John Tchicai on alto. Bassist Reggie Workman provides a harmonically ambiguous backing, and drummer Charles Moffett accents the discontinuous melody, leading into a solo section taken at a very quick tempo. The whole thing is rather loose and unkempt, but it suits the group's purposes very well, allowing the horns maximum harmonic freedom while providing a hard-swinging, nearly boppish platform for improvisation. Soloing first, Tchicai floats over the cooking rhythm section, combining long, finely-shaded lyrical phrases with intricate, convoluted episodes. Shepp's solo spot is more energetic and hard-swinging; he's more inclined toward extremes of volume and inflection. Tchicai's limpid strategy contrasts and complements Shepp's earthier approach wonderfully. Workman is very good, and Moffett displays the same spontaneous, roughhousing style that made him such an effective drummer for Ornette.

Perennially underrated, this is perhaps the best track from one of the great '60s free jazz albums.

Reviewer: Chris Kelsey

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