Archie Shepp: Hipnosis




Archie Shepp (tenor sax)


A Sea of Faces (Black Saint 0002)

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Archie Shepp (tenor sax), Beaver Harris (drums),

Charles Greenlee (trombone), Dave Burrell (piano), Cameron Brown (bass), Bunny Foy (percussion)


Composed by Grachan Moncur III


Recorded: Milan, August 4 or 5, 1975


Rating: 94/100 (learn more)

This writer has never been clear on the malady that caused Archie Shepp's musical decline in the 1980s. Apparently dental problems were to blame, which makes sense when one views video of him playing in recent decades, his tenor mouthpiece wobbling precariously in what has to be an unproductively loose embouchure. Whatever the problem, it seems not to have manifested itself in the '70s, when he did some of his best work. "Hipnosis" presents Shepp in the company of his excellent band of that period, with bassist Cameron Brown, pianist Dave Burrell, percussionist Bunny Foy, and drummer Beaver Harris.

The 26-minute tune features an inexorable, inexorably-shifting Latin groove over which Shepp blows freely and passionately for better than half its length. Shepp's tenor sound is electric, spewing sparks like a downed power line. Unlike his contemporary and fellow tenor-playing abstract expressionist, Albert Ayler, Shepp often molded his wildest and craziest phrases to fit a groove. He does that here to great effect. Trombonist Charles Greenlee's solo follows Shepp's. It's rather bland competence stands in sharp contrast to Shepp's brilliance. Drummer Beaver Harris, percussionist Bunny Foy, and bassist Cameron Brown keep the beat ever-changing without losing it's essence. Pianist Dave Burrell is a superb team player, managing to be endlessly creative in a wholly supporting role. This is a tenacious, gripping performance.

Reviewer: Chris Kelsey

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