Thursday, February 28, 2008

Celebrating the Tail End of Black History Month

Here is my offering for the tail end of Black History Month:

Archie Shepp performing Mama Rose.

Who is perhaps the heaviest cat who ever swung a saxophone in the American Jazz movement? If you say John Coltrane, I will argue that you are wrong. There was and is one heavier, or at least as equally heavy, who actually "apprenticed" under and collaborated with the great Trane during the sixties. But while Coltrane ultimately soared into the heights, exploring Black spirituality, his contemporary "rival", so to speak, dove into the depths, exploring Black pain, tragedy and core existential truths, decade after decade.

I am talking about Archie Shepp, who has been infusing the American and European Jazz scene with deep, revolutionary, Speaking-Truth-to-Power energies, sounds and words since the 1960's, and he is still alive and kicking. Poet, dramatist, musician, professor at the U of Massachusetts, Amherst, Renaissance Man period, we should listen to his music and words more, because they are empowering and raw, a voice from the wilderness of the soul and Ghetto and world spirit against the mendacity of evil in our time.

His music can be described as primordial, beyond the blues in angst and clarity when he really gets into Spoken Word performances. And he excels in improvising in the minor keys with discordant sounds. His music is often torturous but spell-binding.

The above spoken word piece, Mama Rose, is one of his strongest works, in a muscial repertoire that spans five decades. To learn more about Archie and his music, click here.

His own website is:

As an added treat, here is his straight musical number Back Back (to Africa) at

1 comment:

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