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Something to Live For

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Album Review

This highly anticipated vocal album does not quite make it. Unfortunately, either the saxophonist was having an off night (or nights), or he simply lost his ability to sing gracefully by the mid-'90s. The choice of tunes is perfect: "A Flower Is a Lonesome Thing," "Strange Fruit," "Hello, Young Lovers," and "Georgia on My Mind," among others. So is the band, which includes trumpeter Eddie Henderson, pianist John Hicks, bassist George Mraz, and drummer Iris Muhammad (with Steve McCracken substituting on one track). Shepp speaks and shouts the lyrics more than he sings them, seemingly agonizing over each syllable. His tenor performance is subpar, too. He sounds almost as though he is playing with marbles in his mouth. Hicks explores some nice, if familiar ground, on piano, where he adds pleasant and stimulating lines both in support and as a soloist. Shepp's career as a vocalist appears short-lived, as he again focused on his saxophones after this one was recorded.


Born: 24 May 1937 in Fort Lauderdale, FL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Archie Shepp has been at various times a feared firebrand and radical, soulful throwback and contemplative veteran. He was viewed in the '60s as perhaps the most articulate and disturbing member of the free generation, a published playwright willing to speak on the record in unsparing, explicit fashion about social injustice and the anger and rage he felt. His tenor sax solos were searing, harsh, and unrelenting, played with a vivid intensity. But in the '70s, Shepp employed a fatback/swing-based...
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