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In the early '70s, saxophonist and composer Archie Shepp recorded a series of thematic albums that have become jazz classics. Attica Blues, Things Have Gotta Change, and The Cry of My People ambitiously combined free jazz, spoken word, lush arrangements, politically engaged lyrics, and soulful singing. These recordings are vast panoramas of African-American music and culture. On the 2013 live release I Hear a Sound, Shepp revisits Attica Blues with a large group that includes Art Ensemble of Chicago percussionist Famoudou Don Moye and pianist/vocalist Amina Claudine Myers. Things start off with “Attica Blues”; as soon as you hear the pop of electric bass, you know the R&B original has been reconfigured. A funky groove, colored by edgy piano, backs up the vocalists as they intone the song’s lines. I Hear a Sound includes the title track of The Cry of My People, a composition by Cal Massey that’s influenced by traditional spirituals. One of the album’s highlights: Shepp’s wailing tenor sax on the funky blues “Mama Too Tight,” which originally appeared on the 1966 release of the same name.


Born: May 24, 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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