Archie Shepp – Fire Music (1965)

1960s: Days of Rage

“.. Fire Music must be one of  Shepp’s most interesting albums, blistering and intense,  a half-way house between Free and the Avant Garde. The musical territory ranges from the haunting recitation and requiem for Malcolm X (quick history lesson here, it is not what you might assume), to the kitsch reworking of the  Girl From Ipanema, with Shepp as Webster/Hawkins reincarnated as Freddie Kreuger’s Nightmare on Elm Street, ripping into the tune at will while caressing it. Shepp found more ways to force sound from the tenor than probably any other player, punctuating expressive breathiness with shouts, shrieks and dissonaces, sometimes choosing its own direction own irrespective of ‘the tune’. The septet surrounds him in rich and varied textures, full of surprises, with moments of Mingus but burning bright, angry and on fire, as befits its title, Fire Music. Commentators often draw connections with this mid-’60s jazz and social/ political issues of…

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