Archie Shepp has been a hugely influential figure in Jazz and black culture for the last 60 years. At the age of 84 Archie played at the Barbican for the 2018 London Jazz festival. Archie called this magnificent concert “Art Songs & Spirituals”, which captured themes of spiritual jazz, gospel music and his early 70s sound that resonated the civil rights movement.
Archie started off the concert performing the Coltrane composition “Wise One”, then moved onto playing a number of tunes from his 1972 albums “Attica Blues” and “The Cry of My people”. Ones I remember were: “The Prayer”, “Blues for Brother George Jackson”, “Ballad for a Child”, “All God’s Children Got a Home in the Universe”, and “A Prayer”. Shepp also performed a delicious version of the magnificent composition “God Bless the Child” by Billie Holiday.
Earlier on in the show Shepp was mainly playing with the following ensemble:
- Archie Shepp saxophones, vocals
- Pierre Francois Blanchard piano
- Matyas Szandai double bass
- Hamid Drake drums
- Olivier Miconi trumpet
- Virgile Lefebvre saxophone, vocals
Then as the show progressed into his later ’72 sound the rest of the supporting band and choir accompanied the group.
It was clear from the way that Archie spoke that he was getting on, but when Archie picked up his saxophone, by god was he sure could still make that thing resonate. Much of the heavy listing was picked up by the rest of the band, and later on in the show the Choir took a big proportion of the lime light – more than I had hoped. But if that setup still allows Archie to play a show of this length at his age then I certainly can’t complain. It was also surprising to hear just how good a singer Archie is. Overall it was fantastic to have been able to see Archie Shepp live – truly one of the great Jazz musicians of our time.
Artwork by: https://www.gaurabthakali.com/Archie-Shepp-for-The-Barbican-Centre