Archie Shepp, born in Florida in 1937, is one of jazz’s great giants. charismatic, intense, able to wage artistic and social battles that changed the events of the 20th century, he is a star player still to this day. He shared stages, ideas, and suggestions with some of the greatest jazz players, starting from John Coltrane and Cecil Taylor, and became the leader of various musical formations. Every detail ensured him an aura and depth that very few living artists can claim.
He established himself on the music scene during the Seventies thanks to his lucky encounter with one of his heroes, jazz saxophonist John Coltrane, who was able to procure him a contract with Impulse! Records. With the label and Coltrane’s production, Shepp published his debut album Four for Trane in 1964. The album was followed by three different records in 1965, Fire Music, Ascension, and New Thing at Newport, the latter was made of two different sets by Archie and Coltrane at that year’s Newport Jazz Festival.
During the Seventies, he experimented with African sounds, blues, and traditional jazz. With Attica Blues and The Cry of My People, both from 1972. he took on essentially political themes, regarding the civil rights movement, as we can notice from the title of Attica Blues which referred to the uprising in the Attica prison.
In 1977 he released Going Home, an intimate collection of gospel and folk songs recorded in collaboration with pianist Horace Parlan, which was acclaimed as a great success also in Europe and that brought him to launch an extensive tour through the continent in the Eighties.
Shepp was an extremely prolific musician and kept publishing albums all through the second half of the Eighties and the majority of the Nineties, like the memorable Mama Rose (1982), Body and Soul (1991), Perfect Passion (1992), and Something to Live For (1997).
At the dawn of the 21st century, Archie was already an icon of the jazz panorama and in 2015 he tried himself with a new discographic project founding his label, Archie Ball. With his label, he published Gemini in 2007, a double record that saw the first one being composed of new original songs and the second was a live set recorded five years before. The energy in this album was electric and the artist exhibited his unique vocal tone.
Archie Shepp, after having published Attica Blues Orchestra Live: I Hear The Sound in 2013, took a break from the recording booth but kept performing live on many stages worldwide, like on the JAZZMI stage in 2019 in Milan and at the ’Auditorio Palco della Musica in Rome for the Roma Jazz Festival.
In 2020 he returned to the recording studio and released Ocean Bridges; an album made of fully improvised tracks which he published with Redefinition Records. In December 2020 the music video for “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” preceded the release in February 2021 of et My People Go, a collection of duets between Shepp and Jason Moran recorded in 2016 and 2017.