Groundbreaking work from Archie Shepp – 5 albums that helped define the Impulse Records sound of the 60s! First up is Four For Trane – an amazing Impulse debut from Archie Shepp – easily one of his boldest musical statements ever, and a key announcement to the world that a new generation of modernists was on the rise! The album was co-produced by John Coltrane – who brought Shepp to the label, and almost gets out-done by Archie's sharply crafted musical vision on the set. The style here is that mix of freer lines and tighter conception that Shepp used with the New York Contemporary Five – and players include John Tchicai on alto from that group, plus Roswell Rudd on trombone, Alan Shorter on flugelhorn, Reggie Workman on bass, and Charles Moffett on drums. The lack of piano in the album is striking – and allows for plenty of horn interplay, but in a way that's much more cutting and dark than any of the piano-less horn dates from the 50s. Titles include 4 Coltrane compositions ("Syeeda's Song Flute", "Mr Syms", "Cousin Mary", and "Naima"), as sort of a tribute to Trane – plus Shepp's excellent "Rufus (Swung, his face at last to the wind, then his neck snapped)". On This Night is one of his most successful blends of the disparate influences that comprised his style. The group is a bit smaller than usual – which gives good focus to players like Bobby Hutcherson
, Henry Grimes, and Joe Chambers. Shepp contributed some of his most haunting compositions to the set – including "On This Night", "The Mac Man", and "The Pickaninny" – and the whole thing's amazing enough to make you a Shepp convert for life. Whenever we get bogged down in some of his later recordings, we only need put this one on and feel refreshed! Fire Music is fantastic stuff – easily one of Archie Shepp's greatest albums, and certainly one of the pivotal points of 60s avant garde jazz! The album features Shepp leading a crack "new thing" line up that includes Ted Curson on trumpet, Marion Brown on alto, Joe Chambers on drums, Reggie Johnson on bass, and the lesser-known Joseph Orange on trombone – all playing in a beautifully poised manner, never too far out and free, but with all the dynamic energy of the best jazz changes of the 60s! There's a vibe here that's similar to some of the Blue Note "new thing" work by players like Grachan Moncur, Jackie McLean, and Tony Williams from the time – but there's a vision that's also wider and deeper, too, given the size of the group and the way they interact. Titles include "Hambone", "Los Olvidados", "Malcolm Malcolm–Semper Malcolm", and an insane cover of "Girl From Ipanema". You can't go wrong with this one – trust us! Mama Too Tight is growing brilliance from the young Archie Shepp – a record that's not just about Archie's own amazing work on the tenor, but also his keen modern vision as a leader! The combo here is an ensemble that features some of the hippest modernists of the 60s – Roswell Rudd and Grachan Moncur on trombone, Perry Robinson on clarinet, Howard Johnson on tuba, Charlie Haden on bass, and Tommy Turrentine on trumpet – making a rare non-bop appearance here, and further enforcing our already-high estimation of his talents! The style's somewhat in the "new thing" mode of the period, but it's also a bit more tightly arranged too – almost hitting Mingus-like modes for the bigger ensemble – balancing the force of the group together with very free, bold solo impulses from the players. Side one features the extended "Portrait Of Robert Thompson (As A Young Man)" – and side two features "Mama Too Tight", "Theme For Ernie", and "Basheer". Way Ahead Is definitely the way ahead in jazz – back in the 60s, and well into the 21st Century too! Archie Shepp's in prime form here – working with a sextet that's awash in avant freedoms, but which always shows a great sense of restraint – just the right power gained from the new modes of jazz expression, as the players dance together beautifully on a razor's edge of personal creativity and ensemble exploration. Players here include Grachan Moncur on trombone, Jimmy Owens on trumpet, Ron Carter on bass, and Beaver Harris and Roy Haynes on drums – and the album also features the first piano player on most of the Shepp albums on Impulse – Walter Davis Jr, making a rare outside appearance with the group! Titles include the classic track "Frankenstein", plus "Fiesta", "Damn If I Know (The Stroller)", and "Sophisticated Lady" – all nice and long!