To the roots of Blues and Gospel
Archie Shepp is a great figure in Black American jazz and blues, music that he carries deep within his soul.
Master saxophonist, Archie Shepp is one of those musicians who have shaped the history of jazz and given it another dimension, another freedom, along with the likes of Cecil Taylor, Don Cherry and John Coltrane. Avant-garde musician, African ethnomusicologist and active in the Black American movement, Archie Shepp is also a great blues singer. Bob Dylan's words in Blind Willie McTell, 'nobody sings the blues like Blind Willie McTell' apply equally to Shepp.
Pioneer of free jazz, signatory of the 'New Thing' manifesto of the 60s, Shepp takes his music beyond the label 'jazz', cognisant of the historical and sociological ramifications at the heart of Black American music.
When Archie Shepp played the Pan-African Festival in Algiers on 19 and 30 July 1969, his militant spirit sang, "We are still back, and we have come back. Nous sommes revenus ! " (in French) then : "Jazz is a black power. Jazz is an African power. Jazz is an African music ! alors qu’il se fera accompagné sur scène par des gnawas et des touaregs algériens. (So it should be accompanied on stage by Gnaouas and Algerian Tuaregs.)
Behind the great school of Black American song that is the gospel of today, lies the rural world of the Mississippi and of an Africa imprisoned in the the cotton fields of the South.
At that time, the blues of the hopeless daily grind and the first glimmerings of a liberating gospel crossed paths between the bar and the little village church. The work songs and the shouts (ecstatic stomping of feet and clapping in a circle), truly poetic African declamations, gave a hint of the negro spiritual to the 18th century and became a form of music symbolising hope and dignity.