The eighth of Jon Turney’s weekly selection (introduced HERE), going back and digging deep.
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This duo album seems less of a departure now than it did to some at the time. Charles Mingus’ former pianist and a devoutly avant-garde saxophone player noted for richness of timbre, digging into a sequence of spirituals and gospel songs? Of course that’ll work.
It did, and does.
This is one of those sessions where jazz renews itself by incorporating whatever seems timely. And revisiting an old stream doesn’t mean the result will sound like stepping into the same river again. Lending old songs new light is one of the best things a player can offer.
The tunes here are deep. The playing renders them with a darkly brooding beauty, mostly unadorned. Horace Parlan‘s piano is spare, light-footed, the saxophone sound – Archie Shepp’s timbre parked half-way down the avenue that has Ben Webster at one end and Albert Ayler at the other – drenched in emotion.
The record has been widely celebrated, even emulated. Charlie Haden and Hank Jones’ two wonderful duo albums cover eight of the same tunes. Shepp himself – now with many other duos in his back catalogue – has just released a piano duo recording with Jason Moran, and reprises two of them there. The tone is thinner, and less controlled, but the spirit very much the same.
I’m enjoying the new one. But here, Shepp really put down something for secular worshippers to cherish.
LINKS: Listen on Spotify