Archie Shepp & Joachim kuhn
@ the Queen Elizabeth hall, Southbank Centre
17 November 2011
Click an image to enlarge.
Archie Shepp biography
Saxophone player, composer, pianist, singer, politically committed
poet, playwright, Archie Shepp is a legend.
Archie Shepp was born in 1937 in Fort Lauderdale in Florida. He
grew up in Philadelphia, studied piano and saxophone and attended
high school in Germantown; he went to college, became involved with
theatre, met writers and poets, among them, Leroy Jones and wrote:
‘The Communist,’ an allegorical play about the situation
of black Americans. In the late fifties, Archie Shepp also met the
most radical musicians of the time: Lee Morgan, Bobby Timmons, Jimmy
Garrisson, Ted Curson, Beaver Harris… his political consciousness
found an expression in plays and theatrical productions which barely
allowed him to make a living. In the beginning sixties he met Cecil
Taylor and did two recordings with him which were determining. In
1962 he signed his first record with Bill Dixon as co-leader. During
the following year, he created the New York Contemporary Five with
John Tchichai, made four records for Fontana, Storyville and Savoy
and travelled to Europe with this group.
Starting in August 1964, he worked with Impulse and made 17 records
among which, “Four For Trane,” “Fire Music,”
and “Mama Too Tight,” some of the classics of Free Music.
His collaboration with John Coltrane materialised further with “Ascension
in” 1965, a real turning point in Avant-Garde music. His militancy
was evidenced by his participation in the creation of the Composers
Guild with Paul and Carla Bley, Sun RA, Roswell Rudd and Cecil Taylor.
In July 1969 he went for the first time to Africa for the Pan African
Festival in Algiers where many black American militants were living.
On this occasion he recorded “Live for Byg” the first
of six albums in the Actual series.
In 1969 he began teaching Ethnomusicology at the University of
Amherst, Massachusetts; at the same time he continued to travel
around the world while continuing to express his identity as an
African American musician. The dictionary of Jazz (Robert Laffont,
Bouquins) defines him in the following way: “A first rate
artist and intellectual, Archie Shepp has been at the head of the
Avant- Garde Free Jazz movement and has been able to join the mainstream
of Jazz, while remaining true to his esthetic. He has developed
a true poli-instrumentality: an alto player, he also plays soprano
since 1969, piano since 1975 and more recently occasionally sings
blues and standards.”
He populates his musical world with themes and stylistic elements
provided by the greatest voices of jazz: from Ellington to Monk
and Mingus, from Parker to Siver and Taylor. His technical and emotional
capacity enables him to integrate the varied elements inherited
by the Masters of Tenor from Webster to Coltrane into his own playing
but according to his very own combination: the wild raspiness of
his attacks, his massive sound sculpted by a vibrato mastered in
all ranges, his phrases carried to breathlessness, his abrupt level
changes, the intensity of his tempos but also the velvety tenderness
woven into a ballad. His play consistently deepens the spirit of
the two faces of the original black American music: blues and spirituals.
His work with classics and with his own compositions (Bessie Smith’s
Black Water Blues or Mama Rose) contributes to maintaining alive
the power of strangeness of these two musics in relationship to
European music and expresses itself in a unique mix of wounded violence
and age-old nostalgia.
The scope of his work which registered in the eighties a certain
urgency (at the cost of a few discrepancies) is a witness to the
fact that in 1988 Archie Shepp was with Sonny Rollins one of the
best interpreters in the babelian history of jazz. With his freedom
loving sensitivity Archie Shepp has made an inestimable contribution
to the gathering, the publicizing and the inventing of jazz.
Joachim Kühn biography
After becoming a professional jazz musician in 1961, German pianist
Joachim Kühn has for many years been a higly respected performer
of European improvised music.
Although not a free jazz musician, per se, Kuhn has been an avant-gardist;
he began attempting a fusion of contemporary classical elements
with jazz very early in his career.
Kuhn's intense virtuosity is a reflection of his training. He studied
classical composition and piano for 12 years, beginning when he
was a small child. He performed as a classical pianist up until
1961, at which point he began playing in a Prague-based jazz quintet.
He led a trio from 1962-1966, and in 1964 began playing with his
much-older brother Rolf Kuhn, an accomplished clarinetist.
In the '70s, Joachim Kuhn led his own groups, and played with the
violinist Jean-Luc Ponty. Kuhn had a measure of commercial success
in the '70s. Geographically and musically speaking, Kühn was
furthest apart from Europe during the second half of the 70's when
he lived in California and joined the West Coast fusion scene. Crossover
stars, such as Alphonse Mouson, Billy Cobham, Michael Brecker, and
Eddie Gomez participated in his recordings. Simultaneously, he was
frequently to be heard solo and in a duo with Jan Akkerman.He has
also worked with Focus guitarist Philip Catherine.
His star faded a bit in the '80s, but Kuhn kept active, playing
challenging forms of jazz and recording occasionally. A 1997 release,
“Colors” Live From Leipzig, a duo with Ornette Coleman,
helped fuel new interest in Kuhn; both men were in top form and
the album received excellent reviews.