Pure Pleasure Records releases a re-mastered vinyl of a live duo performance by Archie Shepp and Richard Davis.
Archie Shepp & Richard Davis – Body And Soul – Enja Records 7007 (1991)/Pure Pleasure Records (2023) 180-gram stereo vinyl, 54:13 ****:
(Archie Shepp – tenor saxophone; Richard Davis – double bass)
Tenor saxophonist Archie Shepp was known for the development of avant-garde jazz. Additionally, he was a respected educator and playwright. Another disciple of the Ornette Coleman “free-jazz” style, Shepp caught the attention of John Coltrane. While he was involved with the sessions for A Love Supreme, his playing was not part of the completed album. The following year, he did appear on Ascension. As a band leader, Shepp explored Afro-centric musical culture and the Civil Rights movement. During his career, he would alternate between African-infused genres and traditional jazz, including blues and gospel His career has spanned over six decades.
Pure Pleasure Records has released a 180-gram re-mastered vinyl of Archie Shepp & Richard Davis – Body And Soul. Recorded live in Boston ( Club Cantare 1989), the set features four jazz standards in extended jams. Side A opens up with a bluesy cover of Duke Ellington’s “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be”. In a cool, medium-swing groove, Shepp combines old-school jazz swing with edgy tonality. Davis’ nimble double bass (including descending and escalating lines) is “in the pocket”. The innate chemistry of this duo is impressive. As Shepp changes time and phrasing, Davis is right there with him. At the 6:00 mark, Davis delivers a fluid, note-bending solo that lasts over four-and-a-half minutes. Shepp returns with smoky resonance and occasional tonal stretching, always reprising the melody vamp. It seems that the title track has become a perennial standard especially for tenor saxophone. Shepp weaves through the melody with soul and punctuation. His use of vibrato is more acute and there is a wistful ambiance. Davis’ double bass seamlessly acts as a counterpoint, with an occasional skipping cadence. Despite the seventeen-minute length, the musicians’ take is always crisp. Davis solos and runs the gamut on lower and higher register with some interesting progressions. It appears he uses a bow and creates a scratchy avant-garde texture. Shepp’s return establishes the inherent melody line and emotional depth.
Side B consists of two well-known Monk compositions. On “Pannonica”, the tempo is more deliberate and Shepp’s improvisational skills are on display. Again, he and Davis are connected as they play. Their interaction is relaxed, but very precise. Shepp takes his time in developing the lead on “Round About Midnight”. There have been a plethora of covers by the elite of the jazz world… Monk, Miles Davis, Dexter Gordon, Jimmy Smith, Bennie Golson, Bill Evans and many others. At around 3:40, Davis increases the pace and Shepp is unfazed. His playing is versatile, alternating shrillness with warmth. He injects wild flourishes and hushed moments. Davis infuses the jam with rhythm and finesse, including a pizzicato run and another lengthy solo. The end of the number embraces more free-form aesthetics. This is a creative and visionary duo. They complement each other with energy and integrated transitions.
The re-mastered vinyl of Archie Shepp & Richard Davis – Body And Soul is another fine addition to the Pure Pleasure musical legacy.
Archie Shepp & Richard Davis – Body And Soul
Side A: Things Ain’t What They Used To Be; Body And Soul
Side B: Pannonica; Round About Midnight.