Archie Shepp “Four for Trane” (1964)

Track Selection:  “Niema”


Alan Shorter (flh) Roswell Rudd (tb) John Tchicai (as) Archie Shepp (ts) Reggie Workman (b) Charles Moffett (d) Recorded at Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, August 10, 1964


When the headline brags a recording is “historically important”, you know you may be in for a bumpy ride. Some later Archie Shepp I have heard smacks of “cat-strangling”,  has an advanced free expression vocabulary which is not to everyone’s ear.

Vinyl: CLP 3524 UK 1st release on HMV labels

60’s mono HMV’s are reliable big-sounding full dynamic range pressings, so  we get  cat-strangling  advanced free expression vocabulary to  satisfy the demanding audiophile, though I am less sure of the merit of Shepp’s “savagery and intensity” in high fidelity. Sort of like watching Saw IV in 3D – would you want it even more frightening, if you peep through the fingers at the gruesome bits anyway?

The cover is truly iconic. Did pipe-smoking ever look so existential? “No thanks, just tobacco in mine“. Consider what many of these musicians were sticking in their arm. Having seen the cover in various reissue guises, it’s lovely to see it in its’  true Sixties laminated incarnation, with dimpled gloss finish-  a beautiful artefact.

Coltrane apparently supervised and produced the work and the fact he  is pictured wearing no socks has a story attached to it.

Collectors Corner

It’s not like “historically important” stuff is going to be easy on the ear but an Ebay price of £10 GBP seems a good price for something important.

11 thoughts on “Archie Shepp “Four for Trane” (1964)

  1. The Track Selection is of course from “Naima” – albeit a fractured fairy-tale kind of version of Coltrane’s lovely melody.
    Wasn’t there something about Paul McCartney not having any socks on on Abbey Road?

  2. Shepp was an overwhelming presence in live performance – his sound was enormous, but very nuanced, when required. I had the pleasure of seeing him at the Village Vanguard in the early ’70s.
    Original Impulses of Fire Music and The Magic of Ju-Ju are among my most prized vinyl.
    (I think it was cool to affect a pipe in the sixties. Very sophisticated, even British, you know)
    And what is that look on Coltrane’s face?? Amazing photo. Amazing music.

    • Thank you, whip-smart comment, well-observed on Shepp evolution. Early on I had some difficulty with Shepp’s unrelenting hi-energy approach (Fire Music, Magic of Juju. It was his Impulse titles The Way Ahead (AS-9170), and On This Night (A97) that won me over, plus the Steeplechase title with Horace Parlan: Trouble in Mind, I also took pleasure in Attica Blues, very powerful statements. He is a complex individualist. I don’t feel obliged to like or dislike en masse.

      • when I read the above “comment” I immediately thought to a similar “comment” to Shepp’s european 1967 concerts: they were labelled as “defecation on the audience”. Archie Shepp flied over, others did not emerge from their bullshit. astonishing that someone has got that smell yet in his nose after over 50 years.

  3. Probably you all know what follows, but let’s remind it.

    The cover picture was taken by Chuck Stewart in Van Gleder’s studio.
    Bob Thiele, satisfied with Shepp’s work, called by phone Coltrane at the end of the session (it was late night) telling him he has to reach them to listen those takes.

    Coltrane reached the gang in Val Gelder’s studio (Englewood Cliffs – New Jersey) and there the picture was taken. (some says that the fact that Coltrane has no socks on it’s the prove of this story).

    I found this story in a book which I reccomend for those who still don’t know it: “The house that Trane built – The story of Impulse Record” by Ashley Kahn.

    Don’t forget the the story repeats in 1967 with Marion’s Brown “Three for Shepp” (Impulse A-9139).


  4. Respect Dottore.I Will look out for more Shepp to explore. It is really handy to have comment like this you can easily backtrack to, when you want to follow up recommendations.

  5. This is the first Impulse by Shepp, a soft step into much harder music.
    I really dig his voice which will be at its peak with Fire music, On this night, Mama too tight, The magic of Ju-Ju and The way ahead.
    Not to forget: New thing at Newport.
    In his later years, Shepp turned back to Parker and his first idol, Ben Webster, without achieving great results.
    If you don’t know it yet, please take a listen to Sophisticated lady, on The way ahead and let us know your impressions.

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