Archie Shepp “Live in San Francisco”(1966)

Track Selection: You Tube


“Live in San Francisco”, 1966, finds Archie Shepp in performance in the capital of “fruits, nuts and flakes”, on an original press for its UK release, on HMV. Reissued many times , I had a 180gm “audiophile” pressing before I realised that the weight of the vinyl was just “marketing” – meaningless if all it carried a shallow digital cut.

Shepp for me has always been a bridge too far, messy cacophony, but I recall this as being from the transitional “one foot in free, one foot in tradition” style, so when an original pressing popped up at a fair price and on VG++ condition, I took the plunge, vowing to jettison all previous judgements and hear it through.

Played through just the once, it gets a little raucous and has to be turned down when Mrs LJC is in earshot, especially when Shepp is engaged in one of his “violent exchanges” with the other players. Shepp is not “cool”, more sort of “angry”. However it’s a great cover, oozing period manner and place.  More a piece to stroke the (imaginary) goatee, adjust your beret and shades, and when asked what you think of it, smile enigmatically. Say “Nice…” if you think you can get away with it.

6 thoughts on “Archie Shepp “Live in San Francisco”(1966)

  1. I’m just playing side two as I write this. I was idly googling for background stuff on the record to read as it played and this post came up — I had forgotten about it. While I have never quite been able to take Shepp’s poetry reading seriously, the rest of this LP is terrific – less free jazz and more just…loose. (And while on the subject of Shepp’s poetry reading, has anyone else ever thought he must have been listening to Dylan Thomas read? The similarities are sometimes startling.)

    Anyway, that’s by the by. I think this line-up — with the great Roswell Rudd — is terrific. It is sort of angry (I guess Archie would say that there was plenty to be angry about), but that solo intro to IN A SENTIMENTAL MOOD — come on, the whole thing is pure, unadulterated pleasure, and everyone is having a great time.

  2. The only Ornette Coleman material I have is, naturally, At The Golden Circle Vol.1 and 2 on Blue Note. CD, not the BLP 4224 and 4225. I like the front covers, I would even like to own them on vinyl simply because of the cover, but I don’t think I’ve played them more than three times. Sometimes I even turn off Eric Dolphy’s material before the disc ends. And then it’s not even that wild free jazz like Alice Coltrane’s material. Maybe you’re right. After all, there once was a time that I didn’t like beer or wine. I was sixteen back then. Now I’m 40 and hey, and now I love beer and wine 😉

  3. I have tried to listen to free jazz a few times, but I have to be honest and it sounds cliché, but I don’t like it. Maybe I have to grow into it, I don’t know. And maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree here since it might not even be free jazz, but I once bought THIS album by Alice Coltrane and after one spin I decided to not play it again. Considering the comments that the other “Amazonians” left, I’m cursing out loud in church, but honestly: it drove me almost insane. It sounds as if the entire line up (see here) is ‘just’ making noise on their instruments. And to give you a non-Blue Note example for once, it’s simply stuff like this (also known as “Playboys” by the way) that makes me tap my feet, reach for a cigar and stretch out! 😀

    • Ah Playboys. I’ll pass on the cigar, but I know what you mean.
      But I am serious about the “New Thing”. Ignore the school of anarchic noise cacophony, there is something in this tension towards “free” with one foot still in Bop. Ornette Coleman is my toe in the water. I figure children like sweet things, but it takes an adult to appreciate flavours like sour and bitter. Needs work as it is not immediately attractive, but should be ultimately rewarding.

  4. For Shepp enthusiasts, like me, this is not in the top ten.
    It was the most difficult Shepp Impulse to find in the early 70’s.
    it’s a record I rarely relisten because, when I’m in Shepp mood, I go for others that are much more interesting and satisfying.
    I didn’t mention in a previous post The magic of JuJu: you gotta search for this (in my top ten): there’s a great use of percussion and a very personal tenor voice.
    check this, the beginning:
    “Sorry about that” is a track in transition bop to free yo’ll surely like.
    On Amazon you can listen to incipit of 4 tracks.
    Great record with a great skull cover in a flower power era, forever gone.
    But the music remains and I still go back here, not to San Francisco.

    • Thanks for the link Dott. That’s some cover, phew! I listened part one through, and the percussion is certainly the best part for me – I’m never going to make it to being a Shepp fan, at least not yet. I find it difficult to concentrate on a “twenty minute solo” on any instrument. I want for interplay between several musicians. His tenor voice is very distinctive, true, an “angry” tone, but I still prefer a lyrical voice. This listener still has some way to go before he needs to “break free” . Appreciate the comments, as always.

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