Archie Shepp On This Night (1965) HMV Impulse


Selection 1: In a Sentimental Mood (Ellington)

Selection 2: The Mac Man (Shepp) updated


Archie Shepp (ts, p) Bobby Hutcherson (vib) Henry Grimes or Barre Phillips (b) David Izenzon, Rashied Ali, J.C. Moses or Joe Chambers (d) Ed Blackwell (rhythm logs) Christine Spencer (voc)

Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, March 9, 1965 (same session as Fire Music) and  August 12, 1965; Newport Jazz Festival July 2, 1965 ( one track, from same festival date  as John Coltrane/Archie Shepp – New Thing at Newport)


One for the Free-tendency, not outrageously avant-garde, sort of Free-Minus, within my orbit.  Hutcherson keeps it cool, while Shepp plays hot, fire and ice, his own style, sometimes dangerous, sometimes lyrical (but in a mildly threatening way.)

Shepp was not well-regarded by at least one musician at the time, whose autobiography I have just finished – Miles Davis: “I think it was Tony (Williams) who brought Shepp to The Vanguard one night to sit in, and he was so awful I had to walk off the bandstand. He couldn’t play, and I wasn’t going to stand up there with this no-playing m*ther*ucker” . I liked the riposte by Cecil Taylor, also of the free tendency, returned when asked what he thought of Miles Davis playing: “Not bad, for a millionaire“.

I tend to put Shepp in the “his playing is better than it sounds” box. I ought to like him more than I do, but I’ll disagree with Miles. He can play, even if it isn’t always to my taste. And he pushes boundaries, and you don’t always know what is going to happen next. Unless you play it several times, in which case you know exactly what is going to happen next. But I do like the Ellington tribute, even if it is sometimes like torturing a fluffy kitten.

Vinyl: HMV CLP3561 UK release of Impulse! A 97

Remastered in the UK by EMI Hayes, a better listening experience than ABC Impulse own later reissues, but maybe not as strong as the US original Impulse. Some further  thoughts on Impulse pressings is to be found in the Label Guide to Impulse.



Collectors Corner

Booty from an occasional sortie on North London record stores.

It’s not often I stray into London’s northern wastelands. Steady nerves are required to bluff your way through the heavily fortified border post that separates North from South London. When the guard demanded “Papers?” I nearly blew my cover by handing over a copy of the Streatham, Clapham & West Norwood Post. Luckily, he didn’t understand it as it was printed in English, a language not commonly encountered in North London. I was eventually waved through, free to plunder North London’s dwindling stocks of vinyl.

LJC-KarlMarx-FINALOf course venturing further north than Islington, say like Highgate or Hampstead, it is more important to look the part, blend in with the locals. To complete my disguise, I usually I carry a handful of pamphlets  on revolutionary socialism. Goes down well with the rock star millionaires.

Groucho would have approved.

8 thoughts on “Archie Shepp On This Night (1965) HMV Impulse

  1. Strange — I was just playing this last week. The slightly odd thing about some of the 60s Shepp Impulses is that they are something of a grab-bag — a mix of bits from various sessions. I think that’s true of this one and it is certainly true of ON THIS NIGHT.

    Dott is right about the glorious hommage to Webster in IN A SENTIMENTAL MOOD. It’s gorgeous. (Cook and Morton claim that Shepp once said, “I’m something worse than a romantic — I’m a sentimentalist.”)

    But I wonder what you made of the title track — Shepp meets European modern classical. I have to say, even with the soprano voice, I thought it was pretty stunning. It sits somewhat at odds to the rest of the LP, mind you, but it does illustrate the breadth of Shepp’s ambition, even if (I am beginning to think) he isn’t always clear about quite what that ambition is…


    • There is a reason why I didn’t select the title track for the post. I expect you are wondering what it is. It’s not because I don’t like operatic voices, surprisingly. I have vinyl box-sets of Philip Glass opera’s – Satyagraha, and Akhnaten – and I still listen to them from time to time and enjoy them ( though Einstein on the Beach I find a bit dreary two three four, one.) It’s because I found the Shepp piece pretentious, voice going up and down, but political message, very Sixties “performance art” with music concrete piano plink-plonk and bowed cello. It just needs some figures in tights running around the darkened stage throwing arabesques to qualify for a Arts Foundation grant.

      OK, I admit to being a Philistine. Put the cuffs on. But be warned, I won’t come quietly.


        • Just a minute there, sergeant. I think you are overlooking this very generous donation to the Police Widows and Orphans Fund, not to mention the Commissioner’s re-election campaign… you wanna be back on traffic?


          • What Widows and… Oh, I *that* Widows and orphans fund…….. Now, c’mon fellas, someone get this Archie Shepp motherf*cker outta here, ferchrissake’s…


  2. Thanks for some very saxy Shepp for a rather dull afternoon–and your account of your foray into North London provided some welcome amusement. By the way, I have no idea if you have any interest is postage stamps but, once in a great while, the USPS puts out an interesting pane of stamps. Last winter a sheet of “forever” first class stamps was issued with alternate images of Miles Davis and Edith Piaf. I doubt this particular issue was very popular with the general public who actually still use stamps but I was delighted to decorate my envelopes so gloriously! If you would be interested in a sheet of these stamps I would be happy to see if I can find you a complete sheet. My own has less than a dozen stamps left on it. And I would, of course be happy to pass a few of them along to you if you would like should an intact sheet not be available. It would be the least I could do in return for the enjoyment your offerings provide. Best regards, Leslie


  3. here you’re again, willing to enter the wild side of Free.
    I can’t say the exact reason why I dug Free at first listening, back in in the 60’s.
    I came from Rock, didn’t know almost anything ’bout Jazz but I fell in love at once.
    Shepp was an iconoclast in his first Impulse records, Four for Trane, Fire music, The way ahead, The magic of Juju, New thing at Newport, Mama too tight and On this night, which I strongly recommend. Much less interesting Live in San Francisco and Three for a quarter, one for a dime, and all the others following.
    In a sentimental mood, which Ellington wrote in 1935, is an hommage to one of greatest tenorists in jazz, an idol for Shepp: Ben Webster. Critics interpretated this way of playing as an insult: wrong, it was love for tradition.
    Shepp came back, after his golden Free age, to tradition with alternate results, but these first records will stay with me forever.


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