From the outset, Archie Shepp's terminally misunderstood Attica Blues on Impulse during the 1970s was an attempt by the saxophonist and composer to bring together the various kinds of African American musics under one heading and have them all express the conscience of the day. His ensemble featured singers, string players, horns, drums, guitars, etc. The sounds were a Gordian knot of jazz, free music, R&B, soul, groove, and even funk. In 1979 Shepp was given the opportunity to realize the project with an ensemble of his choosing at the Palais des Glaces in Paris (New York was already courting Wimpton Marsalis). Shepp chose 30 musicians and director/conductor Ray Copeland. Among the throng were saxophonists Marion Brown, John Purcell, Patience Higgins, and John Ware.
The jazz world was immersed in controversy in 1965 when the bands of John Coltrane and Archie Shepp appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival. Coltrane's own style was undergoing constant evolution, his lines more convoluted and explosive, his sound increasingly ranging to vocal cries and metallic abrasions. He had also become a figurehead of the "avant-garde" or "New Thing," an established star who provided a public forum for younger musicians and the creative ferment largely taking place out of public hearing.
The historic meeting of two truly influential and individual composers, arrangers, and instrumentalists on The Long March. The album appeared in 1979 on Swiss label Hat Hut. This date pairs Max Roach and Archie Shepp playing both solo and as a duo for one night in 1979 at the Willisau Jazz Festival. Roach's truly astonishing solo "J.C. Moses" is a tribute to Detroit jazz great J.C. Heard. The kinds of rimshots, trap stops and starts, and continuous rolling thunder take the breath away and make the listener wonder if this is really only one drummer. Next up is Shepp's solo tenor reading of Duke Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady," where he coaxes all the ballad's idiosyncrasies and fluidly combines them with his new jazz flourishes, without once disrespecting the integrity of the original.