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Shepp, Archie (Vernon)

Shepp, Archie (Vernon)

Shepp, Archie (Vernon), famed avant-garde jazz saxophonist, playwright, poet, educator; b. Fort Lauderdale, Fla., May 24, 1937. He studied clarinet and alto saxophone as a child in Philadelphia before switching to tenor and soprano saxophone. As a teen, he played in R&B bands. During this time, he met Lee Morgan, Cal Massey, Jimmy Heath, and John Coltrane. He majored in theater at Goddard Coll. (1955–59), then moved to N.Y., where he performed with Cecil Taylor, and on stage in Jack Gelber’s The Connection. He co-led a group with B. Dixon, and formed the New York Contemporary Five with him, John Tchicai, and later, Don Cherry. Shepp worked and recorded with John Coltrane on several occasions (approximately late 1964–66); he believes that Coltrane helped him to get his recording contract with Impulse. During his performance of “Mama Rose” at Newport (1966), there was an audience outburst at the word “vagina” intoned during the poem. Shepp recorded frequently in late 1960s, featuring most of the young N.Y.-based musicians, in particular Grachan Moncur III, B. Harris, D. Burrell, and Roswell Rudd. Shepp toured extensively in Europe in the 1970s. Since the mid-1970s, he has been active as a professor in the Department of African American Music at Amherst, Mass. He has also written plays, including The Communist and Junebug Graduates Tonight; in collaboration with Cal Massey, he wrote the music for Lady Day: A Musical Tragedy by Aishah Rahman, hi the 1970s and 1980s, Shepp began to perform standards.


Archie Shepp-Bill Dixon Quartet (1962); N.Y. Contemporary Five in Europe (1963); Archie Shepp in Europe (1963); And the N.Y. Contemporary Five (1963); Four for Trane (1964); On This Night (1965); Fire Music (1965); Three for a Quarter: One for a Dime (1966); Mama Too Tight (1966); Live in San Francisco (1966); Magic of Ju-Ju (1967); Yasmina: A Black Woman (1969); Blase (1969); Things Have Got to Change (1971); For Losers (1971); Archie Shepp and Philly Joe Jones (1971); Cry of My People (1972); Attica Blues (1972); There’s a Trumpet in My Soul (1975); Montreux, Vols. 1 & 2 (1975); Ballads for Trane (1977); Duet with Dollar Brand (1978); Attica Big Band (1979); I Know About the Life (1981); Archie Shepp and Jeanne Lee (1984); Live on Broadway (1985); Splashes (Tribute to Wilbur Little; 1987); En Concert a Banlieues Bleues (1989); I Didn’t Know About You (1990).


G. Cerarti, Discographie A. S.(Sierre, Switzerland 1982).

—Lewis Porter

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