Archie Shepp Talks John Coltrane, Impulse! Records and Free Jazz with Red Bull Music Academy

By Maria Jean Sullivan on Sep 04, 2014 10:32 AM EDT

Jazz legend Archie Shepp recently sat down with Red Bull Music Academy to chat it up about working with John Coltrane, revolutionizing his sound and his implications on free jazz versus blues.

Shepp has been running his own label Archieball for nearly 10 years and has collaborated with a number of artists, including playing on Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. Shepp also released Four for Trane, his version of Coltrain's music, released in Ascension. Rumors, then, started to linger that Shepp may have been on his way to being the next Coltrane-esque artist.

“Oh, I don’t think so,” said Shepp about the subject. “What eventually happened was rather fortuitous for me, in the sense that I had the chance to meet John Coltrane and it was he who was the intermediary for me, in connecting me with Bob Thiele and Impulse! Records. In fact, Bob was totally negative in terms of doing that recording [Four for Trane]. I had been calling him for months, trying to get him on the phone, and his secretary always told me he was either out to lunch or he was gone for the day,” he continued.

Shepp continued on with Impulse!, cutting a lot of blues and free music tracks. To which, he was receiving a lot of flack for playing the blues. Shepp, however, remained humble.

“Well, I wasn’t so much concerned about what other people were doing, though some other people seemed to be concerned about what I was doing; they accused me of selling out by playing the blues and so on,” he said. “But I was raised with the blues, my people were blues people, so I’ve always felt that was an essential element of African-American music, whether one decides to call it “free” or whatever. It should never lose that aspect of the blues,” Shepp continued.

Shepp’s work would continue on the track of blues and soul and eventually bleed into funk as well with his Attica Blues album. Attica Blues was especially important in his music evolutions as he began to be inspired by the signs of the time.

“The ’60s was a time for change, and during my formative period, when I was a younger man, I was very much a part of the civil rights movement that was taking place at the time,” Shepp explained.

Take a listen below to the closing track from Attica Blues.

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TagsArchie Shepp, John Coltrane, Impulse! Records, Free Jazz

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