Archie Shepp

Archie shepp
is a prominent African-American jazz saxophonist. Shepp is best known for his passionately Afrocentric music of the late 1960s, which focused on highlighting the injustices faced by African Americans

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ArchieShepp20 karma

Hello and thanks for the kind words. I will try to answer your questions in

1) As a young man I was overwhelmed by performing with a great musician like John Coltrane and was very humbled when he asked me to make the recording with him. He called me one day out of the blue and for me it was a realization of a dream come true, to perform with an important man like John Coltrane. That he considered I would add something to his musical project was a great honor! I was very impressed to be there and in my own small way I added something to the date. Everything that Coltrane did during the relatively short period of his creative life eventually became important. Love Supreme takes on a certain importance because it takes on spiritual and social significance. Whether Coltrane thought it would become his legacy, I am not sure, he did everything more on a spiritual. He had a deep social awareness and I think that becomes apparent in a work like Love Supreme. He demonstrates his musical virtuosity in his work but also makes a verbal statement on the meaning of love, and by implication for everyone is very important! When he uses the word "love" he uses it in a social sense, in a greater societal sense as well as the romantic love. We need love in our society in order to survive, therefore the Love Supreme entails all of us.

ArchieShepp16 karma

2) The term avant-garde is ever evolving. When I was a young man they called me "avant-gardiste" and now they call me an "veteran of avant-garde", as time passes by your relationship to the title is different.

The "avant-garde" is a term you go back to rather than arrive to, so I look at it in the past tense rather than the future. That was 50 years ago and now my style has evolved, maybe not what avant-garde was considered at the time.

At the time, music critics gave me the name "avant-garde" but I sort of stumbled into it. My biggest influence was Cecil Taylor. He was looking for a saxophone player and I was looking for a gig. I never imagined I would began my career playing that kind of music. I'm immensely indebted to Cecil Taylor as he opened up another music that I might not have started playing if it wasn't for him!

ArchieShepp16 karma

Hello and thank you for the kind words!!

As I said Cecil Taylor had a profound influence on my ability to step outside the traditional idioms and being to entertain other ways to enrich my improvisation!

ArchieShepp15 karma


I met John Coltrane a few years before the Love Supreme. I heard him in the club "The Five Spot" when he was there with the Thelonious Monk. One night I had the courage to ask if he would give me some lessons. John was a very kind man and he wrote his address down for me and I was at his home the next morning at 10 o'clock! He was still asleep, and at about 1 o'clock he got up and I got to meet him in his living room. He went right to the saxophone and I was really impressed to see how large his arms was until I saw the weights in the corner of the living room!

He practiced relentlessly, he started to play for 10 minutes - it was really quite impressive to hear him!

Giant Steps is an improvisation based on range of minor thirds and fourths - he actually broke the mold in his harmonic approach to improvising and to that extent he evolved beyond Charlie Parker.

What a great artist!

ArchieShepp15 karma

I do perform there occasionally but the business of music in the US is very political. The fact that I've been outspoken about racism in music or racism in culture has sort of put me on a blacklist (no pun intendended) - so I am not so popular with people who produce in the United States partly because of my socio and political ideas which I have expressed without reticence.

ArchieShepp15 karma

3) Our reality is the sum total of our past, present and future. Modern can be part of our past as far as I am concerned - I still to this day listen to John Coltrane a lot as well as practice Mozart pieces when I practice. I have discovered through classical music many new things. Classical music has improved my technique a lot, and he's not so modern, but modern for me as I never knew his music before ha!

The real question is one of originality outside the context of time. I could go to a Baptist Church and the choir could bring tears to my eyes, not for their innovation but the emotion they give me. Any artist who can do that is definitely worth following.

ArchieShepp13 karma

Hello, growing up I would have to say the biggest musical influences were my father who played the banjo and my mother who sang a lot at home as well. The black community was also very important to me as a child.

ArchieShepp13 karma

Hello, For me I would save Public Enemy.

They're visibly and tangibly in touch with social issues and they try to consciously express some social/political idea in a lot of their songs. You could say the same of KRS-One as well!

Very few jazz performers take any political stance these days, and very few ever did! Miles Davis challenged the social scene which was racist in the day. Louis Armstrong was appreciated because the whites saw some subservient attitude and he has been criticized by black people and people weren't clear until the 1950's when he contested against Governor Faubus!

ArchieShepp13 karma

Hello! I don't use the term jazz. I see the term "Jazz" more of a marketing term, and that might fizzle out. African American music, or music composed by people of color- that music will certainly continue as it stems from the suffering of those people. This genuine music will never fizzle out. I personally prefer the term African-American music. This does not only mean African-Americans are the only ones who play this music, but we are the authors, the originators and a lot of current music such as hip hop, rap or RnB stem from this. What people consider traditional Jazz or what I call African-American music originates in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Harlem. I am very proud my people have had enormous influence on world music from Louis Armstrong to Chuck D!

ArchieShepp12 karma

I meant to say that African-Americans were the first ones to play this music but obviously non African-Americans have taken an interest and have helped develop the genre over the past few decades. Music is shared, and we all share our various experiences. Some non African-American musicians perform very well such as Roswell Rudd as well as many other nationalities!