Archie Shepp/Bill Dixon: Quartet

Early 60s dates remind that despite his radical stance Shepp always had a foot in tradition while Dixon largely remained out there


This release contains the original quartet recordings of the Shepp/Dixon quartet, followed by three tracks from the saxophonist with the New York Contemporary Five rounded off by seven selections via the Bill Dixon Septet. Recorded within less than 18 months of each other, they offer typical examples of early 60s “New Thing” or what was probably inadequately described as avant-garde jazz.

All these decades later, this music sounds relatively tame by comparison to much of the excess the genre was destined to throw up over the ensuing years, for we have time signatures and solos which often owe as much to the roots of the music as they do to the radicalism of the day.

In Shepp’s case this was always true of course, for behind the fractured approach that became uniquely his own, his nod to the past never left him and became more manifest over the rest of his distinguished career – although detractors never seemed to grasp this fact.

Dixon, on the other hand, remained a somewhat obscure figure until his death in 2010, dedicated to a path along the edge and never wavering in his commitment. The original review in Downbeat covering the quartet tracks suggested the trumpeter “consistently overreaches himself” and “remained a little too incoherent”.

When returning to the saxophonist, it should be noted that the quartet tracks represented his debut as a leader (originally released on the Savoy label), coming less than a handful of years before his behind-the-scenes contribution to A Love Supreme and his playing on Coltrane’s challenging work Ascension.

(1) Trio; Quartet; Somewhere; (2) Peace; (3) Where Poppies Bloom (Where Poppies Blow); Like A Blessed Baby Lamb; (4) Consequences; (5) Winter Song 1964 Section I; Winter Song 1964 Section II; Winter Song 1964 Section III; Winter Song 1964 Section IV; Winter Song 1964 Section V; Winter Song 1964 Coda; The 12th December (74.20)
(1) Shepp (ts); Dixon (t); Don Moore (b); Paul Cohen (d). New York, October 1962.
(2) as (1) but omit Moore & Cohen, add Reggie Workman (b); Howard McRae (d).
(3) Shepp (ts); Ted Curson (t, piccolo t); John Tchicai (as); Ronnie Boykins (b); Sunny Murray (d). New York, 5 February 1964.
(4) as (3) but omit Curson, add Don Cherry (pocket cornet).
(5) Dixon (t); George Barrow (ts); Ken McInntyre (as, o); Howard Johnson (tu, bar); David Izenzon (b); Hal Dodson (b); Howard McRae (d). New York, 4 February 1964.
Fingerpoppin’ Records 117026