Thursday, May 14, 2009

St. James Infirmary

I am one of those who hold that you haven't really ever heard 'St James Infirmary' until you have listened to it sitting on a wooden bench in the Jazz Preservation Hall in New Orleans, played by no less than five trombones. Having had such an experience, I am in a position to speak. Perhaps there are other venues that rival that one, but the standard is set very high.

I love terms like "neoclassical" when applied to jazz. That's because I am a political theorist, inclined to classification. I know that it is a squishy term in music, but it makes sense when applied to jazz men like David Murray, who make avant garde scarecrows out of every bit of straw the tradition leaves in its path. It also applies obviously to Archie Shepp.

Shepp's California Meeting is fine bit of live jazz. In addition to the above mentioned song, it has 'A Night In Tunisia' and Trane's 'Giant Steps.' George Cables plays piano, Herbie Lewis is on bass, Eddie Marshall on drums, and Royal Blue sings on 'Saint James.'

This is one of those albums you might easily pass over at a yard sale. Don't. It is genuine twenty-four karot jazz. Here is the gem:
Archie Shepp/St. James Infirmary/California Meeting
If you like it, get the whole thing. Meanwhile, let me know what you think!

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