Just In Time Quartet, Chooldy Chooldy

Britt Robson

By Britt Robson

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Archie Shepp will always be known as a fiery, stentorian saxophonist who helped starch the linen in John Coltrane's sheets of sound on Ascension, as well as for his unapologetically radical social politics via such classic albums as Fire Music and Attica Blues and plays like The Communist. But Chooldy Chooldy is a fine example of the less notorious, mellower Shepp (musically, at least) of the past quarter-century.

The rumors of Archie Shepp’s demise? Greatly exaggerated.

Shepp sings on more than half of these nine songs, including a florid rendition of “The Gypsy” — a favorite of Louis Armstrong's and a hit for Dinah Shore — that risks mockery for its glissando swoops and hyper-romantic fervor, yet unfolds like a bouquet of hothouse flowers. “This Is Always” (recorded by the Harry James Orchestra) and Shepp's own “Tomorrow Will Be Another Day” (reprised as a live instrumental at the end of the disc) are two other cocktail ballads from this erstwhile fire-breather. And the Shepp-penned title track is a funky blues-jazz shuffle in the vein of early Ray Charles. Those who pine for the skronk, shriek and moan of Sheep's tenor, check out his “The Stars in Your Eyes,” and a wonderfully woolly yet still faithful version of the classic “Stompin'at the Savoy.”

With the possible exception of pianist Massimo Farao, the other members of the Just In Time Quartet are merely adequate. But no matter. Rumors of Shepp's diminishment of saxophone tone and prowess are neatly rebutted, replaced by a clear picture of a 68-year old titan (Shepp's age when Chooldy Chooldy was originally released in 2005) doing exactly as he pleases.