May 23, 2024

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CD review: Archie Shepp: The Way Ahead, Kwanza, The Magic Of Ju-Ju Revisited 2023: Video, CD cover

An unusual package – one that features the full album The Way Ahead, plus tracks from other late 60s Archie Shepp sessions too!

The Way Ahead has tenor giant Archie Shepp in prime form – working with a sextet that’s awash in avant freedoms, but which always shows a great sense of restraint – just the right power gained from the new modes of jazz expression, as the players dance together beautifully on a razor’s edge of personal creativity and ensemble exploration.

Players here include Grachan Moncur on trombone, Jimmy Owens on trumpet, Ron Carter on bass, and Beaver Harris and Roy Haynes on drums – and the album also features the first piano player on most of the Shepp albums on Impulse – Walter Davis Jr, making a rare outside appearance with the group! Titles include the classic track “Frankenstein”, plus “Fiesta”, “Damn If I Know (The Stroller)”, and “Sophisticated Lady” – all nice and long! Next are two tracks from the Kwanza album – with a lineup that includes Charles Davis on baritone, Grachan Moncur on trombone, Jimmy Owens on trumpet, and Dave Burrell on piano – on the titles “New Africa” and “Bakai”.

Last on the CD is the side-long gem “Magic Of Juju” – a set that has an unusual group with Martin Banks on trumpet, Michael Zwerin on trombone, Reggie Workman on bass, and both Norman Connors and Beaver Harris on drums – plus Ed Blackwell on rhythm logs, Franck Charles on talking drums, and Dennis Charles on added percussion!

Three albums and three distinct groupings in this essential remaster & reissue of two late 60s and one 70s Impulse! albums from saxophonist and composer Archie Shepp, in configurations of septets and nonets with luminaries of the day performing Shepp’s rhythm-centric jazz focused on the Afrocentric experience, drawing on blues and spirituals in free jazz settings.


1. Damn If I Know (The Stroller) 6:19
2. Frankenstein 13:54
3. Fiesta 9:59
4. Sophisticated Lady 7:12
5. New Africa 12:55
6. Bakai 10:07
7. The Magic Of Ju-Ju 18:38

Archie Shepp-tenor saxophone
Jimmy Owens-trumpet
Grachan Moncur III-trombone
Walter Davis-piano
Ron Carter-double bass
Beaver Harris-drums
Roy Haynes-drums
Charles Davis-baritone saxophone
Dave Burrell-piano
Walter Booker-double bass
Martin Banks-trumpet, flugelhorn
Michael Zwerin-trumpet, trombone
Reggie Workman-double bass
Norman Connors-drums
Ed Blackwell-rhythm logs
Franck Charles-talking drums
Denis Charles-percussion

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