This 1998 studio recording by tenor sax legend Archie Shepp is a study in blues and ballads as the title might suggest, but it also marks the return of Shepp as a true bandleader. With pianist John Hicks, drummer Billy Drummond, and bassist George Mraz, Shepp sounds more inspired here than he has in literally decades. There is no crutch-like reliance on hard bop and blues stylings, nor is there any over-the-shoulder tosses at being the king of the avant-garde. Instead Shepp focuses on what he does best: being a fine stylist and one of the great blues phraseologists in the business. Opening with Coltrane's "Lonnie's Lament," Shepp goes one better than just saluting his old boss – he reharmonizes the tune and slows it down, making it a true elegy.
True Blue is led in title under the auspices of Dexter Gordon as a welcome home party conducted by Don Schlitten for the expatriate tenor saxophonist in 1976. Essentially a jam session, this very talented septet features a two tenor-two trumpet front line, utilized to emphasize the soloing strength of the horns, not necessarily in joyous shouts or big-band like unison outbursts. The real star here is Barry Harris, and if you listen closely to his comping behind the soloist or his many colorful chords and single-line runs, you realize how brilliant he continued to be in his prime during this beyond-bebop time frame. The distinctly different, legato flavored sound of Al Cohn contrasts nicely to the broader range and richer tones of Gordon, while Blue Mitchell's warm West Coast trumpet phrasings also run aside but a little behind the animated and clipped brassy sounds of Sam Noto, a player deserving much wider recognition, and playing to the hilt on this recording. The session kicks off with the classic superimposed melodies of "Lady Bird" and "Half Nelson," with melodies split between the trumpet and tenor tandems.
True Blue is the album where Madonna truly became Madonna the Superstar – the endlessly ambitious, fearlessly provocative entertainer who knew how to outrage, spark debates, get good reviews – and make good music while she's at it. To complain that True Blue is calculated is to not get Madonna – that's a large part of what she does, and she is exceptional at it, but she also makes fine music. What's brilliant about True Blue is that she does both here, using the music to hook in critics just as she's baiting a mass audience with such masterstrokes as "Papa Don't Preach," where she defiantly states she's keeping her baby. Her real trick here, however, is transcending her status as a dance-pop diva by consciously recalling classic girl group pop…
Features 24 bit remastering and comes with a mini-description. A cool cooker from altoist Hank Crawford – cut in a tightly-grooving ensemble mode that really reflects his roots with Ray Charles! The tunes are mostly short, but have a great sense of personality – a vibrant approach that comes not just from Hank's lead solos, but also from the group backing by players who include James Clay and Wilbur Brown on tenor, Charlie Patterson on trumpet, and Sonny Forriest on guitar. Hank plays a bit of piano at times, and both John Hunt and Phil Guilbeau get in some trumpet solos too.