"Words, sounds, speech, men, memory, thoughts, fears and emotions—time—all related…all made from one…all made in one." —John Coltrane, 1964
Let My People Go expresses Shepp and Moran’s common roots in the African American cultural tradition. Despite their near four-decade age difference, both artists have followed a similar path, developing respect and appreciation of pioneers while keeping an ear for contemporary styles: Shepp with the free jazz and civil rights scene of the 1960s, and Moran with hip hop since the late ‘80s.
On Let My People Go, both artists deal in pure feeling as they lean heavily on spirituals and standards - a direct reference to the duets Shepp produced in 1977 with Horace Parlan (Goin’ Home). The album is a gathering of performances stemming from two encounters: a gig at Paris’ Jazz à la Villette festival in 2017, and a second one in 2018 for the Enjoy Jazz Festival in Mannheim, Germany. Despite predating last year’s events by a few years, the pain and fury evoked in the two spirituals (‘Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child' and 'Go Down, Moses’) echo eerily with the cries of justice heard all over the world this past summer. The vulnerability of Shepp is even more poignant as his deep velvety voice comes in towards the end of both songs.
The other songs are made of one Moran original - the mesmerizing 'He Cares’ - and four covers. Schepp’s devotion to John Coltrane, with whom he recorded in 1966, is once again expressed in a majestic 13-minute rendition of “Wise One” (a piece taken from Coltrane's 1964 album Crescent and which Shepp had already covered for the album Ballads For Trane).
Let My People Go is at its core a dialogue between a jazz royalty and a modern prodigy, drawing on a mutual history while offering space to expand the discussion. The ensuing conversation is a joy to follow and makes for a deep and rewarding listen. At the tender age of 80+ years, Shepp is still pushing things forward and proves as relevant as ever, adding yet another highlight to a legendary career. Full props also to the label Archie Ball for the deluxe gatefold and high-quality pressing that give justice to the high quality on display here.
Listen to 'Sometimes I feel like a motherless child': https://tinyurl.com/mhx9dcwp