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Live Review: Archie Shepp at Princeton

Legendary saxophonist in performance at Princeton, featuring the school's jazz orchestra and special guests

Archie Shepp in performance at Princeton University
Archie Shepp in performance at Princeton University (photo by Ken Weiss)

Introducing saxophone great Archie Shepp for a rare performance at Princeton University in early December, Rudresh Mahanthappa recalled his own college days, often spent huddling with friends to listen to John Coltrane’s Ascension into the wee hours. Lessons gleaned from the music of that era, he continued, instilled the idea that social activism was as key a part of the music as aesthetic concerns.

The students in Princeton’s jazz program, which Mahanthappa has directed since 2016, received that lesson first-hand as Shepp spent the week giving workshops before taking the stage with the school’s Creative Large Ensemble under the direction of Darcy James Argue. The 90-minute set, in the intimate, wood-paneled Richardson Auditorium, largely followed the program of Shepp’s Grammy-nominated 2013 album I Hear the Sound, itself a big-band revival of the saxophonist’s 1972 classic Attica Blues.

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