Archie Shepp, the memory that cuts

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It is a rhythm of a disastrous sweetness, it looks like Bach, it looks like a South beaded with scents and moss. And then a suspended question, a soprano saxophone stretched like a fall. Jason Moran and Archie Shepp, on the stage of the Philharmonie de Paris, console each other as best they can. Sometimes I feel like a child without a mother (sometimes I have the impression of being a child without a mother), a piece of which we no longer know the author, a complaint and a comfort. Archie Shepp, his hat, his eyes drowned, sings the verse. His voice is endless vibrato – a little boy hidden in an old man’s body.

We meet on a Sunday in March, in Paris, an empty city, opening the door to a treasure. It is registered SHEPP in capital letters on the intercom. We don’t tremble. He sits on a leather sofa, below a portrait of Duke Ellington, among Yoruba statues and concert posters, he is 83, speaks extremely slowly but never loses his train of thought. We ask him what he thinks of when he sings that he is an orphan, of that wounded blues: “I am of course thinking of my own mother, of lack, but also of the role of the mother in African-American culture, of the way slavery tore our biological mothers and our mother lands away from us. “

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