October 1, 2015

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Saxophonist Archie Shepp in conversation with Assistant Professor of Music Jason Robinson

Playing to a sold-out Buckley Recital Hall on opening night of the Music at Amherst 2015–16 series, revered saxophonist Archie Shepp and Moroccan musical group The Dar Gnawa of Tangier presented an exciting fusion of musical ideas from as far as Morocco and Paris, and as near as Louisiana and New York City (photos below).

Considered the U.S. debut collaboration for Shepp and The Dar Gnawa, the performance at Amherst combined Shepp’s electrifying saxophone with elements of the Gnawa’s Moroccan ritual lilas, including ceremonial songs, dances, costumes and healing rites based on the folk traditions of their home country. Performing under the guidance of master musician Abdellah El-Gourd, The Dar Gnawa of Tangier descend from West African slaves and civil servants of the Arab empire.

The night before the performance, Shepp spoke with Jason Robinson, assistant professor of music at Amherst, during a public interview (video above). Their discussion focused on Shepp's work with The Dar Gnawa, as well as his long and influential career composing music and performing around the world. Ranging from comical anecdotes to thoughtful reflections, Shepp's answers offered personal insights into many of his musical relationships and experiences touring throughout North Africa.

Near the end of the interview, Robinson invited the audience to ask questions of their own. One audience question sparked a particularly poignant moment for Shepp. Now 78 years old, he was asked to think back on his long and varied career and pinpoint moments or recordings that still inspire him today. “I always looked at my recordings the way I look at my children,” Shepp answered. “At each instance, I tried to do my best.... I've always sought to bring a message or to look at it from a different perspective.”

The Music at Amherst series continues with a performance by the Artymiw-Keefe-Smith Piano Trio on Sunday, Oct. 4. Composed of three dynamic and highly esteemed artists—Lydia Artymiw, Erin Keefe and Wilhelmina Smith—the trio combines a shared musical heritage from the Marlboro Music Festival and a love of performing great masterworks. Their Amherst performance will feature works by Beethoven, Schoenfield and Brahms.

All Music at Amherst performances take place in Buckley Recital Hall in Amherst's Arms Music Center. Subscriptions for multiple performances are always available. Single tickets go on sale two weeks prior to performance dates:

Images from Archie Shepp's performance with The Dar Gnawa of Tangier:

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