The Day Archie Shepp Came to Visit

Archie Shepp visiting the Music Division with his wife Monette Berthomier in 2016. Photo Credit: Larry Appelbaum.

I’ve known saxophonist-composer Archie Shepp’s work for more than four decades, not only through his body of recordings but from a long interview we did in 1982. When I heard he was coming to Washington to receive his National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Award at the Kennedy Center, I wrote him and suggested he visit the Library if he has time. When I told him I’d found some unpublished copyright deposits of his works, we made a date for the day after the NEA event. He arrived with his French-born wife Monette on April 5, 2016. Knowing his academic interests, I showed him various treasures in the Music Division’s jazz collections, then I pulled out a folder of some 40 unpublished, handwritten copyright deposits that Shepp himself sent in to the Copyright Office to register his works in the 1960s and 70s. He and his wife seemed particularly entranced by them and many evoked colorful stories about their creation. We also viewed some rare television clips, including one with Shepp, Charles Mingus, Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Roy Haynes performing on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1971, which his wife had never seen. It was a memorable afternoon for all of us.

Catherine Russell serenades and salutes NEA Jazz Masters Pharoah Sanders and Archie Shepp with Linda May Han Oh and Jimmy Heath looking on. Photo credit: Larry Appelbaum.

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