Archie Shepp, in the early 80s, was not the same angry Afrocentric free-jazzer that he had been in the late 60s, or the outsider r'n'b/gospel influenced band leader that he was in mid 70's. Starting in the late 70s, he surprised everyone by recording a series of hard bop related albums, (usually duets with known mainstream musicians), for the Japanese Denon and Danish SteepleChase labels.
His collaboration with SteepleChase started in 1977, when he recorded a duet album with pianist Horace Parlan. In 1980 they returned to the studio to record their next collaborative album. During the next day in the studio, Shepp recorded a Charlie Parker tribute album with one of most respectable European acoustic bassists of the time, Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen.
Pedersen physical bass is easily recognizable (as on almost every recording he is playing), and his background in bop is clear. Shepp, as a youth, did not come up through the already passed world of bop, but instead played RnB until he helped spearhead the new avant-garde in the 60s. As can be expected, Shepp plays a much freer sax over Pedersen's anchoring bass. Shepp does not imitate Parker, but does let his influence and sound come through him in moments. On paper, Shepp and Pedersen look like a strange pairing, but on this album their collaboration works surprisingly well. Shepp is not explosive and loud, but lyrical, with a lot of attention to nuances and moods. His playing is relaxed, its obvious he's have fun playing this. He doesn't try to imitate the originals, but with a modern hard bop sound and a slight feeling of broken up abstraction, he presents his versions of well-known compositions.
Even with some risky moments, this duo sounds surprisingly well on Parker's material. Even if the music here is close to hard bop, it is oriented more to a Shepp fan, not Pedersen. Shepp demonstrates here a rare successful free-bop he wouldn't be able to repeat later, as he would come to release tons of gratuitous smokey-bar-late-night albums of hard bop standards for Japanese labels.