Late seventies were the time when world is turned over for all generation of yesterday adventurous jazz stars who became famous in late 60s and continued to enjoy success in early 70s. Musical fashion has been changed dramatically and one morning many of them woke up jobless,sometime even homeless and as rule - useless.Not so many of them survived these and upcoming years successfully, fortunately Archie Shepp did. To pay his bills he just started to record music on request,playing what labels wanted him to be played. During second half of decade Shepp released lot of albums of varied quality and even more varied stylistic, but what helped him to survive that difficult time was good old hard bop (not so obvious choice for Shepp who didn't come to late 60s avant-garde jazz from hard-bop scene, as many others,though).In some European scenes and more important - in Japan hard bop just displaced rapidly disappearing avant-garde jazz for some years, Archie Shepp found his new listener here.
From impressive amount of Shepp releases coming from mentioned era there are some still very adventurous albums,lot of hard bop based music with still his freer touch here and there and few very straight works, "Tray Of Silver" is one of them.
Four quite long compositions, three of which are Horace Silver originals, acoustic boppish quartet with Yusef Lateef and Horace Silver himself drummer Roy Brooks,one-time Art Blakey Jazz Messangers pianist Mickey Tucker,Gil Evans tuba/baritone player Howard Johnson and Japanese bassist (who released album with Herbie Hancock on same Denon label two years ago).Recorded in Tokyo's studio, album has characteristic warm,deep and clear "Japanese" sound. All musicians are high-class so the music is well played but biggest surprise, at least for old Shepp's fans is how safe he plays here. If on many his other hard bop - based albums from the same time he doesn't avoid risky improvisations and even some dissonant,explosive soloing, on "Tray Of Silver" he plays extremely straight,note by note. Fortunately,album is not a collection of late night smokey bar - type nostalgic ballads, there are some mid-tempo quite energetic numbers, and included ballads themselves don't sound too sticky.But being extremely safe,all music becomes quite faceless, just another tunes played by skilled but not very original band.
Hardly an interesting addition for those loving adventurous Shepp, it's still better-than-average hard bop album,not all that inspired, but well played and recorded.