Shepp was born in 1937, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he studied piano, clarinet and alto saxophone before focusing on tenor saxophone, but occasionally plays also soprano saxophone. He studied drama at Goddard College from 1955 to 1959, but choose the music career.
He played in a Latin jazz band for a short time before joining the band of avant-garde pianist Cecil Taylor. Shepp’s first recording under his own name, Archie Shepp – Bill Dixon Quartet, was released on Savoy Records in 1962.
Joachim Kühn, born in 1944 is a German jazz pianist. Kühn studied classical piano and composition with Arthur Schmidt-Elsey, but influenced by his elder brother, clarinetist Rolf Kühn, he simultaneously got interested in jazz. With a trio of his own, founded in 1964,he presented the first free jazz in the GDR (German Democratic Republic, East Germany). In 1966 he left the country and settled in Hamburg and since 1968 he living in Paris. Kühn worked with Don Cherry, Karl Berger, Slide Hampton, Phil Woods, Michel Portal, Barre Phillips, Eje Thelin, Ray Lema and Jean-Luc Ponty. During the second half of the 70’s he lived in California and joined the West Coast fusion scene and recorded with Alphonse Mouzon, Billy Cobham, Michael Brecker, and Eddie Gomez.
“Wo!man” is not the first time the two have performed together. Two or three decades ago, now not even Shepp can’t now remember the year exactly, the saxophonist worked with Kühn in a band led by Finnish drummer Edward Vesala.
“Wo!man” – quite surprisingly – is a lyrical album, album of lush romanticism. It is programmed over five sinuous Shepp/Kuhn originals and three jazz standards, Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Lady,” Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman” and Earle Hagen and Dick Rogers’ “Harlem Nocturne.” The contrast between Shepp’s lurching outbursts, sometimes quite abrasive fury and brusque tenderness, and Kuhn’s static harmony and weighted streams seems to be very effective.
Romantic, but simultaneously sparkling and breathing, very alive, this is a beautiful, balanced, sophisticated but bursting album.