Archie Shepp has been at various times a feared firebrand and radical, soulful throwback, and contemplative veteran. He was viewed in the '60s as perhaps the most articulate and disturbing member of the free generation, a published playwright willing to speak on the record in unsparing, explicit fashion about social injustice and the anger and rage he felt. His tenor sax solos were searing, harsh, and unrelenting; played with a vivid intensity. But in the '70s, Shepp employed a fatback/swing-based R&B approach; and, in the '80s, he mixed straight bebop, ballads, and blues pieces displaying little of the fury and fire from his earlier days. His Impulse albums included poetry readings and quotes from James Baldwin and Malcolm X. Shepp's releases sought to paint an aural picture of African-American life, and included compositions based on incidents like Attica or folk sayings. But, starting in the late '60s, the rhetoric was toned down and the anger began to disappear from Shepp's albums. He substituted a more celebratory, and at times reflective attitude. Unfortunately, his tone declined from the mid-'80s on (his highly original sound was his most important contribution to jazz), and Shepp was a less significant figure in the 1990s than one might hope.