"Dr. King is so relevant to our time," observes saxophonist Archie Shepp. Shepp will take part in a unique celebration of the late Nobel Peace Prize winner's birthday at a site named for him, the Martin Luther King Memorial Library, at 8 p.m. Saturday. Others participating include violinist and composer Malcolm Goldstein, saxophonists David Murray and Henry Threadgill and Denardo Coleman, son of saxophonist Ornette Coleman.
"I'm very impressed that Goldstein, who composed the bulk of the work, has cut across cultural and racial lines," says Shepp of the free concert that will take place in the library's main lobby under the joint sponsorship of D.C. Public Library and District Curators.
Shepp explains that Goldstein has run King's "I Have a Dream" speech through a computer and has based "his whole score on the actual pitch module of Dr. King's voice.
"And he has combined two idioms, academic music and the black tradition," explains Shepp, who contributed a piece to the suite, "and he's called on some of the best improvising musicians from the jazz idiom. I think it's very timely that we should be bringing together hybrid cultural elements to create a kind of world music, 'We're the children of the world,' and that sort of thing."