Thursday, June 19, 2008

Jazz Library 7: Discovering Wayne Shorter

Miles Davis' second great quintet came together when Wayne Shorter was lured away from the Jazz Messengers. Miles had tried out a couple of tenor players to replace John Coltrane: Hank Mobley and Lou Donaldson. Both were brilliant, in my view, but neither were quite what Miles was looking for. It was Coltrane himself who suggested Wayne Shorter. You can hear Shorter's composition, Iris, performed by the second quintet at this previous post.

As I indicated, Shorter cut his teeth as musical director for Art Blakey. Shorter's presence and virtuosity is evident on all the Jazz Messenger discs he contributed to. His compositions surely make up the lion's share of great writing for that group in those years. Here is a sample of my personal favorites.
The Big Beat includes Lee Morgan on trumpet, Bobby Timmons on piano, Jymie Merrit on Bass, and of course Blakey on drums.

But of course Shorter recorded a lot of music as leader. These are some of my favorite jazz documents. In fact I would rank Speak No Evil (1964) as one of the ten best jazz albums. It certainly ranks as one of the best jazz saxophone albums. His Adam's Apple (1966) has a similar stature, containing one of Shorter's most loved compositions: Footprints.

But I offer here a cut from Juju (1964). In many ways this disc is the best introduction to Wayne Shorter's genius. It is spooky. The album title is a variant on Voodoo. A lot of Shorter's work has a spooky, smoky, mood to it. "House of Jade" is grounded in a simple, haunting melody. All this appeals to me, as I am a great fan of the spooky story. I also share with Shorter an interest in Buddhism.
Juju includes McCoy Tyner on piano, Reggie Workman on bass, and Elvin Jones on drums.

Wayne Shorter is my personal favorite jazzman. I am convinced that he is deeply under appreciated. Enjoy.

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