Saturday, January 2, 2010

Guide to Wayne Shorter 2

It is astonishing that three of Shorter's four "spooky" middle period were recording in 1964 and the fourth in 1965.  That was a burst of creative genius.  His third period, in my classification, begins in 65.

The Final Three
  1. Etcetera (1965) Herbie Hancock (p) Cecil McBee (b) Joe Chambers (d)
  2. The All Seeing Eye (1965) Freddie Hubbard (tp, flh) Alan Shorter (flh -5) Grachan Moncur III (tb) James Spaulding (as) Herbie Hancock (p) Ron Carter (b) Joe Chambers (d)
  3. Adam's Apple (1966) Herbie Hancock (p) Reggie Workman (b) Joe Chambers (d) 
 Etcetera and The All Seeing Eye represent Shorter's avant garde adventure, the second more than the first.   Both indicate the influence of Miles Davis, who was doing the same thing at that time.  It would be interesting to compare these recordings with the contemporaneous Plugged Nickel sessions where Shorter joined the Miles Davis Quintet.  Both of the first two albums are fine, edgy, page four jazz.  If you have your ear trained by the Plugged Nickel document, The All Seeing Eye will open for you.

This is not music that you can take away with you and hum on the way home.  You are in it only while you are listening to it.  Ron Carter's bass is worth way more than whatever he paid for it.  Etcetera is less adventurous, but only by a bit.  'Indian Song' expresses the same attempt to get at the unspeakable truth about melody by leaving melody behind.  What was your face before you were born?

And then there is Adam's Apple.  This recording returns to the work Wayne was doing in the core period, and it surely ranks along with Night Dreamer, Juju, and Speak No Evil.  'Footprints', one of Shorter's most covered songs is on it.  But I think that the title song is among his most compelling compositions.

I expect that a reader might wonder why I call these "The Final Three".  Shorter records more albums, and there is his work with Weather Report.  I don't want to write off his later work.  I confess that I don't know the Weather Report stuff well because I just can't get interested in it.  The ten albums I have listed here are a monumental contribution to jazz.  I'll leave it at that for now, and I will try to get around to commenting on his work with Art Blakey and Miles Davis in a later post.

Here are some samples to illustrate my comments and whet your appetite:
Chaos/The All Seeing Eye 
Adam's Apple/Adam's Apple


  1. Fantastic!

    Your blog is so... man!

    Great iniciative. Keep Going!

    Thanks for the Master Class!

    (and sorry my poor english)

  2. Martin: Your English is fine. Thanks so much for the comment. I love jazz and this blog is all about sharing the love. Drop me a line when you can. It keeps me going.

  3. i absolutely agree that shorter is one of the greatest geniuses in jazz music history, and probably even today although is surely well known, i think is underrated for a lot of people that don't realize that he was the real mind of the second quintet. I also find as you not so interesting the work with weather report, but you have to listen to High life. A controversial album, at first i've found those plastic sound umbereable and i don't like drums on it, but if you can go over this aspect is one of his best album with a lot of great compositions.