'Lost', by Wayne Shorter

Things were happening big time for Shorter in early 1965, when ’The Soothsayer was recorded. After five years with drummer and band leader Art Blakey as musician, composer and, finally, musical director, the saxophonist had recently joined trumpeter Miles Davis’ second great quintet. With Davis, Shorter would record six studio albums over the next three years (the first, E.S.P., 1965, was recorded two months before ’The Soothsayer’) plus a further four under his own name.

 ’The Soothsayer' was initially shelved to make way for the release of the more adventurous 'The All Seeing Eye’, and when Shorter left Davis and joined Weather Report, this beautiful albumtemporarily, was overtaken by events. It was finally released in 1979, which is hard to believe because it ranks with the best of his works from this incredibly fertile period.

Wayne Shorter - The Soothsayer

His unique sense of melody in the modal style of the 60’s is very evident in today’s song ‘Lost’, featuring expressive solo interludes that glide over a gorgeous floating waltz. 

Wayne Shorter - Tenor Saxophone
James Spaulding - Alto Saxophone
Freddie Hubbard - Trumpet
McCoy Tyner - Piano
Ron Carter - Bass
Tony Williams - Drums 

'Yes I can, No You Can't', by Lee Morgan

Lee Morgan, hard bop’s baddest trumpeter, may never quite have topped his iconic 1963 masterpiece ‘The Sidewinder’, but he came pretty damn close with ‘The Gigolo' from 1965.

Jeff McMillan writes in his outstanding biography ‘Delightfulee, The Life And Music Of Lee Morgan' (p. 144-146): 
"…The tune that proved hardest to capture was Morgan’s composition ‘Yes I Can, No You Can’t’. After numerous false starts, the band made it through the head melody to Morgan’s solo in the 22nd (!) take. The trumpeter struggles through an awkward two-chorus solo where his effort to bend and sound slippery undermines both his intonation and phrasing…The band finally wraps up the (June 25th, 1965) session with a complete take, the 49th (!!) of a long, unsuccesful session focused on one tune…”

"…Lion booked Van Gelder’s studio for six days later (July 1st, 1965) so Morgan and his men could record enough material to fill an album. In this second effort, the group produced one of the great recording sessions of Morgan’s career. The trumpeter, especially, was in top form, producing a standout performance of ‘Yes I Can, No You Can’t’. Notable in Morgan’s playing are razor-sharp execution and a brilliance of tone, qualities that were not reliably there for him in the previous session. Clearly, the trumpeter had spent time practicing the material, likely supplemented with technical trumpet exercises. On the July 1st session his chops are strong and sure…”

Lee Morgan - The Gigolo

Lee Morgan - Trumpet
Wayne Shorter - Tenor Saxophone
Harold Mabern Jr. -  Piano
Bob Cranshaw - Bass
Billy Higgins - Drums 

'Footprints', by the Miles Davis Quintet

When I was in Paris last week, I saw a lot of posters announcing a ‘Tribute To Miles' on July 18th, featuring Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Marcus Miller, Sean Jones (trumpet) and Sean Richman (drums).
Bassist Marcus Miller contrived and produced the tribute, the occasion being the fact that Miles Davis died twenty years ago. Miller was involved with great Davis albums like ‘The Man With the Horn' and 'Tutu’, while Hancock and Shorter had already experienced adventures with the trumpeter in the sixties. 
When I returned home last Saturday, I checked if they would also visit The Netherlands, and found out they will play at the North Sea Jazz Festival on July 10th 2011, in my hometown Rotterdam. I bought a ticket instantly.

Ticket

To get myself in the mood, here is ‘Footprints’, recorded in Sweden on October 31st, 1967.

Miles Davis - Trumpet
Wayne Shorter - Tenor Saxophone
Herbie Hancock - Piano
Ron Carter - Bass
Tony Williams - Drums

'Crisis', by Freddie Hubbard

It’s hard to begin to sum up all the key records in jazz Frederick Dewayne Hubbard (1938-2008) appeared on, but here’s a try.
Partnered with Wayne Shorter and Curtis Fuller, he featured on seven of Art Blakey’s classic early sixties Blue Note albums, he played with George Coleman on Herbie Hancock’s highly influential album ‘Maiden Voyage’, then played on Oliver Nelson’s ‘Blues And The Abstract Truth’. He played a central role on Wayne Shorter’s ‘Speak No Evil' and was at the centre of John Coltrane's albums 'Olé Coltrane’, ‘The Africa/Brass Sessions' and 'Ascension’. He was a key player on Eric Dolphy’s radical ‘Out To Lunch' and appeared on Ornette Coleman's groundbreaking 'Free Jazz’.

The list could go on and on.

I wrote a post earlier on about one of my favorite albums of all time, ‘Olé Coltrane’, and I guess that those sessions in May 1961 were very inspiring, because he used the same rhythm section on this album, ‘Ready For Freddie’, recorded on August 21st that year. Freddie says in the liner notes: “So far as I can put it into words…the way in which I’m most interested in going is Coltrane-like. I mean different ways of playing the changes so that you get a wider play of colors and of the emotions that those colors reveal.” 

Freddie Hubbard - Ready For Freddie

Freddie Hubbard related today’s track ‘Crisis' to the growing threat of a nuclear war, which came to a climax in the Cuban Missiles Crisis just over a year later (between October 14th and 28th, 1962). Many feared that the world was on the brink of a nuclear conflict and Hubbard's musical response expressed the wish that such catastrophes could be averted, by hope and reconciliation.


Freddie Hubbard - Trumpet 
Wayne Shorter - Tenor Saxophone
Bernard McKinney - Euphonium (Tenor Tuba)
Art Davis - Bass
McCoy Tyner - Piano
Elvin Jones - Drums 

'Nefertiti', by The Miles Davis Quintet

Yesterday, I lay in bed, iPod on, eyes closed and goosebumps all over…
OK, maybe this is a piece for the more ‘trained’ ear, but I suggest you put on your headphones or play it loud and give it an eight minute try, if only for the exquisite Tony Williams.

Michelle Mercer writes in her book ‘Footprints’: “…On June 7th, 1967, the band practiced the melody again and again. With the horns in repetition mode, a foundation was laid upon which the rhythm section could improvise. Tony’s (Williams) playing grew more dynamic and insistent with each repetition of the melody.
When they finished the first run-through, it was time to improvise on the theme. But Miles asked: “Hey man, what if we made the tune by just playin’ the melody?” It was so obvious and yet so radical an idea that the band could only laugh in response. No one was doing that in jazz. “That’s it, right?”, Miles said…”

Jack Chambers writes in ‘Milestones’: “…’Nefertiti' includes no solos in any conventional sense. Instead, Davis and Shorter repeat the mournful theme over and over again throughout the track. Yet both in feeling and in fact, the composition remains rich in spontaneity; improvisation is in a sense constant, not only in the play of the rhythm section but even in the theme statements by the horns, which repeat the same basic scale again and again with different nuances each time. It's a remarkable conception, demanding free interplay and controlled license, and one that could be carried off successfully only by players who are gifted individualists and devoted collectivists…”

Bob Blumenthal wrote in Rolling Stone some years later:
"His (Shorter’s) compositions  were becoming statements in themselves instead of mere frames for solos. All three Shorter tunes on Nefertiti (‘Nefertiti’, ‘Fall' and 'Pinocchio’) use melodic repetition to an unprecedented extent and, as interpreted by the great Davis quintet, became hypnotic messengers of something new”. 

The folksinger Joni Mitchell had this very striking comparison: “It’s a very unusual piece of music, in that it’s like a silk screen. They start off in unison, and then they get more and more individuated, like a silk screen slightly offset.”

Miles Davis - Nefertiti

Miles Davis - Trumpet
Wayne Shorter - Tenor Saxophone 
Herbie Hancock - Piano
Ron Carter - Bass
Tony Williams - Drums 

'Dance Of The Infidels', by Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers Feat. Bud Powell

Yesterday I wrote about Shorter’s debut with the Messengers on his first gig abroad, in Paris on November 15th 1959. After that concert, they continued on a swing through Europe, and came full circle with a closing gig back at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées on December 18th. For this final performance, promoters planned to feature a number of expatriate musicians in concert with the Messengers, including Bud Powell, who’d set up residence on the Left Bank the previous May.

Michelle Mercer writes: “…Paudras (Powell’s patron and friend in Paris, often mentioned on this blog) invited Bud to the Messengers show that night, unaware that his friend was actually already on the bill. In the middle of the show, Walt Davis, the Messengers’ pianist, stepped up to the mike and asked Bud to come on stage. Bud wasn’t exactly eager to play. He sank down into his chair and tried in vain to use his trademark beret and overcoat for camouflage, but his fans picked him out right away. The audience caught Bud on a good night. With concentration, he shunned inspiration and played straight, giving a crowd pleasing performance…”

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers - Paris Jam Session

"…After the concert, Shorter went to his hotel room. He had been writing for a couple of hours when he heard a knock on the door at around 3 a.m. There was Bud. He walked into the room, sat in a chair, and looked over at Wayne’s horn, which was out of its case on his bed. "Play me something", he said, in his mild child’s voice. Wayne hesitated. He didn’t know what to play. When he picked up his horn, he reflexively set in on one of the tunes they’d covered earlier that night, ‘Dance Of The Infidels’. After he played, Bud thanked him, stood up, and walked to the door. He turned around and stared. “Are you all right?” Wayne asked. “Uh-huh, it’s all right”, Bud mumbled in response…”.

"…Years later, Wayne listened repeatedly to the show’s live recording, ‘Paris Jam Session’. “Maybe he must have heard something with me that he felt in his inner being?…”

What might Bud Powell have heard in Wayne that night in 1959? 

"…Bud set out boldly on ‘Dance Of The Infidels' with an inventive solo. He walked the tightrope for a few bars then fell back on repetition like a net. When Wayne took the lead solo, Bud must have noticed that Wayne never repeated himself, not a single riff. For Wayne, repetition was stagnation. There was urgency in Shorter's playing that night, an inner logic to his solos, but a mercurial aspect as well. Wayne blew back at Blakey's hi-hat jabs like they were in the boxing ring. The seeds of Wayne's style and his initiation as a composer were there. Maybe Bud heard that, Wayne pushing toward the future with music that could only move forward…”

Lee Morgan - Trumpet
Barney Wilen - Alto Saxophone (guest appearance)
Wayne Shorter - Tenor Saxophone
Bud Powell - Piano (guest appearance)
Jymie Merritt - Bass
Art Blakey - Drums 


'Close Your Eyes', by Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers

Michelle Mercer writes in her Wayne Shorter biography ‘Footprints’, page 74/75:
'…On November 14th, 1959, just four days after Wayne's first recording session with the Messengers, the band went to Paris. It was Wayne's first European tour, and his first trip abroad. The Messengers flew over in a Stratocruiser, occupying the plane's coctail lounge in the bubble space above the main cabin. The ten hour flight flew by for the band as they drank liberal amounts of cognac and work out some tunes…
It was a good time to be a Jazz Messenger in Paris. A year before, the group had a triumphal premiere at the Olympia theater, popularizing the group’s soulful brand of hard bop. Though the French maintained a preference for decades-old Lester Young-style balladry (a style near their native chanson), bop had become the default soundtrack for younger Parisians…”

In this rare video we see Wayne Shorter making his debut with the Messengers, on their opening gig at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées on November 15th, 1959.

Lee Morgan - Trumpet
Wayne Shorter - Tenor Saxophone
Jymie Merritt - Bass
Walter Davis - Piano
Art Blakey - Drums 

Currently reading: Footprints, The Life And Work Of Wayne Shorter, by Michelle Mercer
 
John Kelman writes: “…The idea of writing a book on an artist who is not only still alive but in the midst of a musical renaissance and, therefore, still a work in progress, may seem premature; but Mercer gives it all sense even as it ends on an open-ended note. How many writers have the opportunity to not only interview people who have been associated with the subject, but to spend significant time with the artist himself, getting a clear picture of his life from his perspective?
In some respects ‘Footprints: The Life And Work Of Wayne Shorter' is more autobiography than biography. Mercer's clear and concise prose reflects Shorter's own personality in a way that would be impossible had she not had such deep exposure to Shorter himself. Mercer has delivered a book that, by having the luxury of involving the artist himself, is arguably be one of the most thorough, enlightening and entertaining biographies written of a jazz artist to date…”
So, I’m looking forward reading this one!

Currently reading: Footprints, The Life And Work Of Wayne Shorter, by Michelle Mercer

John Kelman writes: “…The idea of writing a book on an artist who is not only still alive but in the midst of a musical renaissance and, therefore, still a work in progress, may seem premature; but Mercer gives it all sense even as it ends on an open-ended note. How many writers have the opportunity to not only interview people who have been associated with the subject, but to spend significant time with the artist himself, getting a clear picture of his life from his perspective?

In some respects ‘Footprints: The Life And Work Of Wayne Shorter' is more autobiography than biography. Mercer's clear and concise prose reflects Shorter's own personality in a way that would be impossible had she not had such deep exposure to Shorter himself. Mercer has delivered a book that, by having the luxury of involving the artist himself, is arguably be one of the most thorough, enlightening and entertaining biographies written of a jazz artist to date…”

So, I’m looking forward reading this one!

Moanin’ Monday!

Rare footage of Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, live in Tokyo, 1961.
We see Bobby Timmons on piano, Jimmy Merrit on bass, Lee Morgan on trumpet, Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone and of course Art Blakey on drums.

It’s rare to see Lee Morgan on film (he was 23 at the time), as he was seldom captured by movie or TV cameras during his short life (he was regrettably killed in 1972, at the early age of 33. I will talk about his death in a later post.). It is also interesting to see a young Wayne Shorter in his pre-Miles stage and the talented pianist Bobby Timmons, whose celebrated composition ‘Moanin’ is performed here.

They’re all accompanied by the Japanese ‘Sharps And Flats Big Band’. 

7:06 p.m.

"I remember once I asked Wayne for the time," Miller told Mercer. "He started talking to me about the cosmos and how time is relative." Miller and Shorter ware waiting somewhere- an airport, a train station, a hotel. The band’s keyboardist, Joe Zawinul, who took charge of such matters as what the road crew was supposed to do and when, set Miller straight. "You don’t ask Wayne shit like that," he snapped.
"It’s 7:06 p.m." 

A story told by Hall Miller (a jazz historian who sometimes traveled on tour with Weather Report) in Michelle Mercer’s biography on Wayne Shorter, ‘Footprints’.