Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Wayne Shorter - The Soothsayer (Blue Note, 1965)

Saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter was blazing across the jazz landscape when this album was recorded in early 1965. Having recently joined what would become Miles Davis’ Second Great Quintet, Shorter was also cutting a series of excellent albums as a leader for Blue Note Records. He has an extraordinary band on this album, collaborating with James Spaulding on alto saxophone, Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, McCoy Tyner on piano, Ron Carter on bass and Tony Williams on drums. All compositions are by Shorter except “Valse Triste” by Jean Sibelius, which Shorter arranged for jazz sextet. Wayne Shorter always had a wide notion of what jazz contains, and the classical piece makes use of the unique musical colors that the ensemble has available. This piece would continue to intrigue him more than 40 years later as he continues to play it with his current quartet. The master take of “Angola” is the high point of the album, a comparatively short and powerful blast of energy allowing for a potent melody statement and brief, pithy solos. The alternate take of “Angola” that follows is nearly as good, but running a few minutes longer lessens the terse impact of the master take. “The Big Push” and “The Soothsayer” allow the group members to improvise striking solos, highlighting the leader as well as Spaulding and Hubbard who make excellent foils. The lone ballad, “Lady Day” is a fine evocation of the longing and pathos that Billie Holiday brought to her finest work. This is a typically excellent entry in Wayne Shorter’s 1960’s discography, and is is quite baffling why Blue Note withheld release until a vault-clearing project in 1979 as it stands with his finest work for the label. The Soothsayer -

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