Sunday, February 03, 2019

Wayne Shorter - Super Nova (Blue Note, 1969)

Recorded near the end of his tenure as a sideman with Miles Davis and recording artist with Blue Note, Super Nova has been sort of dismissed as a transitory record, something that came between these stints and Wayne Shorter's tenure in Weather Report. Deeper listening reveals that this is an excellent record, one with layers of depth to be explored and a talented cast of accompanists including Miroslav Vitous, Jack DeJohnette, Chick Corea, John McLaughlin and Sonny Sharrock. The opening track "Super Nova" has way out open rhythm and sparks of electric guitar, with heavy drumming and snake charmer like soprano saxophone playing, as Shorter develops a pinched sound and uses it to further develop the sound of the unit. The group develops an otherworldly sound on "Swee-Pea" where chimes and light soprano saxophone create a neon hued soundscape that is a precursor to the work that Shorter would create with Weather Report, turning this track into a mysterious and yearning ballad. "Dindi" is a fascinating and multi-layered performance, beginning with chimes and tightly strummed strings with percussion creating a processional flair, followed by the introduction of Shorter's tenor saxophone, developing a repetitive figure, moving faster and faster in a jam with the percussion instruments. Unexpectedly, there is a opening for vocals of Maria Booker and gentle guitar of Walter Booker creating a quietly emotional section before the band returns with fast paced guitar and saxophone and hard driving drums pushing to the finish. "Water Babies" features gentle pastel tones of soprano saxophone from the leader, open ended bass and drums and a light touch of guitar as the group rides the thermals on a light and airy performance, Shorter taking center stage as his saxophone plays with passion and grace. Moody bass and drums usher in "Capricorn" and Shorter's soprano clashes with them like he is the captain of a vessel cursed by an angry sea. The drums and percussion crash and roil and the saxophone responds with mighty swirls of tone and range, leading to a dynamic tug of war between the reed and percussion framed by shards of guitar and resulting in a free jazz sounding experiment unlike he could could conduct under Miles's watch. The concluding track, "More Than Human" has a cool funk laced percussion and guitar theme, developing street sounding music around the guitar's chicken scratch that foreshadows the Davis street-funk of On the Corner by a few years. Shorter's soprano saxophone swoops and soars and leads the group into an excellent collective improvisation with deeply strung rhythm and saxophone that is both integrated and interloping. This is an very good album and it deserves more credit than it receives. It both stands on its own as a fine piece of work, and shows the path that Wayne Shorter would follow going forward on his long and mercurial career.Super Nova -

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