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WAYNE SHORTER

Beginnings

PROPERBOX 178

 

 

CD1 The Chess Players

1. Wrinkles

2. June Night

3. What Know

4. Blues A La Carte

5. Harry’s Last Stand

6. Down In The Depths

7. Pug Nose

8. Black Diamond

9. Mack The Knife

10. The Chess Players

11. Sakeena’s Vision

Tracks 1-9 recorded in 1959, tracks 10 & 11 in 1960

CD2 Lester Left Town

1. Lester Left Town

2. Nelly Bly

3. Peaches And Cream

4. Seeds Of Sin

5. Scourin’

6. A Night In Tunisia

7. Sincerely Diana

8. So Tired

9. Yama

10. Kozo’s Waltz

11. The Summit

Recorded in 1960

CD3 The Albatross

1. The Ruby And The Pearl

2. Pay As You Go

3. Second Genesis

4. Mister Chairman

5. Tenderfoot

6. The Albatross

7. Getting To Know You

8. I Didn’t Know What Time It Was

9. Noise In The Attic

10. Alamode

11. I Hear A Rhapsody

12. Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You

13. Mosaic

14. Down Under

Tracks 1-9 recorded in 1960, tracks 10-14 in 1961

CD4 Wayning Moments

1. Children Of The Night

2. Arabia

3. Crisis

4. Black Orpheus

5. Dead End

6. Devil’s Island

7. Moon Of Manakoora

8. Powder Keg

9. Wayning Moments

10. Callaway Went That-A-Way

11. All Or Nothing At All

12. Sweet ‘N’ Sour

13. This Is For Albert

14. Thermo

Tracks 1-3 recorded in 1961, tracks 4-14 in 1962

Wayne Shorter (tenor sax on all tracks) with, depending on the track, Wynton Kelly (piano), Lee Morgan (trumpet), Paul Chambers (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums), Jimmy Cobb (drums), Art Blakey (drums) Bobby Timmons (piano), Frank Strozier (alto sax), Louis Hayes (drums), Al Heath (drums), Jymie Merritt (bass), Cedar Walton (piano) Bob Cranshaw (bass), Curtis Fuller (trombone), Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), Eddie Higgins (piano), Marshall Thompson (drums), Reggie Workman (bass).

4 CD Set [79:15] [79:52] [79:58] [79:36] plus 28 page booklet.

 

One could easily compare ProperBox sets with Brilliant Classics’ box sets since both labels have brought to the market wonderful music at super value prices and both are to be congratulated for doing so. With this set released as part of the celebrations to mark Wayne Shorter’s 80th birthday (August 29 2013) we have a fantastic document that allows us to chart his progress during his early years with 50 fantastic tracks that demonstrate the prodigious talent of this great jazz tenor saxophonist. Starting to play clarinet which he soon exchanged for the sax he is one of the few greats to have studied music at university for a full 4 years gaining a degree before progressing via sitting in on gigs with the likes of Horace Silver and becoming friends with John Coltrane. Following a short stint with Maynard Ferguson’s band he was poached by Art Blakey where along with colleagues such as Lee Morgan, Bobby Timmons and Jymie Merritt he learned how overcome his natural shyness and become part of a tightly knit small group where his obvious talents were honed and perfected. Only two weeks after joining Blakey’s Jazz Messengers Shorter made his first ever recording playing with Wynton Kelly on his album Kelly Great on August 12, 1959 and the first three tracks from the first CD in this collection come from that album. Shorter’s talent is immediately clear with his beautifully articulated singing lines as amply demonstrated on the disc’s opener, Wynton Kelly’s Wrinkles. Wayne was already penning his own tunes and two of his appeared on that disc though not on this survey. Later, in November, remarkably, he recorded his debut album as leader with Lee Morgan, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb. The rest of the disc is of further sessions recorded with Blakey’s Jazz Messengers with seven of the tunes penned by Shorter. They show an emerging talent that still required some polish which he certainly got with this iconic drummer’s band. In fact playing with Art’s bands was always considered as like being in school inasmuch as it was the perfect place for young up and coming musicians to practise and hone their craft and the number he’s been responsible for nurturing over the years runs into the dozens. Wayne’s progress is well charted in this survey and his journey through the years covered (1959-1962) show how he progressed from a young and inexperienced player who absorbed everything he learned and emerged at the end as a major talent in the world of jazz which position he has held throughout the ensuing 50 years. In the highly interesting and informative notes by Joop Visser he quotes Shorter as saying that many people are surprised to learn how many influences go towards the formation of a musician by way of explaining the background of his tribute to Lester Young in his Lester Left Town the title of the second disc and its first number.

It would be wrong of course not to mention the fantastic playing of other band members particularly the superlative drumming of (for me) the king of jazz drummers, Art Blakey, someone who could never ever be accused of merely banging away but who made his drums sing and made them speak in unique ways; a perfect example is to be found in the second disc’s Nelly Bly. Seven of the compositions on the second disc are also by Wayne whose talents in that direction were beginning to make themselves clear to everyone while as a player he was coming out from the shadow cast by trumpeter Lee Morgan and often outshone his colleague. Three of these tunes were played by a group put together by the Vee Jay label and entitled The Young Lions that included 23 year old alto saxophonist Frank Strozier whose talent is clearly demonstrated on Peaches and Cream. Moving on and back to the Jazz Messengers the notes assert that the included version of Dizzy Gillespie’s Night in Tunisia is among the most notable of this oft recorded standard and one must agree that this highly charged and hugely exciting eleven minute blast is simply jaw dropping in its unleashed energy with Lee Morgan’s superb solos, Bobby Timmons’ wonderful pianism, Jymie Merritt’s resonant bass and Art’s explosive talking drums that continue his remarkable solo while all the other bar Merritt contribute by playing percussion until the rest return and Morgan and Shorter each help with solos to round off a truly memorable rendition of this fantastic tune. Bobby Timmons’ compositional talent is amply highlighted with his gospel inspired So Tired as well as his undisputed brilliance on piano. Lee Morgan was also a composer and his tune Yama devoted to his wife Yamamoto is a deliciously beautiful one while the following Kozo’s Waltz is dedicated to his pet poodle and is a further example of shared spots, each musician making their individual contribution to a highly satisfying whole.

The third CD in the collection offers us the first eight numbers from a session recorded on October 11, 1960 where playing as a quartet led by Wayne, Art Blakey is joined by Cedar Walton on piano and Bob Cranshaw on bass. Five of these tunes are by Shorter whose playing continues to show the influence of John Coltrane in several facets from his improvisational approach to his probing the boundaries of the possible to produce innovative ways to explore his horn’s potential. There are those I know who are critical of the legacy left behind by Coltrane, so powerful and extensive was his influence but I can’t understand that opinion; for me that influence changed the way the saxophone was played and helped it grow up and become the iconic instrument of jazz. In these tunes Wayne Shorter shows how much that influence affected his playing and reveals a musician who was maturing fast to become his own man; influence doesn’t mean becoming a clone. There are some wonderfully melodious moments here, The Albatross, this CD’s title number being a case in point with some truly beautiful singing lines on what is effectively a solo with the other three musicians keeping discretely in the background. Another on which Wayne’s singing tone is brilliantly in evidence is Rodgers & Hart’s I Didn’t Know What Time It Was where his lyrical approach makes for a gorgeously rich confection. Moving on from the previous recording date by a couple of weeks sees Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers recorded live at New York’s Birdland kicking off with the longest number on the entire collection; 12 and a half minutes of high octane fuelled playing in Shorter’s Noise In The Attic with Wayne’s horn being put through its paces and with a fabulous solo from Bobby Timmons followed by a dialogue between Wayne and Lee Morgan and a long Art Blakey solo before the tune is rounded off.

Reading the notes it was interesting to see that following this session, in November and December 1960, the Messengers embarked on a tour of Europe, including England which is where I was privileged to see them – an experience I have never forgotten though I was not aware at the time of the other band members’ names as Art Blakey had been the principal draw for me; now I know who else I heard!

For the session in which the next two numbers were recorded the Messengers were joined by Curtis Fuller on trombone and his contribution is beautifully showcased on his own Alamode in particular but also on I Hear A Rhapsody and Gee Baby Ain’t I Good To You. At this point we hear the last of both Lee Morgan and Bobby Timmons both of whose drug habit had rendered them unreliable on stage and they were sacked by Blakey who recruited replacements in the shape of 23 year old Freddie Hubbard and Cedar Walton. For the last two tunes on this CD and the first three of the final one the Messengers were now a sextet, Curtis Fuller being retained on trombone. Cedar Walton’s Mosaic is the first of these to feature them all. It is a great tune which gives Curtis Fuller ample rein to show his mastery of an instrument that adds another dimension to any band. Freddie Hubbard’s Down Under rounds off the disc with Shorter’s horn soaring and diving across the scales while Fuller’s solid playing contrasts nicely with Hubbard’s restrained trumpet. The final CD of this wonderful collection is entitled Wayning Moments and kicks off with the first of seven more Shorter penned originals, the intricately composed Children Of The Night that has a great solo from Shorter himself. The oriental inspired Arabia written by Curtis Fuller contains some brilliant spots from all members of the band. Freddie Hubbard’s Crisis is another marvellously inventive and highly infectious tune which includes some superb solos from Hubbard, Shorter, Cedar Walton and Curtis Fuller with some beautifully articulated underpinning from Jymie Merritt’s bass with Art doing his usual superlative job at the back. The next eight tunes come from Wayne Shorter’s final album for the VeeJay label, recorded in Chicago which explains why this quintet includes two Chicago-based musicians on it, pianist Eddie Higgins who penned this CD’s title track and Marshall Thompson who was The Eddie Higgins trio’s drummer. Starting with the neat tune Black Orpheus written by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luis Bonfa it shows what Jobim was producing before his hit The Girl From Ipanema brought him to prominence. The next two numbers Dead End and Devil’s Island both by Shorter show how much great material can be fitted into small packages. The notes exclaim surprise at the choice of the obscure tune Moon Of Manakoora by Frank Loesser and Alfred Newman that appeared in the John Ford movie Hurricane from way back in 1937 but it only goes to shows what knowledge people like Shorter have and how they can ferret out such tunes and bring them back in a completely different guise to make hits from them. Shorter’s Powder Keg is well named for it fairly explodes with ideas. Eddie Higgins’ Wayning Moments a tune in subdued mood sees Shorter waxing lyrical while Freddie Hubbard attaches a cup mute that matches the low key mood of the tune. Dedicated to the doctor who delivered Shorter’s first daughter Callaway Went That-A-Way is a fast foot tapping tune that has both Shorter and Hubbard doing great things. The last of this set is All Or Nothing At All with Shorter demonstrating what a wonderfully sweet tone he could achieve. The very last three tracks of this survey see us back in the Jazz Messengers’ stable with a sextet including Hubbard, Fuller and Reggie Workman on bass from a session recorded in late October 1962. Sweet ‘N’ Sour is a jazz waltz that’s full of fizzing energy and This Is For Albert a beautiful tribute to pianist Bud Powell, both of which are now considered as standards. The final tune is by Freddie Hubbard and Thermo is as hot as its title.

Having spent five years as a messenger and learned a huge amount in terms of musicianship and teamwork within a small group Shorter finally decided to move on and responded to the call from Miles Davis to join him in California and he remained a part of Davis’ quintet from 1964 to 1970 when along with Joe Zawinul he formed the ground breaking Weather Report, a band that lasted until 1985. For eleven years he then led his own highly successful quartet that performed worldwide. As the brochure informs us in its closing words Wayne Shorter has only recently re-signed for the Blue Note label and the album Without The Net became his first for them in over 40 years and as Joop Visser says “The man has plenty to tell us yet”.

This 4 CD set is an invaluable contribution to charting the development of a true jazz original as well as an archive of some superlative jazz from the late 1950s and early1960s that was such a wonderfully creative time. At the super budget price charged by ProperBox and with a sound that is clean and crisp this is a set that no jazz lover will want to be without and should fly off the shelves!

Steve Arloff



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