Wayne Shorter Speak No Evil

Wayne Shorter ‘Speak No Evil’

Wayne Shorter’s entire @bluenoterecords run is great, but if pressed I’d have to say this one is my favorite. Every time I play it I enjoy it a bit more—I don’t know that there’s a bigger or better endorsement of an album. It’s everything one could ask for: thrilling compositions that are hummable, memorable, engaging and full of surprises; a band that plays with gravitas, swing and telepathy; and a recording that captures the energy, power and nuance of the session. If this were the first jazz record you ever heard, you’d have picked a fantastic entry point. Veteran jazz listeners return to it again and again for good reason. The year was 1964 and Wayne brought along 2 of his Miles Davis second great quintet band mates Herbie Hancock (piano) and Ron Carter (bass) who by this point had both stage & studio experience enough with Wayne’s music to knock it out of the park. Add firebrand trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and drum powerhouse Elvin Jones and it’s no wonder that ‘Speak No Evil’ rises above great. This record should loom large in every jazz collection. This is Music Matters MMBST-84194, reissued in 2015 and sounding SPECTACULAR

Miles Davis ‘In a Silent Way’ (Directions in Music by Miles Davis)

Released 50 years ago today, this album is ahead of its time, even now. Miles established the ground rules of framework and freedom. Producer Teo Macero leveraged technology in music-making that has since become nearly ubiquitous. The band—Wayne Shorter (soprano sax), Herbie Hancock & Chick Corea (electric piano), Joe Zawinul (organ, elec piano), John McLaughlin (guitar), Dave Holland (bass), and Tony Willams (drums)—all trusted in the creative process. The result: a dreamy, meditative voyage as @milesdavis ushered in a new era in jazz, once again re-writing the rulebook as he saw fit and trailblazing a new trajectory for the genre and for himself. This album’s impact, influence and significance in music, culture and technology continues to resonate. Anything with that much power is deserving of repeat spins, discussion and respect. Happy 50th ‘In a Silent Way’—I don’t think you’ll ever act your age

Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers ‘Africaine’

Wayne Shorter makes his Jazz Messengers debut on this Art Blakey session recorded 10 Nov 1959, though this particular album was shelved for over 20 years, eventually seeing release in 1981. Perhaps it was simply a desire to avoid flooding the market with excellent jazz LPs, but this one sits alongside numerous other @bluenoterecords LPs of the 1950s/1960s that were vaulted instead of released. As a result, they inevitably get compared to other albums of the era…records that have multi year head starts in terms of listening, critical analysis and debate. Therefore, these vaulted orphans risk being pre-judged as not quite worthy. After all, if they were any good, why weren’t they released in the first place? A mystery…it’s not an issue of quality. While their eventual release in the late 1970s/early 80s either as Japanese-only titles or as part of the Blue Note LT series was certainly welcome, the relative rarity of the Japan-only titles, and the frankly crap artwork of the LT series didn’t help make them a equal part of the Blue Note conversation. An extra shame in the case of this smokin’ hard bop title ‘Africaine’ which was a bit of a “middle child” recorded in between Blakey’s Jazz Messengers all-time classic ‘Moanin’ and ’The Big Beat’, featuring the debut of Wayne Shorter as composer and Jazz Messenger. Joining @wayne.shorter and Blakey are Lee Morgan (trumpet), Walter Davis Jr. (piano), Jymie Merritt (bass) and Dizzy Reece, here eschewing his usual trumpet and playing congas! The Shorter/Morgan frontline always delivers, and while they’d certainly play more renown dates, this one isn’t to be missed. The good news is that this album is widely available digitally. The bad news is that Blue Note seems hellbent on keeping the vinyl scarce—other than a second-hand copy, the only other place to get it is part of the limited edition Blue Note Review box set. High marks for the pressing though—an ace job on an all-analog cut that sounds fantastic