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An artist undergoes many stages in his personal and creative development. Typically this can range from a period of youthful experimentation, a mid-period where he hit his professional peak, followed by the mature reflection of an old master. With Wayne Shorter, who has towered over the tenor saxophone for 40-odd years, it is difficult to assess where one phase ends and another begins. For me, some of his greatest work was done for Blue Note in the 1960s.
A new double-CD compilation, The Classic Blue Note Recordings of Wayne Shorter, offers a retrospective of his tenure at the label. The first CD chronicles his work as leader from 1964-1970 and contains tracks from his most creative period as a leader. All of the usual suspects get a mention: “Yes or No,” “Speak no Evil,” “Adam’s Apple” and “Footprints.” The second CD deals with Shorter's work as a sideman in the company of such luminaries as Art Blakey’s Jazz Messegners, Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan and Michel Petrucciani. While his sideman work is not quite as inspired as the music on the first CD, it is all still great Jazz, and should appeal to anybody who likes post-bop. The compositions where Wayne shares the front-line with Lee Morgan are particularly impressive On track 3, “Ping-Pong,” the music almost boils over as the two exchange riff after riff.
Projects of this nature always attract criticism from fans. I was rather amused to see the recent negative comments being passed by fans on the Blue Note website. Luckily, the main criticisms concerned the relative brevity of this compilation. No matter. If you love jazz you probably own most of this anyway. If not, then shame on you. However, if you don’t own any Wayne Shorter but feel you should, this is the ideal place to start.
Track Listing: Black Nile, Yes or No, Speak no Evil, Infant Eyes, Witch Hunt, Angola,
Etcetera, Adam's Apple, Footprints, Tom Thumb, Super Novas, Calm, The
Chess Players, Lester Left Town, Ping Pong, United, Marie Antoinette,
Children of the Night, Contemplation, Rio, Limbo, Nefertiti