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Speak No Evil
Vinyl record
Rare 1996 JAzz LP Repressed ON Ltd Edition Heavyweight Vinyl - Remastered From Anaklog Tapes

On the spectrum of jazz challenges, Wayne Shorter’s “Speak No Evil” appears to lean toward the easy side. The title track of the eminent saxophonist and composer’s 1964 masterpiece Speak No Evil sits in a comfortable and utterly approachable medium swing. Its primary theme is a series of long tones outlining placid, open-vista harmony. Its bridge resembles something from the notebook of Thelonious Monk – a simple staccato motif that stairsteps up and down, each phrase defined by strategic accents.

Yet as often happens in the music of Wayne Shorter, things are not entirely what they seem. There are layers. The notes of the melody tell one story; the chords nudge the musicians someplace else, a realm where theory lessons are of limited value and instinct matters more than intellect. To thrive in this place, the musicians have to relinquish the tricks of the jazz trade – the lightning-fast bebop runs, the killer licks they lean on to navigate chord changes. The tune, simple though it may be, comes with its own specific language – a trait it shares with many of Shorter’s pieces. Before diving into the conversation, the improviser has to discover the specific quirks of the form, its textures and temperament. How challenging is this? Even Shorter, who wrote the tune, sometimes struggles. He begins “Speak No Evil” by repeating a deftly tongued single note over and over, as though chopping his way into new territory. Shorter’s first few lines are simple declarations with a smidgen of blues in them – he’s not thinking about solo hijinks, he’s just trying to hang with the slalom course that is his creation. As he steers around tight curves, his lines coalesce into a kind of spontaneous lyricism – he’s singing through the horn, linking seemingly disconnected phrases into one (!) hauntingly memorable chorus. The subsequent soloists embrace his melody-first example when improvising: trumpeter Freddie Hubbard blows wistful then tender then fierce; pianist Herbie Hancock follows spry modal lines into quiet introspective corners.

This subtle “guiding” of soloists is a crucial component of Speak No Evil, and much of Wayne Shorter’s compositional output. The last of three monumental works Shorter recorded in 1964 (the others are Night Dreamer and Juju), this album frequently turns up on shortlists of essential jazz, and one reason is Shorter’s ability to coax those around him out of their comfort zones, and into new ways of playing. Shorter’s melodies encourage musicians to stretch, and so do his vividly imagined harmonic environments – playgrounds, really. No other jazz figure found such innovative ways to balance hard bop rhythmic fire against delicately loosened (yet, crucially, still tonal) harmony. And where some contemporaries built brainy maze-like contraptions, Shorter went straight for the heart, trusting that the poignancy he embedded in his structures would stir something similar within the soloists. The moods he explores here are deep and absorbing, far from typical jazz club fare: “Dance Cadaverous” offers a macabre tour of a haunted house (or, perhaps, a haunted mind), while the keening octaves of “Infant Eyes” sketch human vulnerability with a rare sustained empathy. Incredibly, these pieces become deeper and thicker in the solo passages, as each of the players gingerly endeavors to enhance the beauty already on the page.

That’s what every composer wants – the chance for the vague notions he scribbles on paper to take root, expand and blossom as music. Shorter managed that with astounding consistency over the years, creating a songbook that’s regularly described as the “mother lode” of jazz composition. That songbook has many riches – some are stone simple, some merely sound simple, and some are deceptively sophisticated and complex. It’s a vast trove of heady music, and the high-level sorcery at work within Speak No Evil is a


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Witch Hunt
Dance Cadaverous
Speak No Evil
Infant Eyes
Wild Flower

Last FM Information on Wayne Shorter

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Wayne Shorter (born August 25, 1933) is an American jazz composer and saxophonist. Shorter has recorded dozens of albums as a leader, and appeared on dozens more with others. Many of his compositions have become standards. Shorter was born in Newark, New Jersey, and attended Newark Arts High School. He was encouraged by his father to take up the saxophone as a teenager (his brother Alan became a trumpeter). After graduating from New York University in 1956 Shorter spent two years in the US Army, during which time he played briefly with Horace Silver, and after his discharge from the army with Maynard Ferguson. In 1959 Shorter joined Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers. He stayed with Blakey for five years, and eventually became musical director for the group. In 1964, Miles Davis persuaded Shorter to leave Blakey and join the Miles Davis Quintet alongside Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams. Davis had been searching for a saxophonist to replace John Coltrane for some time, and the new quintet is considered by many to have been Davis's strongest working group. Shorter composed extensively for Davis ("Prince of Darkness", "ESP", "Footprints", "Sanctuary", and many others; on some albums he provided half of the compositions). Herbie Hancock had this to say of Shorter's tenure in the group: "The master writer to me, in that group, was Wayne Shorter. He still is a master. Wayne was one of the few people who brought music to Miles that didn't get changed." Davis said: "Wayne is a real composer. He writes scores, write the parts for everybody just as he wants them to sound. He also brought in a kind of curiosity about working with musical rules. If they didn't work, then he broke them, but with musical sense; he understood that freedom in music was the ability to know the rules in order to bend them to your own satisfaction and taste." Simultaneously with his time in the Miles Davis quintet, Shorter recorded several albums for Blue Note Records, featuring almost exclusively his own compositions. He also recorded occasionally as a sideman (again, mainly for Blue Note) with Donald Byrd, McCoy Tyner, Grachan Moncur III, Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, and band mates Hancock and Williams. Until 1968 he played tenor saxophone exclusively; by the early 1970s, however, he chiefly played soprano saxophone. Shorter remained in Davis's band after the breakup of the quintet in 1968, playing on early jazz fusion recordings including In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew (both 1969). His last live dates and studio recordings with Davis were in 1970. In 1970, along with keyboardist Joe Zawinul (also a veteran of the Miles Davis group), Shorter formed Weather Report. Other original members were bassist Miroslav Vitous, percussionist Airto Moreira, and drummer Alphonse Mouzon. Shorter and Zawinul co-led the group until late 1985 with a variety of other musicians, and separately wrote most of Weather Report's material. Shorter also recorded critically acclaimed albums as leader, notably Native Dancer, which featured Brazilian composer and vocalist Milton Nascimento, and Atlantis. After leaving Weather Report, Shorter continued to record and lead groups in jazz fusion styles, and contributed to several albums by Joni Mitchell. He has also maintained an occasional working relationship with Herbie Hancock, including appearances on several of Hancock's albums, the VSOP band (essentially a revival of the 1960s Miles Davis quintet with Freddie Hubbard substituting for Davis), and a tribute album recorded shortly after Davis's death with Hancock, Carter, Williams and Wallace Roney. Shorter formed his current band in 2000, the first permanent acoustic group under his leadership. The quartet is composed of pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Brian Blade. Two albums of live recordings featuring this quartet have been released (Footprints Live (2001) and Beyond the Sound Barrier (2005)). The quartet has received great acclaim from fans and critics, and the musicians have come to consider themselves family on and off stage. Shorter's 2003 album Alegria received a 2004 Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Jazz Album; it features the quartet with a host of other musicians, including pianist Brad Mehldau, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and former Weather Report percussionist Alex Acuña. Shorter's wife Ana Maria and their niece Dalila were both killed on TWA Flight 800 in 1996, and he married Carolina Dos Santos, a close friend of Ana Maria, in 1999. Shorter is a Nichiren Buddhist. Read more on User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.

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