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Wayne Shorter: The Soothsayer

Wayne Shorter SoothsayerWayne Shorter Soothsayer
Wayne Shorter: The Soothsayer
(1965 Blue Note LT 988)

Side A:
The Big Push

Side B:
The Soothsayer
Lady Day
Valse Triste

Original Liner Notes:
by Michael Cuscuna
Of the eight "straight ahead" recording sessions that Wayne Shorter made for Blue Note from 1964 to 1967, only three featured a front line that extended beyond quartet of quintet format. This date, recorded on March 4, 1965 and released here for the first time, features James Spaulding and Freddie Hubbard. "The All Seeing Eye," recorded in October for the same year, added trombonist Grachan Moncur to the Shorter-Spaulding-Hubbard line. Finally, "Schizophrenia" from March 10, 1967 which was Wayne's last pure date, offered Spaulding and trombonist Curtis Fuller.

Considering that Shorter's first major gig found him arranging and composing for the Maynard Ferguson Orchestra, that he arranged a beautiful set of orchestra and septet charts for Freddie Hubbard's "The Body And The Soul" (Impulse) and that his final three years with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers sported a rich sounding three horn front line, it is curious that he did not delve further into this aspect of his remarkable talents on his own sessions.

Another very special aspect of this album is the presence to Tony Williams. While it may seem logical for him to be in this group because he and Shorter were members of the Miles Davis quintet of that day, it is interesting to note that the three preceding Shorter dates had Elvin Jones and the four following had Joe Chambers. It is especially enlightening to hear the Williams of this period work with McCoy Tyner. To my knowledge, they never recorded together again until McCoy's somewhat contrived "Supertrios" album in 1977. But in 1965, their realms were a great deal closer.

James Spaulding, the unsung hero of Blue Note in the sixties, was intorduced to the lable sharing the front line in Freddie Hubbard's quintet. He appeared over the years on sessions by Bobby Hutcherson, Grant Green, Horace Silver and many others. Originally from Indianapolis, Spaulding first made his presence felt in several fine editions of Sun Ra's orchestra in Chicago in the late fifties. Upon coming to New York, he was not only a regular at Blue Note sessions, but also worked in Hubbard's first working band, with Randy Weston and for the last half of the sixties with Max Roach's ensemble. During the seventies, he has been seen all too infrequently, recording his own album for Sonet in Scandinavia and appearing on discs by Kenny Barron and Woody Shaw among others.

Freddie Hubbard, who had appeared on Wayne's previous date "Speak No Evil" and would participate on the next one "The All Seeing Eye," worked side by side with the tenor saxophonist in Blakey's band from the fall of 1961 until March or 1964. Wayne and Freddie would, of course, work together again with the creation of V.S.O.P. in 1976 with Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams.

Ron Carter's supple, strong presence was felt on "Speak No Evil,"The All Seeing Eye" and "Schizophrenia." He and Wayne were band mates in the Miles Davis quintet and appeared together on such fine Blue Note dates as Lee Morgan's "The Procrastinator" and McCoy Tyner's "Expansions."

The Soothsayer is a burning, delightful descending line that engenders the kind of fire that makes Spaulding fly. He and Wayne steal the show here. Shorter launches his flight with those fragmented, punctuated lines that were a trademark of his playing in the sixties.

Shorter has always been a master composer of ballads. And his tribute to Billie Holiday Lady Day is no exception. He gives an unbelievable reading that is set off by a lovely, lyrical piano solo from Tyner.

A year and a half before the session, Wayne had recorded his own Dance Cadaverous (on Speak No Evil) and credited the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius' Valse Triste as an inspirational source point. Here he arranges Sibelius' own music for the sextet with solos from all except Williams.

Coincidentally, this ensemble is VSOP with McCoy in place of Hancock and with Spaulding added. But this was no planned all-star reunion. This was merely the music of the period played unselfconsciously by the musicians who were playing it best.


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