Introducing Wayne Shorter by Wayne Shorter (Vee-Jay Records, VJLP 3006)
Just the Facts: Upon first glance, (it’s rather clear) Shorter had a (heavyweight) crew for his first recording including Paul Chambers on bass, Jimmy Cobb on drums, Wynton Kelly on piano, and Lee Morgan on trumpet. Moreover, five out of the six songs are Wayne Shorter original compositions. This is the first of Shorter's three albums with Vee-Jay Records.
Initial Impression: Within seconds of listening to Shorter’s improvisation on Blues A La Carte, something quite interesting immediately comes to mind--stating that Shorter was heavily influenced by John Coltrane might be the understatement of the 20th century. At times, if it were not for Shorter’s heavier and more spread tone quality, I might actually think Coltrane were playing, though distinctive non-Coltraneesque Shorter is present for much of his solo and the remainder of the album (Coltraneesque Shorter returns for the head in Mack the Knife).
Wayne Shorter’s playing is definitely quite exceptional, though possibly not quite riveting. His compositions, on the other hand, are quite interesting, rather catchy, and riveting. The underlying rhythm section (Miles’ rhythm section) is quite worthy of a good listen as is Lee Morgan’s virtuosity on trumpet. Unfortunately, the recording quality is sometimes poor with intermittent static.
1) Blues A La Carte: (Irregular Form) Wayne Shorter, a muted Lee Morgan, and Wynton Kelly. (Note: Jimmy Cobb is playing with brushes on this piece.)
2) Harry’s Last Stand: (Blues) Wayne Shorter, Lee Morgan, Wynton Kelly, Shorter trading fours with Cobb, with Cobb taking over before head
3) Down in the Depths: (AABA) Wayne Shorter, Wynton Kelly, and Lee Morgan (three choruses each)
4) Pug Nose: Wayne Shorter, Lee Morgan, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers
5) Black Diamond: Wayne Shorter, Lee Morgan, Wynton Kelly
6) Mack the Knife: Wayne Shorter (alone on head), Lee Morgan, Wynton Kelly
Summary: This album is essential listening--definitely deserving at least a once through listen--by jazz lovers, serious saxophonists, and all fans of Shorter. The compositions are varied and interesting (a 13-bar head on Blues A La Carte with a 21-bar form). Moreover, as Shorter’s journey in many ways begins with this debut album, it is an ideal starting point for getting to know one of the greatest jazz composers and improvisers the world has known. We are very fortunate to be able to look back on Shorter’s growth and reference the unique qualities Shorter brings to this recording.