JuJu by Wayne Shorter (Blue Note BLP 4182)
Just the Facts: In early August 1964, Wayne Shorter gathered in Rudy Van Gelder’s birthplace of Englewood, New Jersey with the same rhythm section from his Blue Note debut album, Night Dreamer: McCoy Tyner on Piano; Reggie Workman on bass; and, Elvin Jones on drums. They recorded eight original Wayne Shorter compositions.
Initial Impressions: Coltrane’s rhythm section is back, the album is being recorded only four months after Night Dreamer, Shorter is still committed to the tenor saxophone, and I really felt the Night Dreamer was a bit of a letdown. Is JuJu just going to be a regurgitation of Night Dreamer? Am I going to be listening to an album in which I expect to hear Wayne Shorter’s inspiration, John Coltrane?
Well, after listening to JuJu seventeen (17) times through, I can definitively offer that I consider JuJu to be the most first exceptional recording of Shorter’s albums up to 1964. For me, JuJu is Wayne Shorter’s debut, and it’s the first time the inspiring improvisational and compositional genius of the 21st century Wayne Shorter is copasetic with his younger self.
Juju: West African religious icon? I don't know, but it's a energizing little waltz with a great McCoy Tyner solo.
Deluge: A comfortable medium-slow swing, I found my singing the head to this tune for days afters listening to the piece. Shorter develops his solo with melodic richness and a full showcase of his uniquely beautiful yet strident voice. One of my favorite Shorter solos. McCoy Tyner does the same--amazing!
House of Jade: With a lovely McCoy Tyner opening, this ballad again exposes us to the eternity of Shorter's tenor voice.
Mahjong: Elvin Jones, then McCoy Tyner, then Wayne Shorter--truly amazing. Can you think of a more fitting name for a tune played by a quartet? And yes, by my standard, if you play a three person version of Mahjong, you have to play it as a trio.
Yes Or No: Wow, just wow!
Twelve More Bars To Go
Juju is one of best jazz recordings of all time. No more talk; just buy the album.