Night Dreamer by Wayne Shorter (Blue Note BLP 4173)
Just the facts: Wayne Shorter, still dedicated to the tenor saxophone in 1964, brings together Lee Morgan on trumpet, McCoy Tyner on Piano, Reggie Workman on bass, and Elvin Jones on drums for his debut recording on Blue Note. Alfred Lion produced the album, which was recorded in the spring of 1964.
Initial Impressions: Most jazz enthusiasts quickly recognize that Wayne Shorter brings together John Coltrane’s rhythm section and Art Blakey’s horn section in this album. The album’s opening tune, Night Dreamer, comes to life with an expressive yet brief McCoy Tyner cadenza followed by an eight (8)-bar introduction by the rhythm section. During those brief moments, a little less thirty (30)-seconds, one might think they were listening to a Coltrane album; that feeling is quite palpable. But when the melody line starts, there is no confusing that Wayne Shorter is at the helm with his deep, rich, voice asserting a commanding presence.
Night Dreamer: Wayne Shorter’s improvisation over his proprietary changes in the sixteen (16)-bar jazz waltz Night Dreamer seems more concentrated and less reliant on even his mild application of sheets of sound, which is a somewhat different (but not all that much differnt), approach from Shorter’s more linear and vertical playing in his change heavy and bop-focused Vee Jay Recordings. While this tune is change heavy, Shorter seems to somewhat ignore them often relying on the blues scale and other forms of expressiveness to pass the time. Lee Morgan follows his lead, and McCoy Tyner nails the changes before handing it back to Shorter Shorter then reiterates a blues heavy emphasis before returning to the head, with him again soloing during a faded ending. In all, I had the feeling Shorter was playing over an underlying modal blues on this tune
Oriental Folk Song: This is my second favorite tune (head) on the Night Dreamer album, but Shorter’s playing so blue’s heavy, I am wondering whether he thought Blue Note required him to play blue’s notes. It truly drives me nuts.
Virgo: A rather tender and beautiful ballad with an endearing melody; both the composition and Shorter’s playing are gorgeous. Virgo is the absolute highlight of Night Dreamer. This tune definitely makes my playlist as a Shorter favorite.
Black Nile: Great bop head—Shorter’s composition is fantastic on this piece. After, Shorter solos, Morgan plays over the changes. I like Morgan’s improvisation on Black Nile better than Shorter’s. and McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones are fantastic.
Charcoal Blues:If there is a gem in this tune, someone else will have find it for you if you don’t find it yourself. I'm not ready for it.
Armageddon: I like Armageddon. If I were listening to this album, absent Virgo and perhaps Oriental Folk Song having previously heard this one recording, I might be wishing for Armageddon. This tune reminds me of the music that might be played in one of those 1960s or early 1970s police shows while the patrol car is driving through the streets of Los Angeles. Shorter’s solo is pretty flowing and fits the piece nicely.