Juju Wayne Shorter
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- 3House Of Jade06:52
- 5Yes Or No06:36
- 6Twelve More Bars to Go05:29
Info for Juju
Fulfilling the potential promised on his Blue Note debut, Night Dreamer, Wayne Shorter's Ju Ju was the first really great showcase for both his performance and compositional gifts. Early in his career as a leader Shorter was criticized as a mere acolyte of John Coltrane, and his use of Coltrane's rhythm section on his first two Blue Note albums only bolstered that criticism. The truth is, though, that Elvin Jones, Reggie Workman, and McCoy Tyner were the perfect musicians to back Shorter. Jones' playing at the time was almost otherworldly. He seemed to channel the music through him when improvising and emit the perfect structure to hold it together. Workman too seemed to almost instinctively understand how to embellish Shorter's compositions. McCoy Tyner's role as one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time was played here as well, and his light touch and beautiful, joyful improvisations would make him a much better match for Shorter than Herbie Hancock would later prove to be.
JuJu rests in the uphill portion of Shorter's creative peak. While the sidemen may have been an even better match for him than the ensembles he would put together for later albums, he was just beginning to find his footing as a leader. His performances were already showing evidence of great originality -- yes, they were influenced by Coltrane, but only in the way that they broke apart the structures of the bop sound to create a sound that had all of the variety and flexibility of the human voice. On later albums like Speak No Evil and The Soothsayer, however, Shorter would rise to an even higher level as a performer with more powerful, confident playing that reached farther afield in its exploration of melodic textures.
What really shines on JuJu is the songwriting. From the African-influenced title track (with its short, hypnotic, repetitive phrases) to the mesmerizing interplay between Tyner and Shorter on "Mahjong," the album (which is all originals) blooms with ideas, pulling in a world of influences and releasing them again as a series of stunning, complete visions. (Stacia Proefrock)
"...Shorter's improvisations, hypnotic in their effect, were contained in compositions with harmonies so interesting that he virtually never lapsed into the boredom that many Coltrane disciples, and Coltrane himself sometimes did in pieces with simplified harmonic structures..." (JazzTimes)
Wayne Shorter, tenor saxophone
McCoy Tyner, piano
Reggie Workman, bass
Elvin Jones, drums
Recorded at the Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey on August 3, 1964
Produced by Alfred Lion
Though some will argue about whether Wayne Shorter's primary impact on jazz has been as a composer or as a saxophonist, hardly anyone will dispute his overall importance as one of jazz's leading figures over a long span of time. Though indebted to a great extent to John Coltrane, with whom he practiced in the mid-'50s while still an undergraduate, Shorter eventually developed his own more succinct manner on tenor sax, retaining the tough tone quality and intensity and, in later years, adding an element of funk. On soprano, Shorter is almost another player entirely, his lovely tone shining like a light beam, his sensibilities attuned more to lyrical thoughts, his choice of notes becoming more spare as his career unfolded. Shorter's influence as a player, stemming mainly from his achievements in the 1960s and '70s, has been tremendous upon the neo-bop brigade who emerged in the early '80s, most notably Branford Marsalis. As a composer, he is best known for carefully conceived, complex, long-limbed, endlessly winding tunes, many of which have become jazz standards yet have spawned few imitators.
Shorter started on the clarinet at 16 but switched to tenor sax before entering New York University in 1952. After graduating with a BME in 1956, he played with Horace Silver for a short time until he was drafted into the Army for two years. Once out of the service, he joined Maynard Ferguson's band, meeting Ferguson's pianist Joe Zawinul in the process. The following year (1959), Shorter joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, where he remained until 1963, eventually becoming the band's music director. During the Blakey period, Shorter also made his debut on records as a leader, cutting several albums for Chicago's Vee-Jay label. After a few prior attempts to hire him away from Blakey, Miles Davis finally convinced Shorter to join his Quintet in September 1964, thus completing the lineup of a group whose biggest impact would leap-frog a generation into the '80s.
Staying with Miles until 1970, Shorter became at times the band's most prolific composer, contributing tunes like 'E.S.P.,' 'Pinocchio,' 'Nefertiti,' 'Sanctuary,' 'Footprints,' 'Fall' and the signature description of Miles, 'Prince of Darkness.' While playing through Miles' transition from loose post-bop acoustic jazz into electronic jazz-rock, Shorter also took up the soprano in late 1968, an instrument which turned out to be more suited to riding above the new electronic timbres than the tenor. As a prolific solo artist for Blue Note during this period, Shorter expanded his palette from hard bop almost into the atonal avant-garde, with fascinating excursions into jazz/rock territory toward the turn of the decade.
In November 1970, Shorter teamed up with old cohort Joe Zawinul and Miroslav Vitous to form Weather Report, where after a fierce start, Shorter's playing grew mellower, pithier, more consciously melodic, and gradually more subservient to Zawinul's concepts. By now, he was playing mostly on soprano, though the tenor would re-emerge more toward the end of WR's run. Shorter's solo ambitions were mostly on hold during the WR days, resulting in but one atypical solo album, Native Dancer, an attractive side trip into Brazilian-American tropicalismo in tandem with Milton Nascimento. Shorter also revisited the past in the late '70s by touring with Freddie Hubbard and ex-Miles sidemen Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams as V.S.O.P.
Shorter finally left Weather Report in 1985, but promptly went into a creative slump. Still committed to electronics and fusion, his recorded compositions from this point became more predictable and labored, saddled with leaden rhythm sections and overly complicated arrangements. After three routine Columbia albums during 1986-1988, and a tour with Santana, he lapsed into silence, finally emerging in 1992 with Wallace Roney and the V.S.O.P. rhythm section in the 'A Tribute to Miles' band. In 1994, now on Verve, Shorter released High Life, a somewhat more engaging collaboration with keyboardist Rachel Z.
In concert, he has fielded an erratic series of bands, which could be incoherent one year (1995), and lean and fit the next (1996). He guested on the Rolling Stones' Bridges to Babylon in 1997, and on Herbie Hancock's Gershwin's World in 1998. In 2001, he was back with Hancock for Future 2 Future and on Marcus Miller's M². Footprints Live! was released in 2002 under his own name, followed by Alegría in 2003 and Beyond the Sound Barrier in 2005. Given his long track record, Shorter's every record and appearance are still eagerly awaited by fans in the hope that he will thrill them again. Blue Note Records released Blue Note's Great Sessions: Wayne Shorter in 2006. (Richard S. Ginell). Source: Blue Note Records.