Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Wayne Shorter Night Dreamer Blue Note 1964

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, the last Jeff Bridges record could be considered one of them...Has Wayne Shorter officially come back to the fold and signed with Blue Note records to expand what little traditional jazz base they have left? Outside of the great Joe Lovano we have Jason Moran who when recording for Blue Note sounds like ECM light and then we have Robert Glasper gone hip-hop. Not that the Glasper Experiment is bad, it simply is not part of the old school jazz foundation Blue Note was built on. Now labels such as HighNote/Savant and Positone have either caught up to or passed Blue Note when it comes to swing.

May 3 2012 it was officially announced Wayne Shorter is returning to Blue Note.

A label in desperate need of stability in the traditional jazz market. To mark the first of what will hopefully be many more positive moves coming during the Don Was era, I wanted to take a quick look at one of the most over looked of the Shorter discography while at Blue Note. Originally released in 1964, Night Dreamer has always carried the reputation of being "good" but not "great." Lee Morgan on trumpet, McCoy Tyner on piano, Elvin Jones on drums and Reggie Workman on bass and "good" is the best you can do? Granted taste is subjective but the fascinating aspect of this release is Wayne Shorter "unplugged." Shorter's hard bop roots strengthened by his time with Art Blakey while evident are simply dialed down a notch and that true working band feel with importance placed on all the voices is the norm not the exception. The music is indeed the message and the focal point, not one specific soloist. Shorter gets in, says what he needs to say in a couple of choruses and gets out.

Another significance to this recording aside from being Shorter's debut as a leader for the label is that this was seemingly the release to show case a new way of thinking in the bebop arena. A spiritual world view, an evolving society - oddly enough a message still echoed today by artists such as Robert Glasper. The more things change the more they stay the same. Shorter went on to play with Miles Davis for a decade. A great many publications list Wayne Shorter as the greatest living jazz composer. While the title of greatest living jazz composer can be argued to death, I'll substitute the word "visionary" for composer.

Night Dreamer carries only seven tunes including one alternate take. This is a unique sonic snapshot in time of what could lay claim to being one of the best quintets ever to grace a stage or recording studio but captured at a time of introspection and personal growth early in their career. Releases like JuJu may have some more of the recognizable Shorter compositions but the zen like approach of less is more is hard to ignore with this prelude of things to come. A great deal of the compositions are in minor keys which brings forth the darker feeling while a deceptively subtle positive swing is found like a golden thread in a tapestry. A cerebral approach that well over forty years later sounds as vibrant and relevant today as it did in 1964.

Welcome back Wayne Shorter to Blue Note, a tremendous shot in the arm to hopefully again make Blue Note Records the finest in jazz since 1939.

Tracks: Night Dreamer; Oriental Folk Song; Virgo; Black Nile; Charcoal Blues; Armegeddon; Virgo ( alternate take).

Personnel: Wayne Shorter: tenor saxophone; Lee Morgan: trumpet; McCoy Tyner: piano; Reggie Workman: bass; Elvin Jones: drums.