Speak No Evil

This past week has been spent by listening to and practicing the music from Wayne Shorter's quintessential album SPEAK NO EVIL.  Thom Jurek of AllMusic describes it as "the avant-garde meets the hard-bop of the 1950s head on and everybody wins."  The compositions are so deep you could write a text book on them and the playing is equally phenomenal.  Freddie Hubbard, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Elvin Jones.  What a line up!  You can hear a little free jazz, avant-garde, bebop and modal playing in everyone's solos.  Recorded on Christmas Eve in 1964, it truly marks that time in history when all these genres of jazz had developed enough to be mixed together.  

This Wednesday I will be joined with Detroit drummer Bill Higgins who said something that got me thinking.  He noted that Wayne had recorded the albums Night Dreamer, JuJu and Speak No Evil, had transitioned from being Art Blakey's musical director and started with Miles Davis...all within nine months!  I did a little more digging and found out that in that year (1964) in addition to his own three albums, he recorded Search For The New Land (L. Morgan), Indestructible (A. Blakey), The Big Beat (A. Blakey), Pices (A. Blakey), Some Other Stuff (G. Moncur III), The Individualism Of Gil Evans (G. Evans), and Miles In Berlin (M. Davis). 10 fabulous recordings in a year!

What were the other cats up to that year?  Herbie and Ron just joined Miles Davis' new quintet, Herbie Ron and Freddie recorded Empyrean Isles.  Elvin Jones was really busy that year: Judgement (A. Hill), Today and Tomorrow (M. Tyner), In 'n Out (J. Henderson), Night Dreamer (W. Shorter), The Individualism of Gil Evans (G. Evans), Crescent (J. Coltrane), Matador (G. Green), Tony Bennet Jazz (T. Bennet), Bob Brookmeyer and Friends (B. Brookmeyer), Solid (G. Green), Proof Positive (J.J. Johnson), JuJu (W. Shorter), Talkin' About (G. Green), Into Something' (L. Young), Inner Urge (J. Henderson), McCoy Tyner Plays Ellington (M. Tyner), A Love Supreme (J. Coltrane), Guitar Forms (K. Burrell) and finally, whew...Speak No Evil (W. Shorter)!  WOW! What a year for Elvin! Sure makes me feel lazy.

In Wayne's own words about the song selection for Speak No Evil, he says “I was thinking of misty landscapes with wild flowers and strange, dimly-seen shapes — the kind of places where folklore and legends are born.”  

It has been quite an education diving into this recording again after many years.  There is so much to learn from in the compositions, not to mention the improvising styles both individual and collective. Dance Cadaverous has at first glance strange harmonic movement, but what I discovered was a common thread that ties each chord change together.  He hides a shifting B minor triad through them all, sometimes altering one note but always returning to that B minor sound. It really makes the harmony sound veiled. I also really dig the patience Wayne has with using melodic motifs and sequences evidenced in Witch Hunt and Infant Eyes.  In similar fashion, Witch Hunt's melody stays the same while the chord shift underneath...pretty hip!  

All the technical stuff aside, I just want to get to those mystical landscapes.  Hopefully we can do this monumental recording justice.

peace,

James
 

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