Ahead of an exclusive UK performance by the ‘world’s greatest living jazz composer’ at Town Hall Birmingham on Thursday 1 November 2012, we asked a handful of jazz musicians and fans to name their favourite Wayne Shorter works.
Listen to a selection of the tracks and albums on Spotify here whilst you read on!
Teru, taken from Adam’s Apple (Blue Note, 1987)
I think this is one of his most beautiful compositions. In his solo I love the emotional way in which he plays, and the beautiful vocal quality to his rendition of the melody really speaks to me.– Jean Toussaint, saxophonist
Spring (Blue Note, 1965)
Tenor is the defining instrument of modern jazz, just as cornet was in the early days. Best of all is the sound of two tenors working together, complementing and completing one another’s moves and thoughts, turning the cutting contest into a collaboration. This is actually a Tony Williams album in which Wayne Shorter and Sam Rivers pair up in the frontline, a combination which sets in motion a waterfall of ideas: gnarled melodic phrases, rhythmic statements that flow freely with a warm and edgy sound, basking in the spacious bustle of a rhythm section that listens as intently as it plays. We don’t need to know that Rivers preceded Shorter in the tenor chair of the mid-60s Miles quintet that set a new path for so many of us. We don’t need to know that jazz history was quietly being made one afternoon in August 1965. We just need to soak in the beautiful sound of the tenor saxophone being played the way it should. Don’t just listen to one track: listen to the whole album, and when you’re done – put it on again.– Trevor Lines, bass player
Wildflower, from Speak No Evil (Blue Note, 1965)
This piece represents for me one of those rare moments of perfect balance, simplicity and complexity, musical economy and exuberance, 32 bars/ABAC song form but phrasing all over the place, and form seemingly ever-expanding, unity of the written and the spontaneous, and all the incredible individual playing here merging into a group energy that keeps the rest of us looking out for ‘wild flowers’ for the rest ouf our years.– Hans Koller, pianist and bandleader
Infant Eyes, taken from Speak No Evil (Blue Note, 1965)
It’s very hard to choose just one track but I think it has to be this gorgeous ballad – it’s the most beautifully played melody, full of soul, it’s just wonderful saxophone playing that sounds so much like the human voice, Wayne’s sound goes straight to the heart!– Julian Siegel, saxophonist and bandleader
Yes or No, taken from JuJu (Blue Note, 1964)
This track epitomises the essence of the mid-60’s post-bop Blue Note sound that was synonymous with the Rudy Van Gelder sessions. The intensity of the band (probably influenced by the musicians coming together after working with John Coltrane and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers) is further enhanced with the textbook comping of McCoy Tyner on piano, together with the driving force of Reggie Workman on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. Wayne’s sound starts to take on an ‘edgier’ quality (an influence from John Coltrane perhaps?) and the rawness of the sound is something that really resonates with me. JuJu was a monumental album for me, and introduced me to the amazing quality of Wayne Shorter’s compositions, sound and arranging skills. Definitely a Yes as opposed to a No…– Chris Proctor, THSH programme coordinator
Alegria (Verve, 2003)
I like to cheat and quote the whole album. I love Wayne’s writing and the way he has transferred his style to a semi-orchestral setting.– Tony Dudley-Evans, THSH jazz adviser