Thursday, August 03, 2006
Wayne Shorter part two...
More Wayne Shorter. 'Mahjong,' another of his 'exotic' titles, is from the 'Juju' album recorded with the big three from Coltrane's band of the time – Tyner, Workman and Jones. The Coltrane influence hangs heavy over this set (as mentioned in my earlier post) – not surprisingly, given the band's make up and Shorter's links to the tenor player. Yet - a fascinating record. 'Mahjong' is again one of those cunningly crafted pieces – 8 bars of minor seventh vamp, followed by another 8 where the chord drops a major third to a major seventh that restates the minor tonality. A 4 bar bridge modulates briefly away before returning to the home tonality for the last 8 bars. The 4 bar section is the typical Shorter touch, a transition from the predominantly modal feel of the composition – and unusual in being asymmetric by halving the 8 bar bridge that would have been expected.
Ushered in by Elvin Jones before Tyner drops into a minor vamp closely followed by Shorter stating the theme – a 4 bar phrase and 4 bar rest repeated across the two 8 bar sections, broken by the brief bridge and repeated again. Simple – but effective. Tyner takes a brief, pithy solo before Shorter comes in. Expansive, stretched notes, echoing the space that the theme contains. This is where you can mark his difference from Coltrane, who would have undoubtedly plugged in more holes. He goes straight back into the theme and repeats it then solos some more up to a fade – giving the performance a slightly different structure to the usual theme plus solo theme and out. A track that breathes a lot – it's seven minutes forty three seconds but seems spread out, without that much going on – more about group playing, perhaps, and a sculptured trajectory.
Tony Williams recorded the album 'Spring' in 1965 and invited the tenors Sam Rivers and Wayne Shorter to be his front line. ''Extras' swirls in with the saxophones criss-crossing before going into a solo underpinned by Peacock's fast, fluent walking and counter-punching and deft cymbal work. (Herbie Hancock, the pianist on the rest of the date, drops out on this track). Some rapid fire tenor here, hassling at phrases. Peacock darkly deep thrums as the cymbals patter like rain at the end winding down the tempo to a stroll as the second tenor (Rivers, I think) enters, vocalised flutters and speedy runs as the tempo picks up again. Drops again and the tenor is left alone to blow fast strings of notes before the band come back, saxes moving in counterpoint to slowly die on a shuffling few bars from Williams that comes to a drum beat dead stop. Recorded a year after 'Juju', this is a freer track: Williams' composition is more diffuse than the sharper focus of Shorter, but an interesting session with the Davis band members (Rivers was to play sporadically with Miles but never quite fitted the template) given a looser rein than usual away from their imperious leader. Peacock, who had been playing with Albert Ayler, very much holds his own, especially in his solos, and brings in a breath of the wilder winds blowing in the freejazz arenas. Compare his playing here to that of Reggie Workman on 'Mahjong' and elsewhere on 'Juju.' Although with no piano on this track, Peacock has to step up – and Tyner's thunderous left hand blocks a lot of bass frequencies perhaps (as on many Coltrane tracks). Yet throughout this album, Peacock is exceptionally good and makes his present heard – Workman is more felt, perhaps...
Both the tenors make good use of the space, the older Rivers coming from similar improvisational areas as Shorter and possessing something of the same angularity and oblique sense of structure (Rivers is, of course, a mighty - yet underrated - composer as well).
(Wayne Shorter (tenor saxophone); McCoy Tyner (piano); Reggie Workman (bass); Elvin Jones (drums).
(Tony Williams (drums); Sam Rivers, Wayne Shorter (tenor saxophones); Herbie Hancock (piano); Gary Peacock (bass) ).