Jose Reyes

Jose Reyes

Wayne Shorter’s Abandoned Back-to-Back Masterpieces

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All Jazz fans know very well, Wayne Shorter’s most notable years as a leader and when he came into his own was the 60’s. So then why were two of his masterpiece recordings completely abandoned and held back for 14 to 15 years? It’s a total mystery to me, no logical reasoning could honestly convince me, in any way, for me to accept the course Blue Note took in this particular case. It’s not fair for the listeners in any way and it’s certainly not the first time that Blue Note had decided to hold back a recording only to release it long after. Off hand, I could mention Tina Brooks and Lee Morgan who had this done to them as well. To add insult to injury, these two Jazz giants never saw it happen because they were released posthumously. There’s a list of great recordings that have been released posthumously because the artists passed away suddenly and that’s totally understandable. Blue Note was also known to hold back recordings because the artists were recording multiple albums in the same year, sometimes at the same time. Not to mention, they were also appearing on each other’s recordings as well, interchanging back and forth, creating all sorts of historical albums at the same time. The 60’s and even the early part of the 70’s were a golden time for Jazz and here I would sympathize and understandably agree, it’s just too much at once and some recording must be held back a few years. But to wait so long, 14 to 15 years, that’s more like a major miscalculation! I use that word because running a record label in those days was very challenging and not so profitable as one would think with the production of these legendary albums. Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff were not about the money at all and suffered many setbacks because they were more about the love of Jazz music and also more about keeping it alive. They never gave into “Pop” music and concentrated on real quality music that was played by the best musicians that ever walked this planet! So before you get upset, please consider this, these artists were way ahead of the times. Lion and Wolff held and kept Blue Note going throughout all these unknown difficult years. One would, of course, think they were very successful after looking through the Blue Note catalog now, but they were struggling all the times. Here’s a great documentary about them (BBC’s Blue Note Parts 1 through 6) that will put everything more into perspective concerning the difficulties they went through with running a record label in the 60’s:

History of Blue Note (BBC)

2 Videos

“The Soothsayer” features 5 original pieces from Shorter, as he is accompanied by 5 other legends, McCoy Tyner on piano, Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Ron Carter on bass, Tony Williams on drums and the addition of another saxophonist (alto) James Moody. I very creative album with a very creative sextet, hard to beat! Here’s more on this incredible album. Listen to this magnificent Shorter composition “Lady Day”:

 

“Et Cetera” was just as innovative and by no means did not disappoint the listeners. Well, that’s when it was released, more than a decade after in 1980. By then Shorter was heavy into “Jazz Fusion.” This is why I argue the decision to release these two albums so much after their recordings. They became underappreciated, camouflaged by this, the new Jazz genre. They were never truly admired and appreciated. What a shame and as I mentioned before, although Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff did their best to keep the label alive, they underestimated the “value” of these two masterpieces. Here’s more on this amazing album with just another Wayne Shorter Composition, “Toy Tune”:

 

The question: What was the reasoning behind Blue Note’s very late release (14 and 15 years after) of two iconic Wayne Shorter recordings, “The Soothsayer” and “Et Cetera,” why would they wait so long? was raised on my “Classic Jazz Talk” space on Quora

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