Speak No Evil
01. Witch Hunt
03. Dance Cadaverous
04. Speak No Evil
05. Infant Eyes
06. Wild Flower
07. Dance Cadaverous (Alternate take)
Bass – Ron Carter
Drums – Elvin Jones
Piano – Herbie Hancock
Tenor Saxophone – Wayne Shorter
Trumpet – Freddie Hubbard
Recording Date: December 24, 1964 at the Van Gelder Studio.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek [-]
On his third date for Blue Note within a year, Wayne Shorter changed the bands that played on both Night Dreamer and Juju and came up with not only another winner, but also managed to give critics and jazz fans a different look at him as a saxophonist. Because of his previous associations with McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones, and Reggie Workman on those recordings, Shorter had been unfairly branded with the “just-another-Coltrane-disciple” tag, despite his highly original and unusual compositions. Here, with only Jones remaining and his bandmates from the Miles Davis Quintet, Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter on board (with Freddie Hubbard filling out the horn section), Shorter at last came into his own and caused a major reappraisal of his earlier work. The odd harmonic frameworks used to erect “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum,” with its balladic structure augmented with a bluesy regimen of hard bop and open-toned modalism, create the illusion of a much larger band managing all that timbral space. Likewise on the title track, with its post-bop-oriented melodic line strewn across a wide chromatic palette of minors and Hancock‘s piano pushing through a contrapuntal set of semi-quavers, the avant-garde meets the hard bop of the ’50s head on and everybody wins. The loping lyric of the horns and Hancock‘s vamping in the middle section during Shorter‘s solo reveals a broad sense of humor in the saxophonist’s linguistics and a deep, more regimented sense of time and thematic coloration. The set ends with the beautiful “Wild Flower,” a lilting ballad with angular accents by Hancock who takes the lyric and inverts it, finding a chromatic counterpoint that segues into the front line instead of playing in opposition. The swing is gentle but pronounced and full of Shorter‘s singular lyricism as a saxophonist as well as a composer.
Freddie Hubbard (trumpet) Wayne Shorter (tenor saxophone) Herbie Hancock (piano) Ron Carter (bass) Elvin Jones (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, December 24, 1964
Recorded Christmas Eve (rapidly approaching) , two tracks went the distance to Take 25 (Fee Fi Fo Fum) and Take 27 (Dance Cadaverous). Everybody must have been tapping their watches! Shorter noted in his time with Miles Davis Second Quintet, Miles never discussed the music, there was never any rehearsal, because no-one knew what would happen next. But Shorter here in the studio, twenty or thirty takes, a perfectionist.
Musically, Speak No Evil sits in the centre of Blue Note’s mid-’60s post-bop maelstrom: Dolphy is Out to Lunch, McLean’s Destination is… Out, and Further Out, Hill is at a Point of Departure , Lee Morgan is in Search of New Land, Hancock alights on Empyrean Isles. Mystical/mythical titles, heraldic horn openings, controlled dissonances, brooding dense compositions, all exploring various shifting melodic terrains.
Graduating after five years at Blakey’s Jazz Messengers Academy, alumnus Wayne Shorter continued to develop his own personal voice. His tone is very individual: if Mclean’s alto is acid, Shorter’s tenor is sour, pungent, his lines sparse and skeletal, a Coltrane vocabulary but three quarters of the notes missing, harmonic progression held in place by anchor points, separated by intervals and pauses, but melodic ideas inherent in the tune.
In the three months up to recording Speak No Evil, Shorter had become a permanent member of Miles Davis second great quintet, one week recording with Davis for Columbia, another week leading his own ensemble at Englewood Cliffs for Blue Note.
His regular pick-up band bass and piano – Reggie Workman and McCoy Tyner – had to make way new friends Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter on loan from Davis, though Elvin Jones remained Shorter’s choice on drums (not Anthony Williams) : Jones characteristically scattering bombs, washes, crisp rolls and accents over the terrain. Jazz writer S. Victor Aaron aptly notes “The Carter/Jones undertow of swing pulls against the overall mysterious feeling of Shorter’s compositions” (I add)… which glide eerily on the surface above.
Though harmonically complex, Shorter’s compositions are often simple melodies which move in an unusual way, forged out of horn unison or horn harmony, giving way to a modal canvas for exploration. Hancock lays down chords but sparingly, only hinting at the intended harmony, contrasting block-chorded accents with bluesy lines and figures, dancing around like a boxer, punching and jabbing at the melodic flow.
Hubbard replaces bright and peppy Lee Morgan (last heard 6 months previously on Shorter’s Night Dreamer). Hubbard underplays, adding texture and colouring, or providing harmonies to Shorter: the post-bop oeuvre valued mood and melodic expression over solo virtuosity. Freddie could still turn up the heat when required, but the album is memorable not so much for Hubbard’s or Shorter’s playing, as for the functional unity of this individually brilliant group of five musicians.
Just three months later, Hancock launched his sequel to Speak No Evil, his iconic Maiden Voyage…another album you must have!
This really is remarkable music deserving of repeated play. Repeatedly. To wheel out the old cliché, as fresh today as it was 50 years ago. Or thanks to MM’s silky stereo and modern mix, perhaps even fresher.
MM deliver a luxurious widescreen presentation, left and right instruments extending beyond the boundaries of the speakers. Not quite as punchy in the rhythm section as some recordings, though it is hard to say how far this relates to engineering decisions now or then, perhaps the way Van Gelder recorded it, MM being sourced directly from actual original tapes. My vintage Liberty stereo pressing (see Collector’s Corner below) is markedly less spacious, with a more “mono-like” compressed stereo presentation.
For reasons unknown (to me) the MM is noticeably quieter than the Liberty and some of my other MM33s. However, the difference in volume can easily be compensated for by adjusting the happiness (volume) control . Having done this, the MM conveys the emotion in the music more strongly than my other vintage stereo reissues. A very satisfying listen that encouraged me to revisit the music in a fresh way.
In the tradition of Miles, Shorter pictures his wife Irene on the cover. What of the original Blue Note cover? By late 1963 Blue Note had abandoned their beautiful thick laminates for lighter card and semi-gloss flat paper finish, not as tactile, no longer the same object of desire. MM production values are premium, a pleasure to behold.
Francis Wolff trademark chiaroscuro recording studio photography in the finest art-quality rendering, the standard we expect from MM, value added. The boys are in performance, Shorter listening intently ..to .. umm.. take 27, I guess, it’s a wrap. The historical artefact is still the “real thing”. If it’s not within your budget to own a mint 1964 original, this is certainly the next best thing, cover-wise perhaps better.. beautiful in its own way.
Label: BST 84194 – Music Matters MM33 Review Copy
Original Liner Notes: Don Hickman, Jazz Editor, American Record Guide rendered readable at full screen in LJC Supa-Sharp Text™
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