Jazz CD Reviews

Wayne Shorter – The Complete Columbia Albums Collection – Columbia/ Sony Legacy (6 CDs)

The Columbia years - from Weather Report to four albums exposed to a new audience….

Published on December 5, 2011

Wayne Shorter – The Complete Columbia Albums Collection – Columbia/ Sony Legacy  8869792042 [12/6/11] (6 CDs) ****: 

CD 1: Weather Report Recordings of Wayne Shorter Compositions #1
CD 2: Weather Report Recordings of Wayne Shorter Compositions #2
CD 3: Native Dancer (featuring Milton Nascimento) – 1974
CD 4: Atlantis – 1985
CD 5: Phantom Navigator – 1986
CD 6: Joy Ryder – 1987

(Artists include: Wayne Shorter, soprano and tenor sax with: Weather Report: Joe Zawinul, keyboards; Jaco Pastorius, Victor Bailey, Miroslav Vitous, Alphonso Johnson- electric bass; Alphonse Mouzon, Eric Gravatt, Alex Acuna, Peter Erskine, Omar Hakim – drums, and various percussionists)

(On CDs 3-6: Herbie Hancock, acoustic and electric piano; Airto Moreira, percussion; Chick Corea, piano; Patrice Rushen, keyboards; Stu Goldberg, and Mitchel Forman, synthesizers; Gary Willis, Larry Klein, John Patitucci, Nathan East-electric bass; Robertinho Silva, Alex Acuna, Terri Lyne Carrington- drums; Milton Nascimento, vocals and guitar)

As part of the recent re-release of their major jazz artists in “Complete” collections, Sony Legacy, has included a near two-decade retrospective of Wayne Shorter from his 1970s and 1980s Weather Report years, to the 1974 release of Native Dancer with Milton Nascimento on vocals and guitar. We then jump to the mid-1980s for Atlantis, Phantom Navigator, and Joy Ryder. 

What is readily apparent in following the career of Shorter is his pursuit of a wide range of jazz genres beginning with his stay with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers (hard bop), to his period with Miles Davis—referred to as Miles’ Second Great Quintet in the mid to late 1960s. The Weather Report years were a free wheeling period of fusion, and electronics breaking out from the mainstream. Wayne added Brazilian rhythms in the mid 1970s with Native Dancer. Post Weather Report, Shorter recorded  CDs that added synthesizers, and  drum programming on Atlantis, and Phantom Navigator. Joy Ryder continued in the electric fusion vein as well, but began a turn back closer to electric mainstream of the period, keeping in mind that the late ’80s were a particular fallow period for jazz popularity and album sales.

Each of the three 1980s Columbia albums featured extended compositions with a focus on electric fusion. Shorter’s burgeoning fascination with music of the Orient can be found on Joy Ryder’s ‘Cathay,” where Frank Colon’s percussion opens a visit to the Far East.

Wayne’s expertise on the soprano sax provided the impetus for changes in his musical tastes throughout the two decades of Columbia recording as the soprano more so than any other saxophone can affect mood setting, such as John Coltrane found when he explored the dimensions of the “straight” saxophone.

Most listeners will be most familiar with the Weather Report tracks. The two discs of Wayne Shorter compositions for this legendary fusion group cover 23 tracks and 90 minutes. Atlantis, Phantom Navigator, and Joy Ryder have long been out of print, and make this collection valuable.

However, Native Dancer may be the most fascinating single disc in this collection. It has held up well, whereas some of the fusion material retains a passing fad, not holding up over the long term, such as with the disco phase that came and went. Native Dancer is highly melodic and its hooks retain their magnetic hold today. Shorter’s soprano soars, and Nascimento’s vocals on “Ponta De Areia” bring to mind Native American chants. The addition of Herbie Hancock on both acoustic and electric piano add a polished sheen, while Airto works his percussion magic on “Beauty and the Beast.” “Tarde” has Wayne on a soulful tenor, and Herbie’s electric piano mixed with Wagner Tiso’s organ make Milton’s Portuguese vocals that much more mysterious. Wayne plays piano in addition to tenor on two very lyrical tracks, “Diana” and “Ana Maria.”

For fans of Wayne Shorter, who may not have the entire Weather Report catalog, and wish to explore his lesser-remembered mid-1980s material, the purchase of this six CD set (which can be found online at around $30) is an intriguing proposition.

—Jeff Krow

 




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