Wayne Shorter began composing for the Jazz Messengers in 1959 and over the past 60 years has amassed perhaps the most significant catalog of jazz compositions of his time. Many of his, roughly, one hundred compositions are standards of the current repertoire. In this hour of Jazz at 100 Today!, we’ll explore recent renditions of his classic tunes by today’s working artists.
Trusted musical collaborators, guitarist Michael Musillami and bassist Rich Syracuse, combined, in 2016, to record Of the Night, one of several discs released in the past decade that are dedicated to the compositions of Wayne Shorter. As Budd Kopman writes on AllAboutJazz, “… if there is one thing that says ‘Shorter,’ it is the mood that runs through his work —dark, mysterious, sexy, ambiguous and deep. It is this core essence of Shorter that Musillami and Syracuse have captured in a set [that] will whisk you away from the troubles of this world.”
Perhaps best known for her tenure as the featured reed player in quintets and septets lead by trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, Roxy Coss’s third release as a leader was Chasing the Unicorn in 2017. As Paul Rauch writes, “Her foray into Shorter’s Virgo displays the artist’s versatility in this interpretive rendition delivered on bass clarinet. One of Shorter’s more tender melodies is sublimely treated with emotive phrasing and a deep, pulsing tone, adrift with relentless romanticism.”
Over the years, Wynton Marsalis’s Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra has paid tribute to significant jazz composers like Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus and John Lewis. Their 2019 release, The Music Of Wayne Shorter, continues this cycle of homage, with the added richness of including the composer as the featured soloist in the context of big band arrangements of many of his lesser known pieces.
One By One. Michael Musillami – Rich Syracuse duo
(Michael Musillami-g, Rich Syracuse-b). From Of The Night. Playscape Recordings. 2016. Originally recorded on Ugetsu: Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers at Birdland in 1963.
Virgo. Roxy Coss Quintet
(Roxy Coss-bcl, Glenn Zaleski-p, Alex Wintz-g, Rick Rosato-b, Jimmy Macbride-d). From Chasing the Unicorn. Posi-Tone. 2017. Originally recorded on Wayne Shorter’s Night Dreamer in 1964.
Teru. Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis & Wayne Shorter
(Ryan Kisor, Kenny Rampton, Marcus Printup, Vincent Gardner, Chris Crenshaw, Elliot Mason, Sherman Irby, Ted Nash, Victor Gojnes, Walter Blanding, Nedzela, Nimmer, Henriquez, Jackson). From The Music Of Wayne Shorter. Blue Engine. 2019. Originally released on Wayne Shorter’s Adam’s Apple in 1966.
In 2011, Chick Corea threw himself an all-star 70th birthday bash, with included live performances of 30 musicians in ten groups, over a month’s residency at the Blue Note in New York. Notable was a group assembled to pay tribute to Miles Davis’ second great acoustic quintet consisting of Wallace Roney on trumpet, Gary Bartz on alto, Chick Corea on piano, Eddie Gomez on bass, and Jack DeJohnette on drums. John Kelman writes, … their reprise of Shorter’s title track to Davis’  Nefertiti … – the trumpeter’s final wholly acoustic studio recording – … gets a lengthy look, combining the original’s repetitive use of Shorter’s theme as the foundation for what is essentially an improvisational vehicle for the drummer. This time, however, the tune swings more fervently and, while DeJohnette manages to straddle the line between holding down the pulse and acting as front-line solo voice, there’s even more interplay amongst the quintet to render the track even more explosive.”
Trombonist Steve Turre shared the front line of the 1970 Jazz Messengers with trumpeter Woody Shaw. In the intervening years, Turre has never been too far from the Jazz Messenger book, including his 2016 version of Wayne Shorter’s United, originally recorded on Roots and Herbs in 1961. Of Turre’s 2016 release, Colors for the Masters, Andrew Hovan wrote on AllAbout Jazz, “Quite simply, [this] is easily one of Turre’s best releases in years. Without taking anything away from the trombonist, the company he keeps has a lot to do with that. A master of singular authority, pianist Kenny Barron has that perfect combination of fire and melodic grace. And if you can’t pick out a Ron Carter bass line in a measure or two you are just not listening hard enough. Turre sagaciously lets the master take a nice share of his own solo spots, each one better than the next. Then there is Jimmy Cobb, still downright swinging at the ripe young age of 87.”
Nefertiti. For Miles Quintet
(Wallace Roney-tp, Gary Bartz-sax, Chick Corea-p, Eddie Gomez-b, Jack DeJohnette-d). From The Musician. Concord Music Group. 2017. Originally released on Miles Davis Quintet’s Nefertiti, from 1967.
United. Steve Turre Quartet
(Steve Turre-tb/shells, Kenny Barron-p, Ron Carter-b, Jimmy Cobb-d). From Colors for the Masters. Smoke Sessions. 2016. Originally released on Roots and Herbs in 1961.
From time-to-time, trombonist Conrad Herwig assembles an all-star ensemble to perform and record a tribute to one of the heroes of modern jazz composition. After sets focussed on John Coltrane and Miles Davis, the third installment of this series was 2008s The Latin Side Of Wayne Shorter, with a front line of Brian Lynch on trumpet, the leader on trombone and Ronnie Cuber on baritone. Salsa-legend Eddie Palmieri torches the piano seat anchored by solid drive from percussionists Robby Ameen and Pedro Martinez.
In 2018, drummer and one-time Art Blakey collaborator, Ralph Peterson recorded a tribute to Blakey, I Remember Bu, with a young band he calls the GenNext Big Band. Alto saxophonist Donald Harrison Jr., who owned the Jazz Messengers’ front line in 1984 with trumpeter Terence Blanchard, brings his robust soloing to their version of Wayne Shorter’s 1964 composition Free for All.
Adam’s Apple. Conrad Herwig & the Latin Side Band with Brian Lynch & Eddie Palmieri
(Bryan Lynch-tp, Conrad Herwig-tb, Ronnie Cuber-bs, Eddie Palmieri-p, Ruben Rodriguez-b, Robby Ameen-d, Pedro Martinez-cga). From The Latin Side Of Wayne Shorter. Half Note Records. 2008. Originally recorded on Wayne Shorter’s Adam’s Apple in 1966.
Free For All. Ralph Peterson’s GenNext Big Band with Donald Harrison Jr.
(Jon Weidley, Robert Vega Dowda, Milena Casado Fauquet, Will Mallard, Brown, Lin, Hsiao, Santos, Nakanishi, Daniels, Murphy, Hirsch, Sanders, Vaquer, Ryu, Jeong, Pardo, Zabka, Kayser). From I Remember Bu. Self-Produced. 2018. Originally released on the Jazz Messenger’s Free For All in 1964.
All of the tunes featured in the previous hour were composed from 1961 to 1967, a fertile period during which Wayne Shorter was Musical Director of the Jazz Messengers and then a primary composer for the Miles Davis Quintet, while also releasing a legendary series of Blue Note discs in his own name. We can expect tributes to his compositional genius to continue as long as there are musicians playing this music.
Kopman, Budd. (2016, October 30). AllAboutJazz. Michael Musillami / Rich Syracuse: Of The Night. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/of-the-night-michael-musillami-playscape-recordings-review-by-budd-kopman.php
Rauch, Paul. (2017, September 6). AllAboutJazz. Roxy Coss: Chasing The Unicorn. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/chasing-the-unicorn-roxy-coss-posi-tone-records-review-by-paul-rauch.php
Slawecki, Chris M. (2020, May 22). AllAboutJazz. Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis: The Music Of Wayne Shorter. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/the-music-of-wayne-shorter-jazz-at-lincoln-center-orchestra-with-wynton-marsalis-blue-engine-records
Kelman, John. (2017, May 2). AllAboutJazz. Chick Corea: The Musician. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/the-musician-by-john-kelman.php
Hovan, C. Andrew. (2016, August 6). AllAboutJazz. Steve Turre: Colors For The Masters. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/colors-for-the-masters-steve-turre-smoke-sessions-review-by-c-andrew-hovan.php
Stockton, Jeff. (2008, May 13). AllAboutJazz. Conrad Herwig: The Latin Side Of Wayne Shorter. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/the-latin-side-of-wayne-shorter-conrad-herwig-half-note-records-review-by-jeff-stockton.php
Bowers, Jack. (2018, December 1). AllAboutJazz. Ralph Peterson’s GenNext Big Band: I Remember Bu. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/i-remember-bu-ralph-peterson-self-produced-review-by-jack-bowers.php
For other programs in Jazz at 100 Today! visit: Jazz at 100 Today!