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Footprints: the Life and Music of Wayne Shorter

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Album Review

First the hard stuff: there was no way that Legacy was going to be able to completely represent Wayne Shorter's five decades in music in a double-CD package. That's a given, and they cop to it in the liner notes. However, what they have done is admirable in that they have cross-licensed material from all parts of Shorter's working life, from the Jazz Messengers to his Blue Note period to Miles to Weather Report to his work as a featured guest with pop musicians to his fusion work to his Footprints band at the beginning of the 21st century. As a result, the portrait given here is surprisingly rich, varied, and full both of composer and soloist. Disc one commences with his "Lester Left Town" from the Jazz Messengers' Big Beat album in 1960, where Shorter is teamed with Lee Morgan, Bobby Timmons, Art Blakey, and Jymie Merritt. Moving to the Blue Note period, the regret is that the only two pieces chosen are from Speak No Evil — the title track and "Infant Eyes" — and none were taken from his other fabulous outings for the label. Also here is "Time of the Barracudas" from Gil Evans' The Individualism of Gil Evans, offering a brilliant solo by Shorter in a band that also featured Kenny Burrell, Elvin Jones, Gary Peacock, and Julius Watkins. The Miles period is represented by "E.S.P." (of course), "Footprints" from Miles Smiles, "Nefertiti," and "Sanctuary" from Bitches Brew. Shorter's Weather Report tenure features his own tunes from Mysterious Traveller, Tale Spinnin', Black Market, and Heavy Weather, bookending the closing of disc one and the opening of disc two. Here is where it gets knotty: the gorgeous "Ponta de Areia" from Native Dancer, a collaboration with Milton Nascimento, sticks out for its beauty, only to be followed in jarring succession by Steely Dan's "Aja" and Joni Mitchell's "Dry Cleaner from Des Moines," from her Mingus album. These stroll right into Shorter's most controversial period, with tracks from the heavily synthesized and programmed outings Atlantis, Joy Ryder, and Phantom Navigator. Of these, only "Mahogany Bird" from the latter platter feels like it was forced to fit. Shorter's move to Verve is showcased here to excellent effect by the inclusion of "Children of the Night" from High Life and "In Walked Wayne" by J.J. Johnson from the trombonist's Heroes set. Also present are cuts from the Shorter/Herbie Hancock duet recording 1+1 and the disc's closer, a live version of "Masqualero" from Shorter's Footprints Live! with Brian Blade, Danílo Perez, and John Patitucci. Ultimately, as wide ranging as this collection is, this is a very satisfying listening experience, as each disc can be taken on its own for maximum enjoyment.


Born: 25 August 1933 in Newark, NJ

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Though some will argue about whether Wayne Shorter's primary impact on jazz has been as a composer or as a saxophonist, hardly anyone will dispute his overall importance as one of jazz's leading figures over a long span of time. Though indebted to a great extent to John Coltrane, with whom he practiced in the mid-'50s while still an undergraduate, Shorter eventually developed his own more succinct manner on tenor sax, retaining the tough tone quality and intensity and, in later years, adding an element...
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Footprints: the Life and Music of Wayne Shorter, Wayne Shorter
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  • Genres: Jazz, Music, Hard Bop
  • Released: 17 January 2005

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