New DTM page: Piano lesson.
Happy Birthday to Wayne Shorter, 85 years young.
New at the New Yorker Culture Desk: Wayne Shorter in 1964.
April 29, 1964
“Oriental Folk Song”
August 3, 1964
“House of Jade”
“Yes or No”
“Twelve More Bars to Go”
Speak No Evil
December 24, 1964
“Speak No Evil”
A few hyper-musicianly extras that didn’t make the final cut of the essay:
The signature Messengers piece is Benny Golson’s “Blues March,” which combined military drums, the blues, and the quick melodic rhythm called the “Scotch snap.” “Blues March” is on Blakey’s breakout record Moanin’ with Lee Morgan; a few years later Shorter began playing it every night on tour. “Charcoal Blues” has that same “Scotch snap.” On the out chorus, Jones marches with four on the snare, a rare example of Jones obviously imitating Blakey.
It’s unclear how much and in which ways Coltrane and Tyner inspired each other in terms of specific harmonic information. In one interview with Bob Dawbarn, Coltrane said, “Tyner plays some things on the piano, but I don’t know what they are.” For the big band album Africa/Brass, Coltrane told his arranger Eric Dolphy to get the voicings from Tyner. Unfortunately, the record label Impulse! did not credit Tyner for creative input. (Adding insult to injury, the jacket listed the pianist as McCoy Turner.) To this day, Tyner might not get enough recognition for his monumental contribution to reshaping jazz harmony. He celebrates his 80th birthday in December.
Night Dreamer begins with the title track, a waltz with Tyner and Jones. One could even argue that “Night Dreamer” is Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things” cut with some hard bop. The pentatonic “Oriental Folk Song” also suggests Coltrane and Tyner, and helps clarify how much these musicians were concerned with “world music.” For “Black Nile,” Shorter explains: “I was thinking for the Egyptian civilization which at the time of its greatest achievements was a black civilization…I tried to get a flowing feeling — a depiction of a river route.”
For Juju, on top of the churn, Shorter plays a mix of simple and surreal. It’s a Coltrane band, the tunes are not far from Coltrane either, but the saxophonist is still “As weird as Wayne.” Some of that surreal quality might come from the intellectual jazz crew of Lennie Tristano, Lee Konitz, and, especially, Warne Marsh. While it is impossible to imagine Marsh playing the music on Juju, the way Shorter follows the thread of an improvised line to a surprising yet logical place is far closer to Marsh than Coltrane. (Marsh’s favorite saxophonist was Lester Young, a shared reference with Shorter, who wrote “Lester Left Town” for the Jazz Messengers after Young died in 1959.) The earliest Shorter solo on tape, “What Is This Thing Called Love?” from 1956 with pianist John Eaton (unreleased commercially) sounds quite a bit like Warne Marsh. It is included with the DTM Wayne Shorter interview.
On the modal pieces within Sketches of Spain and Kind of Blue the scales relate to each other in a kind of chromatic and sensuous way, just like Debussy and Ravel. This kind of romance was to some extent rejected by McCoy Tyner, whose innovative modal harmony somehow seemed to bypass early 20th century European composition in favor of something more purely rhythmic. Davis wasn’t too pleased about Tyner’s choice, even saying in an interview, “I don’t like the guys who make a livin’ playin’ in the mode…McCoy used to just bang around, and I couldn’t stand that.”
Shorter joined Gil Evans, Bill Evans, and Herbie Hancock in their admiration for Debussy and Ravel, but he also had other sources for harmony. Ralph Vaughan Williams is someone who used complex harmony in a modal frame that seemed more folkloric — perhaps more like Coltrane and Tyner — than Debussy and Ravel. In The Jazz Ear by Ben Ratliff, Shorter discusses RVW symphonies (“superhero music”) and “The Lark Ascending” (“I’ve been tracking him since I was sixteen or seventeen”). In the notes to Speak no Evil, Shorter tells Don Heckman, “I was thinking of misty landscapes with wild flowers and strange, dimly-seen shapes — the kind of places where folklore and legends are born.” This description could also apply to “The Lark Ascending.”
In the liner notes to Speak No Evil Shorter compares “Dance Cadaverous” to Jean Sibelius’s “Valse Triste.” Despite beginning with dramatic dark harmony that seems to come from another planet, “Valse Triste” was somehow a popular hit worldwide in the first part of the 20th century (in both the original orchestra version and in the piano transcription). That dark harmony does not fit Sibelius’s full programmatic concept, and soon the composer resolves into more conventional movement.
Shorter would go on to record the first phrase of “Valse Triste” on The Soothsayer that replaced Sibelius’s easy G major key cadence with a hard bop minor key shout.
Shorter also has cited Erik Satie. Are Wayne Shorter’s most subtle and spare ballads Satie’s “Gymnopédies” redone by a Newark blues musician?
I spent some of late July polling great musicians about their favorite Wayne Shorter record. Speak No Evil was number one and Juju was number two, but there were also significant votes for Night Dreamer, The All Seeing Eye (Shorter’s take on European high modernism), Adam’s Apple and Etcetera (rough ’n ready tenor dates with Hancock), Schizophrenia (a clean and gorgeous straight ahead full band), I Sing the Body Electric (the most experimental Weather Report record), Native Dancer (where Milton Nascimento was introduced to American and European audiences), Atlantis and High Life (diverse fusion projects, each almost symphonic in compositional scope) and the current quartet’s Footprints Live!
Back to my own opinion: Two later one-offs in the Shorter discography that deserve wider recognition are a solo tenor rhapsody on “Thanks for the Memory” from Weather Report’s 8:30 and the through-composed “Terra Incognita” for Imani Winds.
The Culture Desk essay stems back to a first extremely rough draft from about 2000, when I suddenly realized the implications of Shorter taking on different genres in sequence and essentially tried to write about jazz for the first time on a tour bus in Japan. In that embryonic form the essay included the next Wayne Shorter album released as a leader after the 1964 trilogy.
October 15, 1965
“The All Seeing Eye”
“Face of the Deep”
“Mephistopheles” (Alan Shorter)
If Night Dreamer is in the style of an Art Blakey album, Juju is a John Coltrane album, and Speak No Evil is a Miles Davis album, then The All Seeing Eye keeps the progression going smoothly further into modernism, especially a kind of modernism influenced by what was at that time comparatively recent European composition. The DTM post Evolution (especially a footnote at the end) digs further into this most obdurate style, which I believe was locally inspired by Sam Rivers and Tony Williams (who got it from Sam Rivers). Shorter is on Grachan Moncur’s Some Other Stuff, which is arguably the most extreme example of this aesthetic.
The “smooth progression” theory is undone by two comparatively conventional but still terrific 1965 Shorter sessions that were recorded before The All Seeing Eye but shelved until later, The Soothsayer and Etcetera. We don’t know why Eye was chosen for the next release. According to Michael Cuscuna, Alfred Lion had no memory about what was left behind for what reasons.
At any rate, it is all great music. I particularly admire Etcetera which has some notably unfettered Herbie Hancock. The title track also has one of my very favorite Joe Chambers performances. (Overall, the Joe Chambers/Wayne Shorter connection seems very important for The All Seeing Eye, Etcetera, Adam’s Apple, and Schizophrenia. Of course Joe Chambers was a great composer as well.)
In the Culture Desk essay, I note some slight uncomfortableness between Elvin Jones and Herbie Hancock on Speak No Evil; A similar tension (which is probably only about comparative unfamiliarity with each other) can be heard between McCoy Tyner and Tony Williams on The Soothsayer.
An interesting pairing with The All Seeing Eye is Contours by Sam Rivers, recorded the same year with an almost identical line up. In the end I almost like Contours better, mainly because the rhythm section is more settled and deals with the mildly complex blowing forms with effortless abstract mastery. However, The All Seeing Eye takes much greater chances structurally and will forever be a fascinating one-off.
Today I’m leaving for an extensive European tour with the Billy Hart quartet with Ben Street featuring Joshua Redman. The full itinerary is at Josh’s site, but this is the quick overview:
Getxo Jazz Festival (Getxo)
Noches del Botanico (Madrid)
Casa da Musica (Porto)
Funchal Jazz Festival (Funchal)
North Sea Jazz Festival (Rotterdam)
Umbria Jazz (Perugia)
Nice Jazz Festival (Nice)
Montalcino Jazz & Wine Festival (Montalcino)
Souillac en Jazz (Souillac)
New Morning (Paris)
Festival Jazz La Spezia (La Spezia)
Langnau Jazz Nights (Langnau)
Dinant Jazz (Dinant)
I’m also playing a solo piano set at Umbria.
If you see me at any of the gigs, say hi!
In the fall, ECM releases Temporary Kings, a duo project with Mark Turner. We will be touring Europe and America. The NYC show is at the Jazz Standard, September 18.
Pepperland with the Mark Morris Dance Group will continue to tour, the next gig is Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley, CA in September. Easy Win with Dance Heginbotham will be in Boston and Philadelphia this coming season.
I am leading special projects at the London Jazz Festival in November and the Umbria Jazz Festival Winter at the end of December.
And: It’s time to unplug, mediate, listen to Billy Hart, and contemplate the mysteries. I am taking a new laptop with me on tour that will lack access to DTM, FB, and Twitter. If all goes well I will keep my social media dark until late August.
Sign up for Floyd Camembert Reports if you must reach me by email. (If you are already a pal, texting is fastest, I am shamelessly planning to let the email pile up a bit.)
As always, sincere thanks for reading. Listen to some hip music!
Yesterday I decided to sift through DTM. Personal favorites:
1. Quick posts
Links to my other stuff outside of DTM:
The best of reasonably recent press:
Andre Guess: Jazz and Race with Wynton Marsalis and Ethan Iverson
Shaun Brady: A Decade of Do the Math
Seth Colter Walls: American Composers Orchestra brings Jazz to Classical, effortlessly
Anthony Tommasini: A Tiny Garage Explodes in Pianistic Madness
Brian Seibert: Dance Heginbotham Shows Off Its Eccentric Style at the Joyce
DTM might be most famous for its musician-to-musician interviews. The models include Notes and Tones by Art Taylor, The Black Composer Speaks by David Baker, Lida Belt Baker and Herman Hudson, and Reflections from the Keyboard by David Dubal.
I met and played with Dewey Redman about a year after moving to New York City. This first experience with a consecrated jazz master proved conclusively that I knew almost nothing about the music.
Dewey’s stories were incredible. Listening to him talk about his experiences was almost as amazing as listening to him play his horn.
A decade later, after the Bad Plus had our surprise success, I looked for ways to share our love of diverse music with our new fan base. Blogging was new. Blogging felt so relevant and hip. (This was in 2005 lol.)
As it went along, I kept thinking about Dewey. As far as I knew no one had ever interviewed him and gotten those stories on tape. Maybe I should try to interview Dewey for the Bad Plus blog…?
Dewey died, and those stories died with him. The next week I took out my tape recorder to Billy Hart’s house.
It would be hard to pick out the best DTM interviews. For this retrospective I have briefly annotated the complete set.
In almost every case, the interview was my idea. I talked to someone I admire, usually with the intent to learn something for my own use at the piano, on the bandstand, or in my own writing. It is not proper journalism. I want to protect these artists because I think they are all great.
Django Bates David King encouraged my love of Django, I even wrote a small DownBeat article about Mr. Bates. One of the greatest non-American jazz artists.
Joanne Brackeen I’ve been listening to Joanne forever, the recent “discovered” Keystone issues with Stan Getz really knocked me out.
Gavin Bryars A comparatively new discovery for me, I really had to research going into this interview.
George Cables: Part 1, Part 2 A favorite disc is hard to find, Phantom of the City with John Heard and Tony Williams. Going through the whole discography like this might seem absurd but if we had one of these for every jazz player at George’s level we’d know a lot more about this music.
George Colligan I’ve known George forever, and it was helpful to talk to a peer about jazz education.
Miranda Cuckson Melting the Darkness shocked me, that’s one of the finest new CDs I’ve heard in recent years.
Bob Cranshaw Bob saw and played it all. RIP.
Stanley Crouch So many have misunderstood the great Stanley Crouch.
Benoît Delbecq Benoît is a serious influence on me, I owe him royalties.
Robert Dennis A quick email convo with the composer of a favorite Sesame Street episode (you can really do whatever the hell you want on the internet).
Gerald Early I loved reading all of Early in prep for this interview.
Jed Eisenman Now that Lorraine Gordon is gone, Jed is even more the man of the age.
Bill Frisell The most recent DTM interview covers a lot of ground. Literally everyone loves Bill Frisell.
Robert Glasper I was knocked out by a trio set on the jazz cruise and spontaneously hit up Glasper to talk.
Charlie Haden I will always love Charlie, he’s one of my primary inspirations and influences. RIP.
Marc-André Hamelin I collected all of Hamelin’s records for a decade and then rented a car especially to go hang out.
Tom Harrell The highlight is a list of Tom’s favorite trumpet solos.
Billy Hart The first DTM interview and still one of the best.
Albert “Tootie” Heath The real deal. Getting to know and play with Tootie was a serious blessing.
Fred Hersch My teacher and mentor in a candid talk.
Keith Jarrett This went pretty well!
Geoffrey Keezer We are from the same patch of earth in Wisconsin. This one was for the Hometown Crowd…
Masabumi Kikuchi I grew to adore Masabumi’s playing and ended up writing the liner notes to the posthumous release Black Orpheus. RIP.
Bill Kirchner Bill is a predecessor of mine, a serious player who has also written about the music.
Steve Little One of Duke Ellington’s drummers takes a solo. A life in NYC music.
Charles McPherson One of the finest of living masters in real talk about how to play bebop.
Jason Moran A quick convo between sets from a long time ago.
Jim McNeely When I studied at NYU, Jim’s stories were a highlight. This was another one that felt really good to do, a partial payment on an eternal debt.
James Newton I heard Newton’s formal scores comparatively recently and I was scandalized. This was exactly who I was looking for! Why hadn’t I been listening to him sooner?
Mark Padmore A quick email interview about Schubert by one of the great living lieder singers.
Nicholas Payton For a time Payton was controversial on the jazz internet. The more I thought about it, the more I agreed with him.
Houston Person Oh, this could have gone on much longer. Still fun.
Ben Ratliff A kind of “exit interview” from a major jazz critic of the New York Times.
Mickey Roker Ah dammit. I just had an hour. Well, it’s better than nothing. RIP.
Cécile McLorin Salvant The first person I interviewed decidedly younger than me was Cécile. I haven’t done enough about singers on DTM really, but this talk is at least a partial attempt to redress the balance. I love her artistry very much.
David Sanborn (on Phillip Wilson) An intense look at a crucial St. Louis scene.
Alvin Singleton It only makes sense for jazz people to investigate the Afro-American classical composers. I worked hard getting ready for the Singleton interview, which has many mp3 examples of his wonderful music.
Wayne Shorter I knew damn well that Wayne was a tricky interview, so I brought him a pile of sci-fi books to start with.
Ken Slone We’ve all played out of the Charlie Parker Omnibook, what about the transcriber?
Terry Teachout Terry is one of the few who really sees jazz as part of the larger American cultural puzzle. Musicians can be too self-involved and only interested in the most esoteric aspects of our art. In my view it is important to keep Terry’s perspective in mind.
George Walker: Interview, Three Scarecrows, Dispatches from Detroit (by Mark Stryker) Done by email, this one is rough around the edges. Still, we should all be more aware of Walker, a truly important figure and great composer.
Cedar Walton: Interview, Interview with David Williams, Interview with David Hazeltine, Cedar’s Blues This went pretty well. I wish I could have done an interview like this with Tommy Flanagan, Hank Jones, Hampton Hawes, Jimmy Rowles, Roland Hanna…there’s a long list. Geri Allen was supposed to do one but she died suddenly. At least I got Cedar talk a little bit about how he learned to play. RIP.
Patrick Zimmerli A key influence in my life. Thanks Pat!
The possible “to do” list includes Barbara Hannigan, Victor Lewis, Al Foster, Buster Williams, Michael Cuscuna, John Luther Adams, Mark Morris, Lera Auerbach, Thomas Adès. However, I don’t think there will be all that many more DTM interviews that aren’t pegged to a specific larger event or article. We’ll see what happens.
I’m very grateful to those that agreed to be part of this site.
Three of the deepest dives were easy because I barely needed to research, the topics were so dear to my heart:
Thelonious Monk Centennial He’s been my lodestar since I got interested in the music, and finally I wrote about the entire canon.
The Breakthrough of Geri Allen We all loved her. It was heartbreaking when she died so young, just two weeks after this 60th birthday celebration.
Ornette 1: Forms and Sounds A lot of written criticism about Ornette Coleman has been worthless blather. Part one offers my opinion about Harmolodics. Part two, This Is Our Mystic, has extensive audio samples.
Three of the essays were about respecting race. Looking at them now I feel they all could use a proper update. I look forward to revisiting them with greater wisdom in print.
Reverential Gesture (Duke Ellington) Really I’m just at the beginning of my Duke studies, but this post helped clarify my thinking.
All in the Mix (Lennie Tristano) L.T. is one of my great influences, and I really “practiced in public” when I laid this one out there. Lee Konitz read it and didn’t object, which meant the world to me.
Four of the deep dives were practical. I wanted to sound more like these artists and needed to school myself. Unlike the quick Monk, Geri, and Ornette pieces, these took months of research.
Red’s Bells (Red Garland) Now I steal from Red every time I play a jazz gig.
Bud Powell Anthology Bud is the greatest bebop pianist, and this survey includes dozens of transcriptions.
Lester Young Centennial I still sing and practice my Pres solos.
In Search of James P. Johnson My main man. I’ve got a band arrangement of “Carolina Shout” coming down the pike…
The Bad Plus is over for me and Lorraine Gordon died.
The heavy technical analysis on DTM was partially a counterweight to being in a band celebrated for the appropriation of indie rock.
(If I would still do some heavy tech on DTM the topics are obvious: McCoy Tyner, Woody Shaw, Joe Henderson, John Coltrane. Yeah. Well, I need a clone, obviously, but ya never know. I’ll try to get to them too.)
Probably most of DTM is for jazz students anyway, but I got a bit more direct about how one might practice after taking a job at NEC. Consult the Manual has the relevant material.
A lot of what’s in the NEC stuff is what any competent teacher would tell a jazz class. However, three essays were especially fun to write:
Judge Not. Lest Ye Be Not Judged (the preliminary round of the Monk Competition)
Theory and European Classical Music (includes performances of Miriam Gideon and Vivian Fine)
Air de Ballet (advice for dance class pianists)
Looking ahead, I have at least two or three more NEC missives to do, about source material for harmony, how to use the computer for practice, and about the magical “feet in three.”
Some of my history with the fully-notated side of the tracks is found at the NewMusicBox discussion with Pat Zimmerli. Zimmerli himself was very important to my development, as were Gregg Smith and especially Sophia Rosoff and Mark Morris. I couldn’t have played The Rite of Spring with the Bad Plus if I hadn’t worked with Mark first.
At Sonatas and Études one can find the longer DTM pieces about formal composition. It’s kind of a mixed bag. Probably these essays aren’t as deep as the jazz essays. All of DTM is a kind of “practicing in public,” sharing my haphazard and decidedly non-academic researches into source material, and that amateurism is most evident in Sonatas and Études, possibly because I’ve spent so much less time arguing in bars about classical music than jazz.
Five of my favorites:
Endellion Idyll is a photo blog of Mark Padmore’s amazing festival in Cornwall.
Mixed Meter Mysterium (on Stravinsky) is less distinctive than most of DTM simply because there is so much Stravinsky reception already. However, as far as I know, this is the only look at the issue of Stravinskian “feel.”
Peter Lieberson on Record This overview took a year of listening to write. Looking at it now I want to take another year to listen again…
Glenn Gould plays Byrd and Gibbons (and Sweelinck) Why not find the scores for the famous record?
The Gate Is Open (on Charles Rosen, with Matthew Guerrieri) Rosen is a godfather to DTM, and I’m influenced by Guerrieri as well.
I certainly could write about Ligeti, although he’s reasonably covered (perhaps not with fellow jazzers though). Schnittke is another big one, although in his case there is so much to hear that I don’t know yet. On the other hand, not knowing everything about Wuorinen didn’t stop me from weighing in for Charles’s 80th birthday at NewMusicBox.
Lera Auerbach and Thomas Adès are two of my favorites from roughly my own age group; if the opportunity arose I’d certainly love to interview them.
What’s more likely is further writing about pianists and 20th century piano music. This is my deepest bench. Well, we will see what the future brings…