Friday, July 1, 2011

Wayne Shorter - Schizophrenia

Just listening to this album now.  I'm a big jazz fan and people just don't talk about jazz very much anymore it seems, on the internet or anywhere else.  I'm sure this will have much less traffic than some weird obscure black metal or something.  For people that don't know, Wayne Shorter was Miles Davis's tenor sax player in his second great quintet.  If you don't care about that fact, then you need some culture in your life.  There was a time when musicians played actual instruments in studios whose job it was to record music, not to make anyone sound any better than they actually were.  Back then, musicians were THE BEST.  Wayne Shorter was no slouch when it came to playing.  He never played a solo where he didn't have something to say, but more importantly, his compositions were spectacular.  They went beyond what most of the "hard-bop" scene was doing, which was, for the most part, blues based.  Shorter's playing and style is heavily steeped in blues tradition, but his songwriting took musicians to places they were not used to going.  The best musicians really LOVE challenge and CRAVE it and back then, music and musicians were still pretty important to the music industry, so when a guy came along and wrote great stuff that both musicians AND the record buying public were into, it was fireworks.

Schizophrenia is a high water mark of the later 60's Blue Note catalog.  Blue Note was slipping sales wise by this point.  The entire jazz community was losing steam behind the rock output of the era.  Jazz, as a whole was also losing face with the record buying public behind the "free" explosion.  Albert Ayler and Ornette Coleman had already made their greatest statements almost 8 years before and lots of "legitimate" players decided they would grow their hair out and wear a dashiki and release a few skronky records to keep up with the young lions.  In 1968, it was a little risky for Wayne Shorter to be sticking closely to rhythm and chord changes, but he held to what he loved doing rather than jump on some freaknik bandwagon and Blue Note records supported whatever decision their artists made, cuz they were righteous.  Not that Shorter didn't have an ear towards the freer, as one could deduce from portions of albums like "The All Seeing Eye" or bits of the last tune on this album, Playground, where the band seemingly flies totally apart at one point, only to slam back together in perfect time.  More evidence that musicians back in the day were just THE BEST.  I guess when you didn't have video games to play or blogs to tend to, all there was to do was to get super rad at an instrument and then go to a studio where the engineers only had to push record and mix.

I love this guy.  I've even own his biography.  I could never get behind Weather Report, (and as a bassist, believe you me, I tried.  I could go off about how I think fusion sucks, but I'd rather spend my time on this blog writing about what's awesome) but still, his body of work is just amazing.  Schizophrenia stands up tall next to his earlier masterpieces like Hear No Evil and Juju. I jacked that link from a google search so if you have to use a password, tough nuts.  I have other things to do with my day than babysit Mediafire.

1 comment:

bcan said...

Yes! This has always been one of my favorite recordings. The musicians stretch but can always come back to something that swings/grooves hard, but that is expected with Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Joe Joe Chambers' cymbals! I've always loved how this record has tunes which stretch the listener like Schizophrenia, Kryptonite, and Playground, but it they are balanced by more accessible tunes like Tom Thumb, Go, and the beautiful ballad Miyako. Incredible playing! It also makes me miss the shorter form of LP's.