Too Thorough By Half
In the case of Footprints: The Life and Music of Wayne Shorter, a musical companion to the biography of the same name, the compiler’s thoroughness and apparent lack of bias is in fact the package’s downfall. It’s hard to imagine listeners who enjoy the contents of disc one finding anything to appreciate in the over-produced, synth-laden tracks from the 1980s, which comprise a third of disc two. Wayne Shorter’s solo Blue Note albums of the 1960s are acknowledged classics, but because of the compiler’s desire to represent each era of Shorter’s development, only two tracks from 1964’s classic Speak No Evil are included. Shorter’s contributions to Miles Davis’s albums are represented by four tracks, as are his Weather Report compositions.
The decision to include Aja, a vapid Steely Dan piece featuring a Shorter solo is a puzzling one, as the piece sounds remarkably dated, and does not shed a particularly interesting light on Shorter’s activities as a sideman. It’s no surprise that the worst tracks of all are undoubtedly those from his 1980s albums for Columbia. All feature obnoxious processed beats, with the rock drums of Joy Ryder sounding ridiculously un-subtle. The inane rhythms of Children of the Night are equally bad, they almost come across as a tasteless joke at the listener’s expense. The last three tracks of disc two present Shorter’s more recent work, and it comes as a relief to return to the acoustic settings which kicked off disc one.
This two CD set is only worth getting if found at a low price, because although half of the material is excellent, the musical low points on disc two are so awful as to make listeners wish that they had invested in a few of Shorter’s classic albums instead.
Hank Mobley – Roll Call (1960)
A Mobley Masterpiece
Roll Call was made in 1960 when Hank Mobley was at the height of his powers as a player and composer. It is sandwiched in his discography between the acknowledged classics Soul Station and Workout, and is every bit as good. The presence of Freddie Hubbard on Roll Call lights a fire which burns from the first tune’s statement until the end of the disc. Hubbard has always had the juiciest tone on trumpet, and here it blends perfectly with Mobley’s tenor to create an immensely pleasing composite sound. The rhythm section boasts Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and Art Blakey, and the latter really helps to feed Hubbard’s fire.
Hank Mobley is not rated highly enough as a composer. All of his tunes on this album are direct, unpretentious and soulful. They are fantastic bookends to inspired soloing and all merit reviving. Take Your Pick is my pick of the bunch as it seems to encapsulate the mood of the entire album. Every track is enjoyable, and Mobley’s version of The More I See You is lovely – an antidote to all of the awful, insipid versions of the tune which proliferate. If Kind Of Blue is lauded for creating and establishing a unique and consistent atmosphere, Roll Call should be acknowledged as doing the same, although in this case the mood is upbeat and uplifting.
- Hank Mobley – tenor sax
- Freddie Hubbard – trumpet
- Wynton Kelly – piano
- Paul Chambers – bass
- Art Blakey – drums
Lou Donaldson: Blues Walk (1958)
A Blue Note Classic
This album is widely regarded as the finest of Lou Donaldson’s career. The title track is a jazz classic and Donaldson’s signature tune (decades later it was turned into a big band piece by fellow altoist Sherman Irby, and performed by him with Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra at The Royal Hall, Harrogate). Autumn Nocturne, and The Masquerade Is Over give the altoist a chance to display his beautiful tone, and Move lets you hear him romping through a fast bebop tune from Miles Davis’s Birth Of The Cool record. Among the players for this quintet session is the obscure Herman Foster on piano. He has an interesting approach, which sometimes seems to borrow a few of the mannerisms of jazz organists. Ray Barretto plays conga which helps the blues numbers groove along nicely and links this album with another classic with a similar mood – Gene Ammons’s Boss Tenor.
- Lou Donaldson – alto sax
- Herman Foster – piano
- Peck Morrison – bass
- Dave Bailey – drums
- Ray Barretto – congas
Pat Martino: Footprints (1972)
A Contender for Pat Martino’s Greatest Album
Footprints may well be Pat Martino’s best moment on record. Each tune is compelling, intelligent and worthy of repeated listens. On all Martino albums you can marvel at his virtuosity, but what makes this one special is the atmosphere against which it is set. There is a sense on the faster tunes of constant momentum as Martino places his streams of semiquavers against the pulsating bass of Richard Davis and the insightful drum work of Billy Higgins. The contrast between Pat Martino’s almost clinical execution and the droning qualities of Davis’s bass adds to the appeal of the record, and often imparts a dark intensity. At times Martino’s relentless and unswerving playing almost seems to hint at psychopathological tendencies. Rather than being at all off-putting, this impression only serves to evoke an unusual frisson!
Mention should be made of the contribution of Bobby Rose on second guitar. In the same way that John Pisano offered just the right amount of harmonic support on Joe Pass’s great For Django record, Rose is ever present but never intrusive.
Picking highlights from such a well rounded album is somewhat futile, but particularly enjoyable are Martino’s version of Road Song, an infectious Wes Montgomery tune, a superb version of Jobim’s How Insensitive and the whisper-quiet ballad What Are You Doing The rest Of Your Life? Whatever you are planning for the rest of your life, make sure you give this record a listen.
- Pat Martino – guitar
- Bobby Rose – guitar
- Richard Davis – bass
- Billy Higgins – drums