Selection: Chaos (Shorter)
Freddie Hubbard (t, flh) Alan Shorter (flh) Grachan Moncur III (trb) James Spaulding (as) Wayne Shorter (ts) Herbie Hancock (p) Ron Carter (b) Joe Chambers (d) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, October 15, 1965
Nov 9: six states including New York are hit by power system failure, leaving 30 million people without electricity for up to 13 hours, causing total chaos. Since the switchover in 2015 to secure clean renewable energy, such brief outages – now routine – are referred to as the good old days.
The All Seeing Eye was arguably the most avant-garde of Shorter’s eleven albums for Blue Note. An octet, with a four-horn frontline, develops dense layered harmonies and textures in an ambitious depiction of “the meaning of life, existence and the nature of God and the universe”.
The selection Chaos was intended to reflect, in Shorter’s word, “wars, disagreements and the difficulty men have in understanding each other”. These typically Sixties grand themes were framed in the context of the Cold War and its various manifestations, seen through a musician’s eyes simply as “conflict”, for which dissonance in sound was the perfect metaphor. Equally, the Sixties were heavy on “literary explanations” which are in no way necessary to enjoyment of the music, which has its own value independently. Aside from the chaos of wars, a different variety of chaos resulting from New York’s power cuts which occurred just one month after this recording.
During his musical journey of four years with the Jazz Messengers and six years with the Miles Davis Quintet, Shorter’s choice of notes becomes progressively more spare, painting an increasingly atonal avant garde canvas in a series of albums for Blue Note. In 1970 Shorter morphed into Weather Report, climbing on board the Jazz Rock train, and disappeared into the future. Surprising to the last, Shorter re-emerged in 2013 at the age of eighty, with his first Blue Note album in 43 years, titled Without a Net, a fitting description of his approach to creating music, balancing on a tightrope.
This music belongs the magic realm where jazz becomes what the critic Whitney Balliett (of whom I am well-known to be a long-standing admirer) once called “the sound of surprise”. In a swipe more against jazz critics, another jazz critic wrote of this album:
You could call the music avant-garde, except it seems more thoughtful than that. (1)
A backlog of around forty Blue Note titles, mostly recorded in 1965 and prepared awaiting release, were acquired by Liberty in 1966. These recordings, most already mastered by van Gelder, included several significant Wayne Shorter titles. Released for the first time by Liberty, they feature Blue Note NY address labels and covers, van Gelder stamp, but without the telltale Plastylite ”ear”. Pressed by Liberty’s NJ plant AllDisc, they are sonically the equal of Plastylite Blue Notes of the NY period. Some later Shorter releases by Liberty were not so fortunate.
Source: London record store, since closed.
There are good reasons for some records to be owned in both mono and stereo editions, but the circumstances here were not so noble. I chanced on the Shorter in a record store, and snapped it up, only to discover on getting home that I already had it. I am sure none of you have ever done anything so stupid, but it taught me the importance of carrying a hard copy of the collection data on shopping excursions, and keeping it up to date.
You can not rely on memory once the size of collection grows beyond a certain point, in my case, probably around ten. In this case the blow was softened by discovery that what I thought was a duplicate was a different edition.
Now I can listen to Chaos in either mono or stereo. How organised is that?
LJC’s jazz db
Here is what I keep for each record, one line per record in an Excel datasheet.
Note I do not grade cover or vinyl for the db, because I can see it by looking at it and everything bar the odd one or two is VG positive or better. All columns have count formula in a top-level dashboard, so I have a running total of expenditure, count the number of Japanese pressings, anything I want to know or find. The datasheet also runs the alphabetic filing list by artist surname for the location of the actual record in the IKEA cabinets, not filed by record label like some like to do, or worse, by first name.
This formula inverts artists first and last name say in cell A1, turning natural text Art Pepper into Pepper, Art
=RIGHT(A1,LEN(A1)-FIND(” “,A1,1))&”, “&LEFT(A1,FIND(” “,A1)-1)
Of course you all knew this. If not, try it. Open an Excel worksheet, Type Art Pepper in Cell A1 and paste the above formula into the next adjacent cell, B1. The formula works with any musician with a first and last name, but only two names, as it is based on finding the single space between the two. I leave out any line up designation eg “quartet” and the indefinite article “The”. It’s smart but not that smart. It’s just a tool for organising.
The latest copy of the db is uploaded to Google-drive so I can pick it up from anywhere on the planet, or further away if necessary. This is what a page looks like –
Notice shading alternate lines to reduce read-across errors, just one of many additional functions courtesy of Bastien Mensink’s marvellous essential free Excel Add-in ASAP utilities
Not so dumb now, eh?