UPDATE October 16: added my Liberty reissue labels to the post.
UPDATE October 11: Harry M photos added to foot of post, the young Wayne Shorter, modelling striped pants, very 60s.
Filling in the gaps of records LJC mysteriously missed first time around: Wayne Shorter’s classic Blue Note title: ‘JU JU‘. I have reviewed Night Dreamer, Speak No Evil, All Seeing Eye, Schizophrenia, and several of the other titles, but a post on ‘Juju’ had been languishing in draft for several years, based on my first acquired copy, the Japanese King reissue 1978.
Somewhere on my shelves is a late 60’s Liberty edition with Van Gelder Stereo stamp, which I can’t access right now, (a shoot out for later date) , but as a result I never felt the need to go the final NY upgrade, as the Liberty Van Gelder is effectively the same sound, though not the same price.
. . .
“Juju is a folk magic tradition from West Africa. Juju charms and spells can be used to inflict either bad or good juju, which equate to either bad or good luck” (Wiki). Right now we need all the good juju we can get.
Wayne Shorter, tenor saxophone; McCoy Tyner, piano; Reggie Workman, bass; Elvin Jones, drums; recorded at Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, August 3, 1964, released the following year in July 1965.
The first reference point for all important albums is often Wikipedia. The Wiki for this title was clearly written by a music student: “The album shows the strong influence of John Coltrane … whose style is reflected here both in performance and composition. On “Juju”, Shorter’s timbre is rather astringent, and his phrases are long and volatile. The distinctive harmonic flavour stems from the heavy use of a B augmented chord and Shorter’s exploration of the related whole-tone scale.”
Well, you could have knocked me down with a diminished seventh. Try to describe the flavor of Coca Cola, or even the shape of the bottle: you have to be very good choosing and arranging words to get even close. ‘ rather astringent timbre’ are the words I would use for the sharp tuning of Jackie Mclean, “Coltrane influences” perhaps, I was OK with, until the B augmented chord.
Music is a funny thing. I know what I hear, without understanding why it is what I hear. I don’t find the technical deconstruction helpful. More importantly, the emotional connection is missing from the technical description. To my ear, Shorter’s approach is brooding, his tone sour, his phrasing is paced and weighty, contrasted with rapid fire sorties into the mid and upper register, a pent-up underlying urgency. That’s his music, for me anyway. Shorter’s compositions are distinctive, often based on “short, hypnotic, repetitive phrases“(AllMusic).
Juju showcases the interplay between Shorter and McCoy Tyner, which lends a different dynamic to the interplay between Shorter and Herbie Hancock on three of his other Blue Note albums. Each Shorter album has interesting changes in chemistry, adding Freddy Hubbard on two titles, Lee Morgan on another, two titles add a trombone – Curtis Fuller (Schizophrenia) and Grachan Moncur III (All Seeing Eye).and two with James Spaulding’s alto enriching the horn lines. It is all a richly textured musical canvas.
Vinyl: BST 84182 King Records, Japan, 1978
A hepcat can look at a King, and this is where my budget pointed in the early days, and no doubt many fledgling collectors, Japanese pressings, on the cusp of transition from analog to digital. Some Japanese pressings are OK, some are lack-lustre. None are sonicall the equal of original US pressings and their immediate descendants pressed with Van Gelder metal.
Reid Miles artful typography ‘JU JU’, in block capitals with quotes, neatly dodges the correct capitalisation – is it Juju, juju, JUJU or JU JU, or Ju-Ju (used by Archie Shepp on his Impulse title Magic Of Ju-Ju)? I opt for its folk magic origins, juju, though probably use it inconsistently. Spell-checker, off.
It is easy to forget these King reissues are themselves, in this case, over thirty years old. This Shorter album is one of his less sought after titles, according to Popsike, maxing at only $1,000, and considerably less though never “cheap”: Lurking among the top twenty auctions, which are all mono, is a “sealed copy”, and a couple in shrink.
Below is the original release on NY labels. This was a high-end auction, with deep groove side 1 and intact shrink. I’m not sure about the authenticity of a shrink from NY May 1965. Shrinks were commonplace on later Liberty West Coast pressings. It is not that difficult to re-seat a shrink on another album – I’ve done it myself.
UPDATE October 16, 2020: Liberty reissue labels
My own Liberty reissue below, which unusually has Bert-Co printed labels (capitalised SIDE) and pressed with Van Gelder metal rather than the usual malpractice of local remastering from copy tape.
It also looks like the labels for side 1 and side 2 are taken from different print runs, due to the inconsistent tint of the blue ink. Sounds great, and better than the Japanese press by far.
Shorter Blue Note Discography and later Shorter titles
For this post, I am deliberately limiting myself to titles with Shorter as leader, put aside his many session appearances.
Shorter’s Blue Notes are exquisite examples of the post-bop oeuvre. My personal favourite is the later Schizophrenia title (1967), closely followed by the 1965 recording later released Etcetera (Liberty/ and Tone Poet). Night Dreamer was my most expensive addition, and the best cover art, though I probably play it least. I dipped my toe into post-Blue Note titles like Super Nova, and Odyssey Of Iska, but found them strangely unappealing. Am I wrong? Shorter releases of the 80’s like Atlantis, and Phantom Navigator suffer from very poor presentation on vinyl, certainly in comparison with magnificent 60’s Blue Notes, hopefully I am not being to hard on them. Beyond these, Shorter followed the siren call of The Evil Silver Disc™, out of my scope.
Any favourite Shorter titles out there? Your shout, help others navigate.
UPDATE October 11, 2020:
Harry M has the photos, Wayne Shorter, Antibes, 1969, Elvin Jones, Jazz Expo, 1970