Recording date: March 4th 1965 at the Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs
Re-release date (RVG remaster): March 25th 2008
Availabilty: CD, MP3 download, iTunes
If back in 1965 Blue Note's Alfred Lion may have had a moment's thought that "The Soothsayer" was going to be another money-spinner like Lee Morgan's "The Sidewinder", one listen would have told him that the music on this album was from a completely different bag. The album was shelved and not released until the mid seventies (when Wayne Shorter was achieving great popular recognition with Weather Report).
From September 1964, Wayne Shorter had joined Miles Davis' second great quintet from Art Blakey's band. He was overflowing with radical, brilliant musical ideas and arrangements. In a three year period he wrote and arranged seventeen compositions for the Miles Davis band and he also authored some twenty compositions for release on his own albums as leader. Five of those compositions are played here for the first time, making this re-mastered re-release of "The Soothsayer" an essential addition to the Wayne Shorter catalogue.
The assembled sextet has brilliance enough in its own right.
It is the second great Miles Davis quintet with Miles Davis himself and Herbie Hancock absent and replaced by Freddie Hubbard and McCoy Tyner, respectively. A second sax has been added. So the complete line-up is: Wayne Shorter (tenor sax), James Spaulding (alto sax), Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), McCoy Tyner (piano), Ron Carter (bass), Tony Williams (drums). This combination of Freddie Hubbard, Ron Carter and Tony Williams also gives more than a hint of the brilliance of Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage", on which all three had played in 1964.
The jazz, which could be described as 'time no changes' and freebop just as on Miles Davis' "ESP" or Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage", is open, modal and compelling. It is driven by Tony Williams' truly inspirational playing. It is at turns beautiful and mysterious.
Of the Wayne Shorter compositions, the opener "Lost" and "Lady Day" (a tribute to Billie Holiday) score high on the beauty scale with memorable harmonised horn sections and long and flowing solos with Freddie Hubbard very close on "Lost" to his soloing on "Maiden Voyage". "Angola", "The Big Push" and "The Soothsayer" are uptempo, inspirational and mysterious. There is a second, extended take of "Angola".
The closing track, "Valse Triste", is a truly remarkable jazz reading of the Jean Sibelius classical composition reworked to a latin inspired rhythm. Wayne Shorter had used this piece as a basis for his "Dance Cadaverous" on his album "Speak No Evil" and it is revealing to compare the two results.
Overall, a remarkable, essential album.
Related reviews: Wayne Shorter "Speak No Evil" Wayne Shorter "Beyond The Sound Barrier" Weather Report "Night Passage" Miles Davis "Nefertiti"
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