192 of 194 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Few Albums Can Compare
In the space of only about four years in the mid-1960s, Wayne Shorter put out about 7 albums, any one of which could have revolutionized jazz music. In my view, Speak No Evil is the best of them all (though the competition is incredible). Basically, jazz music entered a new and original phase through Shorter's compositions. In the '30s and '40s, people played swing and...
Published on May 12, 2004 by John Russon
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Blue Note Stereo 84194 Vinyl
This a review for Blue Note Records 75th Anniversary Vinyl Initiative record mastered by Alan Yoshida at Capital Records. The sound quality of this 130 gram record is somewhere between a Scorpio reissue and a Music Matters 33rpm reissue. The sonic quality sounds a little boxed in to me. I would have much preferred a mono version. It sounds like it was mastered using the...
Published 3 months ago by E. Plowman
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192 of 194 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Few Albums Can Compare,
In the space of only about four years in the mid-1960s, Wayne Shorter put out about 7 albums, any one of which could have revolutionized jazz music. In my view, Speak No Evil is the best of them all (though the competition is incredible). Basically, jazz music entered a new and original phase through Shorter's compositions. In the '30s and '40s, people played swing and then bebop, which were "jazzed up" approaches to standard tunes. The '50s and early '60s saw a period of new jazz composition, and a self-conscious introduction of new styles that were centered around instrumental style rather than around standard tunes. These new styles definitely broke new ground, but they still were mostly built around virtuoso-style improvising that exploited the harmonic possibilities of the chord structure of a song. Though it is obviously indebted to this tradition, Shorter's compositions shifted the focus away from "blowing" and onto the beauty of the compositions. Playing these songs emphasized more the evoking of the appropriate mood and texture rather than just using them as generic platforms for playing the same scales and licks. Basically, these songs invited new forms of exploration--and for that reason they remain some of the most popular songs for contemporary jazz bands to play. This album, Speak No Evil, is a real pleasure to listen to, and that is true the first time and the five-hundredth time. This is one of the tiny handful of albums that can without question be called the greatest in the history of jazz. Everyone should have the pleasure of listening to this album.
50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Belongs in the Pantheon,
Wayne Shorter writes some of the most memorable tunes in the jazz idiom and on this recording his talent for composition is front and center. With a group that consists of Hancock, Carter and Elvin Jones on drums the music is haunting and rhythmically complex. The bonus here is the superb playing of Freddie Hubbard on trumpet. To step into what is essentially Miles Davis' shoes with this group of Davis alumni must have been a mind-blowing responsibility but Hubbard quickly established his own idenity and his playing is one of the highlights of this set. Speak no Evil is a classic of 60's modal jazz and deserves a place in any serious collection.
62 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What This Album Means To Me,
This dynamic quintet marks one of the peaks in jazz creation and interplay in it's musical history. With an allstar cast of Wayne Shorter, Freddie Hubbard, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Elvin Jones, the music was destined to be nothing less than amazing from the start. But amazing players is not all it takes to make an album worth a spot on the jazz timeline. The day of recording it was obvious that everybody was on. Fueled by the lyrically sad and revolutionary compositions of Shorter, their creative drive was explosive. Being a drummer this album has taught me a huge chunk of what I know about the concepts of swing and interplay. This music has nothing to do with showing off or proving something to one's audience. The fantastic thing about Shorter is his ability to say exactly what he wants and yet the music comes across in a way that's "medicine for your ears" according to Herbie Hancock. Shorter was the only person to bring music to Miles that never had to be changed because it was perfect and this album shows exactly that; a solemn soul creating something far beyond music.
Witchhunt is a dynamic opening to the cd. The rhythmic explosion at the intro already tells the audience with in it's first few seconds of sound that the album's a classic. It's interesting to note how the intro is a great example of call and response, a somewhat foreshadowing of the interplay to come in the solos. Elvin's swing into the head is driving and powerful. All the tunes and solos on this cd are examples of Wayne's ability to use space. Witchhunt is no exception with a bouncy rhythm of 8th notes for two bars followed by space for two bars. The horns are somewhat behind the beat, defining their unique concept of swing. Wayne understood what the rhythm section was there for. It wasn't to make himself sound good, but to make the music sound good. The intense B section contrasts the mellow and bouncy A and is another great example of how Wayne incorporated call and response in ways beyond just leaving space after a phrase. The end of the B section then mellows down with some 8th note phrasing somewhat reminiscent of the A. Wayne's solo begins with an epic fill by Elvin and then the subtle interplay begins. If you're to tune out the rhythm section it almost sounds like Wayne is soloing over a ballad. His enigmatic way to keep his cool over a "medium up" song is incredible. His phrasing and style make his rests seem longer and spacier than they are which is also very masterfully accomplished by the rhythm section. They knew how to make two bars feel like an eternity, something that is hard to explain in simple music terminology. He has a subtle way of referencing the head into his solo without using it too much. Hubbard begins his solo with some high pitched dynamic phrasing. Freddie is a lot more ahead of the beat than Wayne, another interesting form of call and response that keeps your ear wanting more. Hancock's solo opens with a simple 3 note motif. His solo is not very related to the head but still is innovative and exciting, proving his inate ability to write music on the spot. Coming back into the head the drums are more intense than they were at the beginning. Freddie slips a little at the end, but is almost not even worth mentioning as the song is incredible.
Fee Fi Fo Fum opens with a syncopated and mysterious piano intro. The head itself is very spacey and mellow with the current of swing under it. One of the most amazing pieces of this album is Freddie's solo intro on this track. It's virtually indescribable along with the rest of his solo which built off his great topic sentence. The solo is fairly short, but still says so much. Shorter's solo is very behind the beat and very rarely has anything faster than quarter notes. Later in his solo he busts out some lines that are almost straight. These lead into some very bluesy licks and his climax into Herbie's solo. Herbie's solo plays off Wayne's blues motifs and incorporates his own style until he builds tension with a triplet line back into the head. The first note of the head is played in such a way that it seems like they used some kind of effect, but it's all simply in how well they played it. The ending is predictable and releaving.
Dance Cadaverous is a somewhat "up" waltz, but is more like a mysterious and haunting lullaby. The piano comping over the head is another one of my favorite parts of this cd. It's this amazingly awkward and muddy feeling that if heard by itself would simply be weird, but Herbie knew how to use his out of the box mind to add the spice to Shorter's music. The piano solo begins behind the beat and very beautiful. Herbie rapidly builds tension and releases it into a flurry of notes leading into the downbeat. The energy subtly increases into Shorter's solo in which he seems like he's grasping onto something. Shorter's uncanny ability to use his life experience to bring out the human and raw emotion in something as obscure as a complex waltz is truly stunning. His solo then builds back into the mysterious head where Herbie's comping is again exactly what the composition needed. The strong ending is great and a perfect end to a perfect song.
Speak No Evil, the title track, is a "medium up" swing song with such subtle things done during the head that it's hard to notice. The head itself is a simple 5 note motif that leads into the downbeat from the and of 3. The B section is a quick and large amount of tension that is quickly released. The solos are all over only the A section which makes it very cohesive and swingin'. Shorter's solo is my favorite on this cd. This is the only time he's on top of the beat in any way. This song has some of the most intense interplay i've heard in all my listening experience. Wayne's climax is practically orgasmic and after it happens you can hear one of the musicians say "yea," which is said in the best way possible. The crescendo into Hubbard's solo is strong and then mellows down to be built back up over the intense swing. Freddie has no problem consistently hitting notes that tug at the soul and uses them as a common tension builder throughout the cd. Hancock is also fairly on top of the beat but still maintains a very relaxed feel. He then busts into one of his polyrhythmic tension builders and leads back into the spacey head. The crescendos are so well done between Shorter and Hubbard that it's hard to tell that there are 2 horns. It ends with a fadeout which is appropriate even though I'm not ussually one for fadeouts.
Infant Eyes is the ballad of this cd. Shorter's intro is incredibly soulful and his sense of rubato glides the peace as opposed to making it feel like chunking quarter notes which can get very repetitive in ballads. This song is a perfect example of Wayne Shorter feeding off his painful life experiences to create something wonderful. "Bring It On" Shorter says when discussing life tragedies, "because I want to reep the benefits." With the loss of his wife, parents, and daughter, Wayne Shorter has embraced solitude and used it to breathe tragedy into his horn. This song has a level of authenticity that is far beyond chops, pitch, rhythm, but is simply directly about soul. He references the head in his solo and the discussion between the sax and the piano turn this from a ballad into a beautifully depressing conversation. The ending is very mysterious and poignant.
Wildflower is the final song of this cd with the exception of the alternate take of Dance Cadaverous. Though this song is an "up" waltz it really feels like a lullaby. I commonly find myself humming it while I'm walking around. Shorter begins his solo by quoting the head. He still uses his ability to stay behind the beat to show
the contrast he has with the rhythm section. Freddie's solo also quotes the head and uses his high pitch on ability to stay on top of the beat to portray his message. Hancock uses polyrhythms to lead into realeases on the downbeat, starting his phrases halfway through the measures. He and Elvin synch up on a dotted half note rhythm back into the head. The A section is soft and serene while the B section builds the tension into the ending.
This cd gave me so many new concepts as a musician, but as a listener too. This was one of the first jazz albums I really got into and it was a gateway drug of sorts because it really opened my mind to this world I had never explored. Shorter still remains one of my all time favorite musicians and composers. There's something about his playing that's not just wonderful. It's not just lyrical. It really tugs at your heart in an indescribable way. He understands that music isn't just music. That a rhythm isn't just a rhythm and a note isn't just a note. If you ever find yourself wondering why all the soul in music is gone these days it's because most of it's gone to Wayne. He has no intentions of quitting and neither does my ear, cuz it needs it's daily dose of the Shorter.
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece. 100% perfect.,
Enough said? No, I'm afraid I can't help but gush about my favorite jazz album.
I can't figure why this album seems to sometimes be lumped in with the "avant-garde", because all of it is eminently listenable. In fact, perhaps what makes this record so uniquely great is how consistently accessible and ear-pleasing it is, yet never shallow, commercial or boring. The tunes are uniformly fantastic, the charts always interesting, and the playing is wonderfully subtle and dynamic all around; perfect moments of musical interaction abound. Shorter's prowess as a composer is amply documented on his many great albums, perhaps never more so than on _Speak No Evil_. Highlights include the irresistibly swinging "Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum", the intriguingly geometric and mysterious "Dance Cadaverous", and the breathtakingly gorgeous ballad "Infant Eyes".
Wayne Shorter mixed-and-matched a lot with his ensembles as a leader, never recording an album with the same band twice, leading bands anywhere from a quartet to a sextet (and the odd octet). But on _Speak No Evil_ he seems to have hit on the perfect band for his music. All props and praise to McCoy Tyner, who also recorded a lot with Wayne, but Herbie Hancock, with his inimitable subtleties and tonal shadings, is the perfect pianist to accompany Wayne. Elvin Jones on drums is a welcome addition to any lineup, needless to say. He really accentuates and underlines the *swing* inherent in the tunes here. The bright tone and spry exuberance of Freddie Hubbard on trumpet is a perfect counterpoint to Shorter's somewhat melancholy lyricism. Ron Carter anchors the bass quite admirably with a lot of nice touches of syncopation, but he's not as noticeable as he would later be with the Miles Davis Quintet.
I just can't say enough about this CD. It is gorgeous, it is stunning, it is perfect jazz.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece hidden amongst the other Van Gelders,
The new Rudy Van Gelder releases on Blue Note provide a great excuse to pick up those classic albums you are missing in your collection. This is one you must have.
Shorter has a beautiful round sound like Sonny Rollins on valium, but he plays with Coltrane's adventurism. This album showcases his writing skills, as well, with six beautiful tunes strung together like pearls on a necklace.
There really isn't any way to get the feeling into words. I've seen people try to describe Kind Of Blue or Sketches Of Spain and fail miserably to really express the beauty and the unity of the expression. This is an album of equal power and quality. Don't miss out on this.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Criminally Underated,
I know what you are thinking, "How could Speak No Evil be underated with all these five star reviews?". I'll tell you how. It's because people rarely put the phrases "Speak No Evil" and "one of the 5 greatest jazz LP's of all time" in the same sentence.
The main reason I think this LP is underated is because its main strength did not lie in amazing solo performances like on LP's such as Miles Davis's Kind of Blue and Coltrane's Love Supreme. The main strength of this album is Shorter's compositional genius. The ability of the band to turn in awesome and memorable performances while at the same time being so reserved and structured is what make this album so wonderful.
The entire LP gets heavy play from me, but I will try to highlight what I think are the it's best offerings. "Dance Cadaverous" is one of the best jazz compositions ever recorded and its alternate take, which is also on this LP, is even more stunning. Shorter and Freddie Hubbard are unbelievable on this track, Hancock's performance on this track is equally unforgettable. As good as "Dance" is the track that made me realize just how amazing Shorter is was "Infant Eyes". Every note on this performance is perfectly placed. Shorter and Hancock are the stars on this one. Everytime I hear Hancock's solo intro, and then Shorter's entrance I fall in love with the track all over again. These two turn in nothing short of brilliant performances.
I could go On and On but I will wrap this up. Get this CD. You can't be serious about jazz and not have this one in your collection.
7 stars for this one no less.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It doesn't get any better,
Listen closely and repeatedly to this one. This music is extremely subtle; Wayne Shorter is one of the greatest composers we have today. Upon multiple listenings, it will grow on you and its complexity will unfold. And, if you're a musician, get out the Real Book. Most of the tunes (like 5 of them) are in there; you will just die when you look at the charts. To make music like this sound as effortless as it does is the work of true masters.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This album doesn't speak evil, it speaks Divine,
The 1960's were a time of great development and creativity for saxophonist Wayne Shorter. Not only was he a part of two of the most exceptional groups of the period (first with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, followed by a memorable time with Miles Davis) but he also was the leader on many dates for the Blue Note Label; the most famous being the masterful 1964 album Speak No Evil. An album made up entirely of Shorter's innovative style of compositions, Speak No Evil was remarkable for combining some of the edge of hard bop (a hold over from his time with Blakey,) with melodies that were languorous and off-centered, with surprising intervals and a certain kind of "coolness" that picked off of the Miles Davis esthetic of earlier years. In the end, the album had it all: the brawniness of hard bop, the thoughtfulness of the cool, as well as a certain kind of freedom that early jazz had been lacking. The album's six pieces all paint certain mental pictures (Shorter explains that he was thinking of "strange vistas and dimly lit shapes) that provide a rather ethereal mood, and heralding an entire new style of jazz composition.
The album opens up with Witch Hunt, possibly the simplest tune in regards to the chord progression. The piece is mostly a static melody of fourths over changing harmonies, with the rhythm section only hinting at the outpouring of creativity and sound that is to come. Wayne Shorter solos first, offering the kind of spacious solo style for which he was famous, sometimes playing with dissonance, sometimes offering more melodic variations on the original melody. The most notable aspect of this improvisation is his ability to combine repeated figures and longer, held notes that still form a cohesive and melodic solo. Freddie Hubbard enters in next, immediately calling out an impassioned blues line; his groovy solo in a minor key was one of his hallmarks, and if his contribution is less creative than Shorter's, he nevertheless gives an exciting and aggressive solo that forms a perfect counterpart to the tenorist. The pair would repeat this winning formula throughout the album. Herbie Hancock rounds out the improvisations out with a solo built mainly on twisting, hairpin turns and interesting intervals. Ron Carter plunks stoically away on the bass all the while. The horn players return with the melody.
Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum slows down the tempo so much, though the mood is kept the same. The tune's melody is markedly more interesting, opening up with an interesting raised four chord into a bluesy bridge with some excellent harmonies between tenor and trumpet. Herbie Hancock solos underneath the horn line (as he would do again later.) This time, it is Freddie Hubbard who opens up the solos, again with a rather bluesy tone, while Ron Carter providing a solid walking bass line underneath. Shorter comes next with a more laid-back approach, he builds his solos to a climax with both choruses, and Elvin Jones picks up on this tack, adding some excellent fills and bombs. Herbie Hancock finishes things off with a solid effort of his own.
The mystical waltz Dance Cadaverous is number three, a slow-moving piece that relies more on mood than melody, but as usual the harmonies in both the horns and the rhythm section are very striking. Elvin Jones adds various polyrhythms throughout. Herbie Hancock's solo is luminous, using the pedal to great effect, with more odd intervals and runs that are both hot and cool at once. Shorter breaks into this musical moment with an occasionally rather strident solo that makes only the most economical use of notes. More intervals of a surprising quality are once again the most obvious thing. Following Shorter, the melody returns, as Hubbard has no solo on this number (perhaps Shorter felt that the trumpeter's burning style and bluesy lines would be inappropriate?) In any case, Dance Cadaverous finishes in beautiful style, with a long, quavering note and a soft drum fill.
The band turns up the burners a bit with the next tune, the title track Speak No Evil. Hancock solos once again under the melody, and pretty much steals the show away from everyone else with his clever turns and twists. Despite not being a blues, this piece shows more of Shorter's hard bop background than any other, as it is by far the most forceful and muscular. The tenor man solos first again, his most aggressive of the date, and Elvin Jones drums with a man finally able to let loose, careening on the drums yet still keeping perfect time, power yet never overbearing. Both Shorter and Jones are obviously building off the energy produced by one another. Hubbard comes next, yet again with a bluesy line, and it works perfectly. Hubbard's playing is commanding and assertive, and this is possibly his best solo on the entire record. Most striking his use of dynamics, and his ability to produce the maximum amount of energy from high notes. It is pianist Hancock who steals the show though, creating a very rhythmically interesting solo, especially at the end of his final chorus. In addition, he takes a different direction when the melody returns, soloing in a more chordal style compared to the one-handed runs he used previously. This is the only track where the band fades to silence, rather than ending on a long note.
Undoubtedly the most well-known and beloved piece (and one of Shorter's most famous) is the haunting ballad Infant Eyes, a beautiful melodic statement made by the tenor saxophonist. His tone is slightly warmer here, less stringent than it was before, reminiscent of John Coltrane (one of Shorter's chief inspirations) while the rhythm section plays with a gentle freedom underneath. Infant Eyes is Shorter's highlight, especially his solo, as he avoids the too-common pitfall of many balladeers by staying away from too many notes, playing melodically in the best sense of the word. Freddie Hubbard sits out this number entirely, but Shorter's performance is so strong that he more than makes up for the trumpeter's absence, who himself was a stellar balladeer in his own right.
Another waltz rounds out this album, Wild Flower, taken at a rather brisk tempo, with the same formula used by the band in all the numbers save Infant Eyes: a harmonic line in the horns, with an underlying solo by Hancock. The band switches to 4/4 for the solos, which is a bit disappointing, but otherwise this is just as strong as all the previous material.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sustained Beauty,
In the early to mid-sixties, Wayne Shorter, both before and during his tenure with Miles Davis, created some of the most indelible compositions in the jazz lexicon. The genius of the composer, who created "Speak No Evil" "Night Dreamer," "Juju," and "Adam's Apple," all recorded during this time,is beyond description. Using many of the same personnel (usually Herbie Hancock in the piano chair, who was also central to the harmonic voicings of the ensemble playing-Reggie Workman or Ron Carter on bass, Elvin Jones or Joe Chambers on drums, Freddie Hubbard or Lee Morgan on trumpet) probably accounts for the "unity" of sound on these albums, but even more central are the songs written by Wayne Shorter-"Infant Eyes" from Speak No Evil," "Footprints" from "Adam's Apple," "House of Jade" from "Juju," the title track from "Night Dreamer" or "Oriental Folk Song" just for starters.
As another writer mentioned, this is "cool jazz," but much different form what came to be known as "West Coast cool." The tunes unfurl at an even pace, and the beauty of the music is such that it sometimes seems to stop momentarily, just so the beauty could be sustained a little longer. These are the records that (no disrespect to Coltrane, Hawkins, Webster, or any of the great tenor players) cement Wayne Shorter as my favorite tenor player, and one of the greatest musicians of the 20th (and now 21st) century.
Obviously, anyone who likes "Speak No Evil" should check out "Adam's Apple," "Juju," "Night Dreamer," or Miles" "Nefertiti," to which Shorter contributes another classic composition in the same vein as the others, "Fall."
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb compositions and musicianship,
By A Customer
In my opinion, Shorter's best solo effort, although all his work as a solo artist is superb. I especially like Dance Cadaverous, the third cut, which has a mysterious, haunting melody, with Shorter and Freddie Hubbard playing in unison. The rhythm section of Hancock, Ron Carter, and Elvin Jones is deeply sympathetic to the compositions. A very clean, beautiful recording by the great Rudy Van Gelder from 1964. I listen to this CD whenever I need creative inspiration. Buy it!
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