Friday, May 9, 2008

Tenor Madness: Reissues from Wayne Shorter and Ike Quebec

Blue Note's essential (and cheap) "Rudy Van Gelder" series has reissued pretty much every classic Blue Note album from the fifties and sixties at this point, and so they've begun the transition from reissuing classics to releasing some of the great forgotten gems of their catalogue from that period. Two of the most recent (both of these were reissued in the past two months) of these have been Ike Quebec's "Blue and Sentimental" and Wayne Shorter's "The Soothsayer," so here are some capsule reviews of those.

"Blue and Sentimental" is without a question Ike Quebec's best album as a leader, which stems from Quebec's absolutely killer rhythm section of Grant Green, Philly Joe Jones, and Paul Chambers. Quebec himself is in top form, although once you've heard one performance from Ike Quebec you've heard them all. Of particular note is his intense playing on the title track, a Basie favorite, and on the up-tempo closer "Like," in which Green also plays brilliantly. Recommended for those of you who have a thing for Jazz at the Philharmonic-type neo-swing.

Wayne Shorter's "The Soothsayer" doesn't necessarily count as an album from the sixties; while it was recorded in 1965 it wasn't actually released until the late seventies. Granted, the album it was shelved for- "The All-Seeing Eye-" is also pretty great, but with a line-up like this (Shorter, Freddie, McCoy, Ron, Tony- if you don't know those people by first name, you don't know jazz- and the perennially under-heard and underrated James Spaulding, who plays his ass off on this) and Shorter's brilliant originals (particularly "Angola," and the title track) there's no reason to think of it as a leftover from Shorter's sixties work. The best track actually isn't a Shorter original but an arrangement of Jean Sibelius's "Valse Triste," which Shorter called a big influence on his own "Danse Cadaverous" from the groundbreaking "Speak No Evil." In spite of the melody and changes having been written years before for a different idiom, the track fits in beautifully. Highly recommended.

Next time I'll try and have reviews of John Zorn's three (THREE!) new albums so far this year, but if not there will probably some kind of snarky commentary on recent jazz news (of which there is, as always, much to snark about) between now and then.

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