Recorded at the Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey on March 10, 1967.
Wayne Shorter was at the peak of his creative powers when he recorded Schizophrenia in the spring of 1967. Assembling a sextet that featured two of his Miles Davis bandmates (pianist Herbie Hancock and bassist Ron Carter), trombonist Curtis Fuller, alto saxophonist/flautist James Spaulding and drummer Joe Chambers, Shorter found a band that was capable of conveying his musical "schizophrenia," which means that this is a band that can play straight just as well as they can stretch the limits of jazz. At their best, they do this simultaneously, as they do on the opener "Tom Thumb." The beat and theme of the song are straightforward, but the musical interplay and solos take chances that result in unpredictable music. And "unpredictable" is the operative phrase for this set of edgy post-bop. Shorter's compositions (as well as Spaulding's lone contribution, "Kryptonite") have strong themes, but they lead into uncharted territory, constantly challenging the musicians and the listener. This music exists at the border between post-bop and free - it's grounded in post-bop, but it knows what is happening across the border. Within a few years, he would cross that line, but Schizophrenia crackles with the excitement of Shorter and his colleagues trying to balance the two extremes.
-Stephen Thomas Erlewine (All Music Guide)
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Wayne Shorter - Schizophrenia
Late in 1968, in an essay for Down Beat that showed an extraordinary depth of insight and self-comprehension, Wayne Shorter analyzed some of the problems facing the musician in a competitive society.
"I wonder," he wrote, "if a young musician, hearing another musician, has an instinctive desire to compete with this other musician, or instead to join forces and compare notes? I wonder, if the two of them were to get together... and their notes were appraised by a third party, the critic, would these two artists be so influenced by what the third party says that they would strive to compete with one another to please the critic? In addition, the critic speaks to a fourth party, the public, and in pleasing the critic do you please the public?"
As you might suspect if you have ever listened to the music of Wayne Shorter, his answer is, essentially, that the artist has to be an individual thinker, must remain beholden neither to critic nor public nor "rival" musician, but rather to the dictates of his own conscience and his own esthetic credo.
Shorter's principles have always been clearly stated in his solos and compositions. As it happens, he has pleased fellow musicians, critics and laymen alike, but not by catering to them. Only last year he was voted the composer most deserving of wider recognition, in the annual critics' poll conducted by the same magazine in which he was later to ask these questions. The critics, of course, had nominated him not because of any desire on his part, but rather because they heard in him a writer of integrity and authority, a man true to his own tenets.
Almost a decade has passed since Wayne Shorter was first acknowledged by a few perceptive New York observers as a major innovator. He joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers late in 1959, remained with them until 1963, and the following year joined Miles Davis.
During those years his playing style, once considered a synthesis of John Coltrane and other contemporary elements, emerged as an individual and readily recognizable sound. In the same period his continued search for advancement as a composer was reflected not only in his work with Blakey and Davis, but on the series of albums he recorded for Blue Notes as a leader. Using an ever wider range of moods, textures and concepts, he has at last earned a substantial measure of the attention warranted by his creativity as a soloist and writer.
To interpret a set composed almost exclusively of his own works, Wayne on this occasion selected a group of familiar and sympathetic musicians who have all played his music before and have their own mutual compatibility.
James Spaulding, the Indianapolis-born alto saxophonist and flutist, first came to prominence with Sun Ra and other Chicago groups in the late 1950s. In New York in the early and middle 1960s he played with Freddie Hubbard, Max Roach and Randy Weston.
Curtis Fuller was, of course, a colleague of Wayne's during much of his tenure in the Jazz Messengers. In The Encyclopedia of Jazz in the '60s I appraised him as one of the most flexible trombonists in the music of the past decade, an evaluation that still holds good.
The rhythm section, individually and collectively, is familiar to all who have followed the evolution of music in this genre. Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Joe Chambers supplied the momentum behind that particularly fruitful Shorter LP, The All Seeing Eye (Blue Note 84219). Hancock was recently honored by a first place victory in the Down Beat readers' poll.
A word about the title of the album. Schizophrenia, in one of the strict dictionary senses, refers to an enormously complex emotional disorder, involving a distortion of the usual logical relationship between ideas, a separation between the intellect and the emotions, a retreat from, reality. In the more common sense, it simply means a split personality.
Nowadays every musical personality, when it reaches maturity, is capable of splitting in many directions. Compare the rhythmic and melodic complexity of Playground, the closing track on the second side, with the almost rhythm-and-blues-like directness of Tom Thumb, the opener. There was a time, not too long ago in jazz history, when it would have been difficult indeed to find a composer capable of producing two works so disparate in nature.
That Wayne is capable of going as far "outside" as one might wish is axiomatic; by the same token, he remains warmly communicative and able to function as a soul soloist when the occasion requires it. Tom Thumb shows that James Spaulding, whose alto leads the ensemble in the presentation of the line, is similarly adaptable. Wayne's turbulent yet blues-rooted solo maintains the mood. Herbie Hancock of course is already well known for his occasional displays of so-called schizophrenia; yet there are listeners who, hearing a couple of his more adventurous explorations on these sides, may ask themselves: "Can this be the same Herbie Hancock who wrote "Watermelon Man?"
Go will seem to most Shorter followers to be representative of a mood more frequently reflected in his writing, more oblique in both rhythmic and melodic approaches. Note the almost unbelievable intricacy of the communication between Hancock and his rhythmic section teammates during the passage just preceding James Spaulding's flute passage. Wayne's solo here (or for that matter, just about anywhere else on this session) brings to mind one aspect of his musical beliefs eloquently expressed in the essay: it conveys that sense of "total involvement" to which he referred. "When you're playing," he said, "the music is not just you and the horn - the music is the microphone, the chair, the door opening, the spotlight, something rattling. From soul to universe."
The title tune Schizophrenia could refer to the contrast between its opening passage - slow, subtle, discreet- and the up- tempo swinging statement that follows Joe Chambers' suspenseful drum-roll and solo break. The composition has something of the flavor of certain early works from Wayne's days with the Messengers. Perhaps this impression is reinforced by the inclusion of a Curtis Fuller solo that is strongly reminiscent of his contributions during the days when he and Wayne toured together in that group. Spaulding's alto reveals masterful strength here. Hancock shows off his light-fantastic touch with a dancing, lovely solo, masterful in technique and stunning in imagination. Ron Carter and Joe Chambers sustain the challenging pace magnificently. Kryptonite, the only non-Shorter original of the set, written by James Spaulding, is another briskly paced work with one or two attractively jagged interval-jumps. The title refers to a gas used in small quartz lamps for extremely brilliant illumination. Spaulding on flute shows a flowing case and lightness that contrasts interestingly with the power and drive of his saxophone. Chambers and Carter again show how much they care about the nuance of time-most notably during Herbie's solo. The latter has a sort of susperided-in-air-quality, as if he were performing a high-wire act over a net provided by them.
I was unable to ask Wayne Shorter who Miyako was, because coincidentally, at the time of going to press, Wayne was in Japan. There was no need to ask anyone, however, what he had in mind, for this is clearly an example of his writing at its most tender and appealing. Basically it is a waltz; during one passage Joe Chambers shifts gears ever so gently into 9/8. Note how freely Ron moves around here while Joe plays time.
Playground, as noted earlier, is an exercise in intricacy, though there is never a sense of mere cleverness for its own sake. The horns move in and out unpredictably during the opening passage, which becomes virtually a solo for Joe Chambers. Wayne delivers himself of some of the most personal and hard-swinging solos of the day. The rhythm team goes into its free bag again behind Curtis Fuller. Spaulding's alto at times seems almost to be playing a duet with itself. Hancock's interplay with Chambers, just before the reprise of the theme, is a masterpiece of mutual understanding. Chambers again dominates as the horns go into their closing fade.
Wayne Shorter the person and Wayne Shorter the musician both are irrevocably committed to the "total involvement" of which he wrote so eloquently. There have been few other recordings, if any, as brilliantly illustrative of his involvement as these six pieces, showing this exemplary artist striving for and reaching new peaks of maturity.