Recorded at - A&R Studios
Recorded on August 29th (tracks 1, 2, 4, 6) and September 2nd, 1969 (tracks 3, 5)
This CD reissue brings back an important transitional album for tenor-saxophonist Wayne Shorter. Doubling on soprano (which he had recently begun playing), Shorter interprets five of his originals (including "Water Babies" which had been recorded previously by Miles Davis) and Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Dindi." He definitely used a forward-looking group of sidemen for his "backup band" includes guitarists John McLaughlin and Sonny Sharrock, Walter Booker (normally a bassist) on classical guitar for "Dindi," bassist Miroslav Vitous, both Jack DeJohnette and Chick Corea (!) on drums and percussionist Airto; Maria Booker takes a vocal on the touching version of "Dindi." The influence of Miles Davis' early fusion period is felt throughout the music but there is nothing derivative about the often-surprising results. As with Wayne Shorter's best albums, this set rewards repeated listenings.
All Music Guide
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"Super Nova"?!! The album title conjures analogous relationships of Wayne Shorter and his music with the astronomical interpretations of super novae in our galaxy of about 100 billion stars. Although the word nova means "new", the term is applied to stars that are not actually new in the strict sense. Novae are "new stars" that blaze up into great splendor and then become faint again; these stars are classed as variable stars of no determined period. Some novae burst into a brilliance thousands of times greater than they formerly possessed such as the super nova, Tycho's star, in the constellation Cassiopeia near the end of the year 1572. Wayne Shorter, in the strict sense, is not a "new star" either; but he is, indeed, assuming greater star-like luminosity.
Another analogy finds its basis in astronomer Johann Bayer's "Uranometria", a star atlas of early 17th century which first designated the relative brightness of stars in the community of constellations via letters of the Greek alphabet. Wayne Shorter's star magnitude could, therefore, be regarded as one of the alpha or brightest stars. However, we don't need any system devised by astronomers of the likes of Bayer, Ptolemy, Hipparches, Flagsteed or Norton to help us realize that Wayne is a musician of the first magnitude. Just as a shell of exceedingly hot gas is blown out from a nova at the time of intense brightness, jazz musicians approximate this phenomenon in their supreme outbursts of creativity. Moreover, it is exciting to observe how the jazz man continues the inventing process-for what he invents is of the moment and for the moment.
Wayne Shorter is nearing his sixth anniversary with the Miles Davis quintet. And like Miles, Wayne is extremely self-challenging and exploratory; he is uninhibited by conventional attitudes. In his evolution as a notable composer and improvisor, the all-viable Miles Davis laboratory has provided Wayne with a rare combination of equipment, processes, awareness, and opportunity to develop his own concepts. To all of these, the inspired leadership model of Miles and the stimulating aura of the quintet add to the formulation of Wayne's own ethic for music and life.
Despite his being cited by the 1968 Down Beat Critics Poll for Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition as a jazz composer, Wayne remains underrated. Pianist-composer Herbie Hancock who spent over four years playing with Wayne as a fellow member of the Davis unit and as the pianist on Wayne's four most recent Blue Note albums, bemoans the fact that Wayne is an unsung jazz composer of great worth. As Herbie remarked, "Miles does Wayne's tunes, why don't others do his tunes? I'm going to do some of his things in my own recordings. I get a big kick out of doing Wayne's tunes. I like his conception and personal style-there are enough elements in his tunes to consistently identify them as his creations. He has a keen sense of chordal relationships. You can detect his special way of moving from one point to the next, vertically speaking; horizontally speaking, all his tunes are lyrical. Wayne is a great composer." Another thought expressed by Herbie Hancock which goes back a couple of years when we were discussing Miles' ways of providing creative encouragement and when Herbie was still with Miles, offers more clues to the Davis philosophy which is reflected in the musicians in his group. Miles had apparently told Wayne, Herbie, Ron Carter and Tony Williams, "I pay you guys to practice on the bandstand." Hancock explained, "This concept recognizes that there is really no way to practice certain ideas at home and that they occur only on the bandstand since ideas come from being stimulated by the atmosphere, the audience and the other players whether in a studio or club. It's like playing a set of drums without a bass drum-the bass drum being the audience et al. It's the only real situation for improvising."
About five years ago Wayne strived to relate his music to the manner in which he responded to the life and times surrounding him. He then enlarged his outlook to relating himself to the universe. Reflecting his passion for increased involvement toward "total involvement", Wayne has composed, played and recorded an enormous amount of music featuring his tenor saxophone and, of late, the soprano saxophone to express his involvement. On this latest album, the music represents a transect of contemporary music. There is an exciting collaboration of some of the best elements of the idiom effecting a fascinating collage of sounds that evoke impressions of space and the universe. And like the recent Miles Davis epochal recording, "In A Silent Way", the Shorter album sets up movement for new directions with consummate power. There are correlations between the two albums in the use of polyrhythms, polytonalities, openness and the personnel on the sessions. Wayne, Chick Corea, and John McLaughlin performed on Miles' date; Jack DeJohnette who replaced Tony Williams as Miles' drummer is on Wayne's album here. Their combined musical perspectives on the album bear extra advantages.
Wayne has obviously found the soprano a very compatible instrument for his explorations. His individual stylistic approach and quality of sound come through on the horn beautifully. Note, for example, how his performances on "Water Babies", "Capricorn" or "Swee-Pea" (a tribute to the late Billy Strayhorn) serve as excellent initial objects of study. Jobim's "Dindi", the only tune not composed by Wayne, deserves special attention. It features a very compassioned debut performance by Maria Booker, wife of Walter Booker who plays classical guitar on the track. Maria had never sung on a recording and was greatly concerned with her involvement. As producer Duke Pearson commented, "Maria and I are old friends. She's Portuguese and hails from Lisbon. Maria was very emotional about the whole thing. She put everything she had into it. She started to cry as she sang with joy. As you can hear, I left it all in there." Hancock who heard it added, "I cried when I heard it. Wayne was like a giant to Maria and she wanted to contribute something special." Like,."Dindi", the entire album is one of deep sincerity. Pearson believes it is Wayne's most sincere album he has ever heard. It was a very loose date with no rehearsal. Wayne had the music in mind and told the musicians what he desired and expected and to take it from - there with their imagination and wherewithal. Near the close of 1968 in Down Beat, Wayne wrote, "While recording, I'd like to create the atmosphere that we're not just at a recording studio. I've written something down, but we'll have a jam session spirit." And about where the new music is heading he stated, "I don't know if that's as important as where did it come from, because if you know where it came from, it's going anyway. I don't like labels, but I'll say "new music" anyway-total involvement. From soul to universe."
Musicians today are thinking very much in terms of the cosmic sphere rather than just musical feeling of the "true" sense. That is, there are leanings in terms of not just earthbound music you might expect to hear traveling around the globe in the traditional sense but rather what impulsive music might go on in our heads and what it might sound like if music could be heard from the stars and the celestial environment. Therefore, we hear a wide panorama of sounds, colors and movement in Wayne Shorter's music-some mystically dark and introspective, some wildly slashing and throbbingiy incandescent and others floatingly evanescent and ethereal. This recycles us to super novae and their figurative implications of youthfui "newness" and the super, indeterminate flashes of creative glory that Wayne Shorter's music presents on this planet, enlightening our lives and internal spirit with fresh experiences.
- Herb Wong, Kjaz (San Francisco Urban West and FM & Fine Arts)