Friday, January 29, 2010

Alan Shorter and The Unheralded Masterpieces

Alan Shorter (trumpet; b.1932 - d. 1987)

Alan Shorter is the older brother of jazz saxophonist, Wayne Shorter. Alan Shorter only recorded two albums in his short career but they are two truly essential albums if you enjoy the avant garde. He was known in the jazz circles for his creative spirit and did great session work, mainly with Archie Shepp, Marion Brown and his younger brother Wayne's classic Blue Note session All Seeing Eye.

Alan Shorter's debut, Orgasm (Verve; 1968) included some rich and highly textural ideas that may not have made an impact on American audiences since this was the norm of the time but it is one of those albums that does loom large in Europe. Shorter leads a skilled ensemble which featured a young Charlie Haden (bass), Gato Babieri (sax), Reggie Johnson (bass), Muhammad and Rashied Ali (drums) through two turbulent sessions due to friction with the production and musicians themselves but these were musicians in search of a fresh new concept. They found it and while it may be a difficult listen for non jazz fans it is a massive treat for anyone interested in the free form movement of ideas.
Alan Shorter's second album, Tes Esat (America Records) was recorded in France where he moved shortly after his debut. The album was recorded with another set of young musicians and featured the same free-wheeling atmospherics but doesn't have the same immediate impact as Orgasm. Tes Esat is still a document that you have to hear. I think Tes Esat is session that fans of Vandermark 5 would find enjoyable. This album wails in some of the highest registers and may be only an occasional listen oppose the debut but at the end of day you need to hear both albums to understand the mindset and direction.
Alan Shorter encompassed ideas that Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, Don Cherry and Miles Davis had been working on for a few years earlier, unfortunately audiences didn't dig deep enough to find the new artists of the time to see jazz might go next. Shorter had his demons which led him to leave America for France in the late 60s. He would later retire from music but you really should seek out these albums (especially Oragsm) they are true treasures of the free jazz movement that will challenge you. Isn't that why jazz is all about?

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