Moto Grosso Feio
Blue Note : rec. 1970
WS, tenor and soprano sax; Chick Corea, marimba, drums, percussion; Ron Carter, cello, bass; John McLaughlin, 12-string guitar; Dave Holland, acoustic guitar, bass; Michelin Prell, drums, percussion.
Chilly Jay Chill: The sheer weirdness of Wayne Shorter’s music is criminally underappreciated. Most people tend to slide off its sleek surfaces and neglect the strange harmonies, oblique phrasings, unexpected interplay of instruments. Even his most famous tunes are more about hints, absences, and evasions than outright riffs and melodies. They are well-appointed black holes, so smoothly conjured that you can miss the void altogether.
For me, Moto Grosso Feio was the rosetta stone I needed to fully get Wayne. It was raw and full of crags, a raging hothouse of overlapping textures, the weirdness flushed out into the open and almost impossible to miss. Maybe that’s why it wasn’t released — despite the crazy all-star ensemble! — until 15 years after it was recorded and why it’s no longer in print today. But I swear it’s the man’s masterpiece and not just because it’s his most overtly “out” album.
I mean, check out the loping groove on “Montezuma” the stabbing saxophone feints and parries, the Brazilian feel created by the roiling rainforest of marimba, percussion, cello, and guitars. Yeah, rainforest. An overused metaphor but one that could’ve been devised solely to describe these songs.
I mean, the album title doesn’t refer to an Amazonian jungle for nothing. A jungle where nine nuns vanished and were never found.
I mean, how about Michelin Prell practically upstaging the entire Hall of Fame line-up around her. Whatever happened to that mademoiselle?
Verve : 1968
AS, flugelhorn, trumpet, tambourine; Charlie Haden, bass; Gato Barbieri, tenor sax; Muhammad Ali, drums; Rashied Ali, drums.
Prof. Drew LeDrew: Alan Shorter’s brother’s nickname was Weird Wayne. One can only imagine what this means for trumpeter Alan, who comes down to us as the odder Shorter brother. Or the other Shorter brudder. Or both. He doesn’t have too many recorded dates to his name, but when he showed up, interesting things always happened. Had a certain x-factor, like a super-potent Bob Nastanovich. (A comparison that shorts Shorter, perhaps, but stay with me.) He shares his brother’s gift for writing long melodic lines. The stately “Joseph” is three minutes or so of insistently rising waves of sound, the sort of cut that leaves you listening to the room tone long after the song ends. Barbieri’s sax is relatively restrained, and Haden keeps things humming on the low end. It’s demonstrably “jazz,” but jazz that takes the shape of a question mark, not it’s usual punctuational position.
This album was produced by Esmond Edwards, who I believe was at Verve at the time, but whose influence on the jazz world, both sonic and graphic, was inescapable for about three decades.
CONSUMER UPDATE [MARCH 07]: See also Orgasm at iTunes.