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Schizophrenia (1967)

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James Spaulding

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 results. 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 jazz -- 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