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The Soothsayer (1965)

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James Spaulding

Part of an explosion of solo albums Wayne Shorter recorded just after he joined Miles Davis' band, The Soothsayer wasn't released until the late '70s. Listening to the album, it is hard to believe because it ranks with the best of his works from this incredibly fertile period. Shorter has been called Davis' "idea man," and the creativity and thoughtfulness that earned him that moniker are quite evident here. The album's five originals and one arrangement (of Sibelius' Valse Triste) show a multi-layered complexity that seems effortless even as it weaves together contributions from a very strong, stylistic sextet. Of particular interest is the interplay of the three horn players, including altoist James Spaulding and trumpeter Freddie Hubbard. As a performer, Shorter also shows a lot of strength, with fluid, at times subtly evocative, solos that bloom with energy without ever seeming frantic or harsh. The title track shows Shorter at his most forceful and is one of the most passionate moments on the album, but even here, beauty seems to come first, while his low-key standard "Lady Day" embodies grace and calmness in every moment. "Angola" that features some crisp playing by McCoy Tyner, as well as an energetic solo by Shorter. On this CD the alternate take is sequenced immediately following the take of "Angola" included in the original LP.] ~ Stacia Proefrock