Wayne Shorter: Swee-Pea




Wayne Shorter (soprano sax)


Super Nova (Blue Note CDP 7843322)

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Wayne Shorter (soprano sax), John McLaughlin (guitar),

Chick Corea (vibes), Miroslav Vitous (bass), Jack DeJohnette (drums), Airto Moreira (percussion)


Composed by Wayne Shorter


Recorded: New York, August 1969


Rating: 89/100 (learn more)

This recording took place during an interesting time in commercial jazz's development. Recorded just after Shorter had appeared on Miles Davis' groundbreaking In a Silent Way and using some of same players (minus Miles of course), Super Nova was Shorter's foray into the virgin land between the standard and the new way. It would turn out that he would be just as integral to the fusion revolution as Davis, McLaughlin, Hancock, Corea and a very few others.

Two years prior to this recording, the great composer Billy "Sweet Pea" Strayhorn died. Strayhorn was the talent behind much of Duke Ellington's talent. As composer and arranger of many of the Duke's greatest hits, including his signature "Take the 'A' Train," Strayhorn was the man with the melodies.

"Swee-Pea" is Shorter's tribute to Strayhorn, whom drummer Sonny Greer so dubbed because of the diminutive composer's resemblance to Swee' Pea, the comic-strip foundling left on Popeye's doorstep during the Great Depression. It should come as no surprise, however, that Wayne's "Swee-Pea" does not resemble anything Strayhorn himself might have written. Shorter's mind doesn't work that way. That would be too obvious. Instead, "Swee-Pea" is a variation of sorts on the open-ended conversational acoustic music that marked much of In a Silent Way. McLaughlin, Corea, DeJohnette et al. seem to have been left to their own devices, which was a brilliant move. Why try to dictate the rapport these players were developing at the time? Over the top of their free-jazz leaning soundscapes, Shorter's soprano plays heartache.

Reviewer: Walter Kolosky

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