'Speak No Evil' was produced during one of the most innovative eras of jazz music, the early to mid-60's. 1964 was also the year John Coltrane produced 'A Love Supreme' and Eric Dolphy 'Out To Lunch'. Wayne Shorter managed to assemble some of the best players of that age to produce another jazz masterpiece. Ron Carter from Miles Davis's group, as well as Herbie Hancock on an upward slope to greatness. Elvin Jones fresh from his playing on 'A Love Supreme' and Freddie Hubbard who we heard on 'Out To Lunch' earlier in the year.
Shorter had been playing with Coltrane in the late 50's but his style ended up more melodic as can be heard on the opener 'Witch Hunt', which sounds like the basis of his work with Weather Report in the 70's. Hubbard plays an ode to the past as Hancock arrives with a mellow swing. By the end of the track Shorter and Hubbard are beginning to sound like a full orchestra. 'Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum' has all the smokey charm of a bluesy barroom band much like Hancock's piano on 'Dance Cadaverous'. A track with a smouldering melody, Hubbard and Shorter play in unison, each with an ear for it's seemingly spontaneous development as it builds to a mid-track crescendo. On the title track itself, Hancock's playing is infectious and infused with feeling. Jones lets loose on Shorter's first solo before Hubbard takes over with his energetic and melodic playing. More beautiful and airy sax on 'Infant Eyes' before we get Shorter's introverted solo on 'Wild Flower' followed by Hubbard's loud and engaging one. Hancock is again amazing against Jones's drumming.
Shorter was extraordinarily lucky to have these players at the peak of their powers.