on 17 December 2004
'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.
on 30 November 2004
On Speak no Evil Wayne Shorter manages to reach a level of brilliance that he never even achieved with the great Miles Davis Quintet of the late '60s. Compositionally it is a fantastic album with the open track witch hunt and the title track being particular gems.
There is beauty and joy to this album that comes from Shorter himself. He has a far less serious and intense style than John Coltrane, whom comparisons are inevitably drawn with, which makes his work far less effort to listen to. The other collaborators are more than competant in their perfomances as well with the expert touch of Herbie Hancock on the piano and the bewitching tones of Freddie Hubbard on trumpet blending well.
For me this is one of the classic jazz albums, and it proves the lack of justice in the world when John Coltrane is remembered more fondly by the public than the master behind this work.
on 1 October 2005
This album is proof that the criticisms of Wayne Shorter being just another Rollins-Coltrane imitator were indeed mistaken. Shorter, who has always incorporated a stronger element of the blues in his playing than Coltrane did in the mid-sixties, mixes this with some masterly composition and improvisation. Couple this with some astounding support from prominent jazzers of the time (Elvin Jones, Freddie Hubbard, Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter) and you have an absolute classic - each track is now a standard in modern jazz repertoire.
The compositions themselves are wondrous, opening with "Witch Hunt", an interesting piece with a separate intro that moves straight into the main theme. It is a haunting blues with great solos from Shorter and Hubbard, driven along by Jones' fiery beat. "Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum" is another tune which has become a jazz standard. Hancock mimics the giant's chanting of Fee Fi Fo Fum with dissonant chords at the beginning which precedes a typically quirky and playful theme over an unusual blues progression. One might that the theme represents Jack carefully tiptoeing around, trying to avoid the giant at all costs! "Dance Cadaverous" is an interesting take on "Valse Triste" by Sibelius and it is an effective example of a classical progression being adapted for jazz. The title's association with the grislier side of life is well preserved by eerie solos by the two horns. The title track stands out due to the challenging, unsettling solos. The haunting ballad "Infant Eyes" follows. The album finishes with "Wild Flower", a signature Wayne Shorter tune which is an up-tempo waltz, featuring spirited playing from the whole ensemble.
on 9 June 2001
Speak No Evil has for 13 years captivated me with the clear elegance of its melodies. Witchunt opens the album with a loud shout, and some level of risk. Fe-fi-fo has less jagged angles and blends more into the nearly sickly velvety angles of Dance Cadaverous. Speak No Evil in the centre captures the classic signature of the album. Watch for the fullness of the saxophones voice build lush in track five Infant Eyes, and wonder if the Wild Flower was right sound for the album overall? Overall, one of the finest examples of the Blue Note sound.
Strange to think that Wayne Shorter, at 77, is now an elder statesman of jazz. I tend to think of him as much younger than Miles, Coltrane and the other movers & shakers of the 50s & 60s, but in fact he was only a smattering of years younger. Recorded when he was 31, he assembled a dream team for this landmark record which, like pianist Herbie Hancock`s Maiden Voyage from the same year, I`ve found to be a `grower`, uncovering its beauties and felicities with each listen.
Freddie Hubbard, Hancock and bassist Ron Carter are common to both albums, but we have the energetic, not to mention ubiquitous, Elvin Jones (1927-2004) in the drum seat on this date, and he propels each track along in his usual pugilistic way, bless the man.
Hubbard (1938-2010) was something of a stalwart in those days, and he plays like a dream on these six tracks - with one extra alternate take. So does Hancock (still with us at 71) whose impressionistic, lucent piano is a constant joy to hear whenever he takes a solo, which is pleasingly often, not to mention his sensitive, gently buoyant accompaniment throughout.
Shorter himself - not always a tenor whose playing is easy to `grasp`, with an elusive, hermetic style at times - plays quite beautifully here, a highlight being his lengthy solo on Infant Eyes, a lovely ballad by the sax player. Indeed all the tracks are Shorter originals. Sometimes compared to Coltrane, I`d say Shorter has a slightly more rounded tone, is more obviously lyrical, equally unsentimental, less frenetic on the faster numbers. But why compare...?
The more I listen to this very fine disc, the fewer `highlights` there are, as all the tracks are perfect in their ways. I said a dream team, and all five musicians do indeed play like a dream, Hubbard`s trumpet rarely sounding so apposite, Jones finding colours all over the place - he could occasionally be a touch intrusive, but his drumming is so inquiringly inventive that one is grateful for such intimate involvement with the themes he`s given to work with.
I was delighted to read that both Shorter and Hancock are Buddhists. It`s tempting to see their give-and-take as symptomatic of their chosen way, but I wouldn`t press the point.
One of those many Blue Notes from the era that only grows and glows brighter with every passing year.
on 10 May 2004
This is one of the top five albums recorded on Blue Note and even if the compositions have become tarnished over the years due to an innumerable number of amateur bands murdering these compositions that appear in the standard fake books, (guilty myself here) this is a CD that still retains it's freshness forty years on.
The line-up is truly stellar with the great Herbie Hancock on piano, Freddie Hubbard playing some of his finest trumpet on record and the Ron Carter and Elvin Jones on bass and drums respectively. In my opinion, this is a slightly better album than "Juju" insofar that Herbie pushes the leader into more interesting areas than McCoy Tyner on the other disc. However, credit also needs to be made of the writing as this is a record that really demonstrates perhaps more than any other that Wayne Shorter is one of the masters of jazz composition.Here, Shorter employs unusual devices such as 6/4 meters on "Wild flower" and the asymetrical form of "Infant Eyes." "Dance Cadaverous" is inspired by Sibelius' "Valse triste", a piece he later recorded on the "Footprints, live" album. I am particularly fond of the blues "Fee-fi-fo fum" that has Elvin driving the band on the explosive theme. This is an appropriate title as the five members of the band are all giants !
"Speak no evil" is a record that should be in any serious jazz fans collection. Absolutely essential.
on 1 May 2000
This album contains brilliant compositions. The theme is of witchcraft and sorcery and Shorter's dark sax is contrasted by Hubbard's clean and lyrical breaks. It all holds together very well and the air is maintained throughout the album. It also marks a turning point in jazz and Shorter's career. He abandon's the coolness of bop and begins to suggest more abstract phrasing and harmonies. A very good album.
on 8 February 2009
As far as I know (if I am right) this recording is one of the first of Wayne Shorter's album as the leader of a group. The group here is a quintet with Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), Herbie Hancock (piano), Ron Carter (bass) and Elvin Jones (drums), which have at one stage in their careers been involved with jazz giants such as John Coltrane and/or Miles Davis, or Art Blakey (Shorter). The tracks are all brilliant, all Shorter's compositions.
You just have to listen to it. And if you like it another of Shorter's album, recorded in the same period, "Juju", is highly recommended.
1964 was a seminal year for the music of Wayne Shorter. Not only was he transitioning from working with Art Blakey to becoming a key member of Miles Davis’ great 1960s quintet, but his solo career was also going from strength to strength, in the space of six months recording two jazz masterpieces, Juju and this album. Perhaps not coincidentally, Speak No Evil seemed to presage Shorter’s upcoming collaboration with Davis. Whereas the earlier Juju had its roots firmly in the 'Coltrane camp’, for Speak No Evil, Shorter only retained Elvin Jones from Coltrane’s band, expanding his group to a quintet, with Freddie Hubbard on trumpet and future Davis quintet members, Herbie Hancock on piano and Ron Carter on bass. As a result, we get a more expansive sound (both horns frequently doubling up for the melody) and driven by a set of increasingly ambitious compositions courtesy of Shorter the composer.
In many ways, Speak No Evil is a more restrained, darker cousin to Juju, the quirky irony of the earlier album being replaced by more subdued playing, particularly by the normally extravagant Jones. That said, Hancock’s piano is always evident, mixed upfront on Rudy Van Gelder’s 1998 remaster, the man delivering a series of impressive solos. Hubbard is also impressive, blistering solos being the order of the day on the outstanding title tune and the intoxicating ensemble album opener Witch Hunt. Shorter’s playing is, if anything, sparser than on Juju, having to ‘compete’ for solos with the other horn, save for the exquisitely tender playing the saxman extracts for the beautiful ballad dedicated to his young daughter, Infant Eyes (on which Hubbard does not play). I have to admit to a slight preference for Juju over Speak No Evil, but the later album is arguably even more formative for Shorter’s career.
on 10 September 2013
For anyone looking for their first exposure to the music of Wayne Shorter, they couldn't do better than this album. The memorable, clever, yet affecting compositions of Shorter, and the presence of the wonderful Freddie Hubbard make this 1964 Blue Note Set one of his very best. With Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Elvin Jones in the rhythm section, all angles are covered, and the album contains no weak moments.