on 9 April 2001
"The All Seeing Eye" is the most avant-garde of all Wayne Shorter's Blue Note albums -- a brilliant, intense, multi-layered soundfest that lives up to its omnipresent title. Recorded in late 1965 the album features some of the best musicians of the day - Freddie Hubbard, Grachan Moncur, James Spaulding, Joe Chambers, Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter (the latter two of course were Wayne's colleagues in the great 1965-68 Miles Davis Quintet). It is a rare album that can accommodate the distinct sound of so many musicians, especially in a format designed to promote collective improvisation, but this one does. The overpowering horn textures on the title-track and "Genesis" are rivaled in terms of their quality and passion only by those on Archie Shepp's "Fire Music" during this period. "Chaos" is a classic Blue Note hard bopper, reminiscent of Wayne's work with the Jazz Messengers a year earlier, while "Face of the Deep" is a ballad in the mode of his compositions with the Miles Davis group, though the four horn frontline adds a different dimension. The final track, "Mephistopheles," is the album's wildest. Written by Wayne's brother Alan, who joins the group on this track only, it showcases the most avant-garde of the Shorters with its meandering theme and dark, ominous feel. In all the sound is great, the music is challenging and inventive, and this disc is a classic not to be missed.
on 7 June 2014
For one of the major players and writers in jazz, quite a lot of Wayne Shorter's output under his own name has been a little disappointing. The funk stuff he did with Joe Zawinul was, to these ears, a complete waste of time, and much of his acoustic music seems to have been an attempt to create the sound of the Miles Davis Quintet of the mid sixties, although, of course, Wayne had much to do with the creation of that sound in the first place. Here, we have something completely different, and almost wholly successful. The seven piece band gives him a chance to exercise his formidable writing and arranging skills and in doing so, he gives every member of the band the opportunity to display his skills.
It is not free music, it is very carefully controlled. It is of the same style as other Blue Note classics of the time, such as the work of Andrew Hill and Sam Rivers, and like that music it is of the very highest quality.
The C.D. purports to be about Shorter's ideas 'about life and the universe and God'. Whether life, the universe and everything can all fit onto a disc is another matter, but his views have to be respected whether you agree with them or not.
Freddie Hubbard is his usual mercurial self on trumpet, Shorter plays some fearsome, but also thoughtful, tenor, and both are well up to their highest standards from elsewhere. Of the lesser known horns James Spaulding plays well in a slightly straightened out Dolphy style, and Grachan Moncur, although not featured at length, has some telling, full toned interludes.
The rhythm section as a whole both support the band but also play a major role in the ensemble sound. Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter are long term experts in this type of music, but Joe Chambers on drums should be singled out, both driving the band along like a latter day Blakey but also contributing a muscular delicacy to the complex passages.
This music is complex and vigorous. It succeeds in marrying the best aspects of hard bop and the more complex musics that followed. It could just be Wayne Shorter's supreme achievement.
on 28 September 2007
This is certainly one of the best jazz albums of any type around, and if you are looking to buy it with a slight hunch that it might be too avant-garde or experimental, do not worry, for this is a work of genius accessible to all listeners.
There is a great deal of intense improvisation and soloing here, from the dazzling virtuoso of Herbie Hancock to a macabre touch from Wayne Shorter's brother Alan, but the main player here as always is Wayne himself, whose incredible compositional skills, tenor sax bursts and bandleading brilliance all come together to make what is one of the best concept albums i have ever heard.
Concept? The theme is religious and cosmological, based purely upon the main artist's beliefs about such things as beginning, good and evil. This can be seen in some of the song names: Chaos, The All Seeing Eye, Genesis and Mephistopheles, brooding unmercifully in the free zone. But do not fear atheists, there is something here for everybody, thematic or musically mindbending. Shorter recorded this in his 60s period, and has continued to be a living legacy to jazz for his whole life since.