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Late

Al Shorter

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“There can be nothing more frustrating for any artist than to have a brother who ‘makes it’ while he has to stay in the background — especially if the relative is a brother and the brother happens to be younger. There is only one year’s difference in age between Alan and Wayne Shorter, but Wayne was well-exposed to the jazz public before Alan was ever heard of outside of closed musical circles.”

— Valerie Wilmer

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I searched but found no thread dedicated to Al Shorter, even though he does get discussed here from time to time. While I don't find Alan Shorter the trumpet player especially notable, I do find Alan Shorter the composer particularly memorable. His melodies are strangely minimal, and yet they stick with you in the best of ways.

Some questions for clarification and to start discussion:

• Al Shorter only made two records under his name?

• Has Orgasm only been reissued once on compact disc?

• Is Wayne's Schizophrenia a direct allusion to his brother?

Lastly, are you drawn in by (Alan) Shorter's musical world?

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I've never heard any of his records, but he's on one of my favorite WS albums, The All Seeing Eye. And I'm sorry I missed out on the Marion Brown Quartet CD. Always wanted a copy of that one.

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1. Yes

2. Yes

3. Don't know - not sure if his illness was so pronounced in 1965 as it later became.


Hot and cold on his music but generally find him intriguing at the very least. Supposedly Orgasm's book was composed before Alan heard Ornette's music (and years before the album was actually recorded and released). I'm not sure how true that is, but that is what I've been told.

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From the "Notes from The Underground" blog, on Orgasm:

"It's kind of an odd album in that in the middle of recording, Alan apparently switched producers, and also had to replace some of his players."

I'd never heard that before. But it runs parallel to this quote, from Wayne:

“The strongest thing you can say about Alan is that he was an original, as original as you can get. He didn’t want any academic guidelines to equip him to reinvent the wheel. He was always in confrontation, or there was confrontation on the horizon… with record executives, rehearsal places, front offices, professors in school. Teachers would mark on his papers, and he would ask “Why? “ on the top of the teacher’s remarks.”

The "academic guidelines" part of this quote is somewhat odd in light of the fact that Alan Shorter actually taught, though briefly, at Bennington College. Or maybe, because the stint was brief, it isn't odd.

Strange, perhaps, but I hear almost no connection between Alan Shorter's writing and Ornette Coleman's writing. Past the superficial connection of the piano-less quartet, the two composers, to me, sound considerably different. Shorter often plays a bass vamp against a repeating multi-note cell, while Coleman spins out fully-fledged melodies. I also can't hear "the blues" in Shorter's work that is so often attributed to Coleman's. In a way, Shorter's writing sounds more informed by modern classical composition. (At least to my ears.)

Edited by Late

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I very much enjoy his playing. Check him out on Coral Rock.

Not a lot of documents to get, but I get all I can, not sure what I don't yet have, maybe just the Brown Fontana date.That will come, eventually.

His is a voice that I can always hear clearly and distinctly, instrumentally or compositionally, so yes, I have been drawn into his world, although, perhaps unlike him, it is not a world that I must permanently inhabit.

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Bill D brought Shorter up to Bennington as a lecturer.

Rashied Ali and Esmond Edwards did not get along, and the sessions were aborted midway through. Shorter returned with Muhammad Ali and Charlie Haden to finish the date.

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Didn't know that about Rashied. Good to know, I suppose, that it wasn't just Shorter's (apparent) "confrontation" tendency that caused the producer switch.

Side note — I didn't know (until reading the Coltrane Temple University performance liner notes) that Rashied Ali had two brothers that played drums: Muhammad and Umar. All three brothers, evidently, played with Coltrane at different times.

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Yeah, oddly enough I've seen Umar also spelled Omar. I guess Umar is correct (because it's on Impulse) but until now I'd always seen it spelled the other way.

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Wish I could find a copy of the 'Orgasm' LP in Woolworth's, as the book states !

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I know I've seen a few copies without a DJ sticker or promo cut, but they aren't easy to come by. Also for whatever reason most of the copies I've seen in the field have been trashed. I've got the Polydor UK pressing, which I guess is the only "commercial" issue (and I've seen that less than the US Verve - go figure).

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Thanks for that — some of the most positive writing I've read on Alan Shorter. Can't say I disagree too much with the assessment of Barbieri. I like his sound, and his technique is there, but his ideas don't always add up to a whole lot.

Orgasm is due for another reissue. Curious that the Japanese haven't gotten to it in recent years.

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He's also on Marion Brown's Juba-Lee, which I got today and which is also discussed

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Thanks for that discography. Looks like I have a couple more holes to fill than I though I did.

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How is the Shepp album Doodlin'? A friend of mine may be performing a retrospective of Shorter's music and this one contains the piece 'Coral Rock' which I do not have yet so this CD would cover that.

Also, what was the final outcome on Marion Brown's Juba-Lee? Was this reissued recently? I am also missing the piece 'Iditus' from this record.

Thanks,

Bertrand.

Edited by bertrand

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There is a bootleggy version available now but the legit versions remain the original and Japanese LP and CD reissues.

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You are referring to the Marion Brown CD, correct? I don't want to buy a boot so we'll have to find another way to hear that tune. The concert would not be until 2016 at the earliest so there is time.

The Shepp Doodlin' CD is available 'in stock' from several online retailers, and listed as being on Inner City. This is an actual pressing and not a CD-R or a boot, correct? Does anyone have any opinions on this one? Shepp varies widely, and he seems to play piano mostly (exclusively?) on this one, but the track listing has me intrigued. Is Al Shorter on all the tracks? The discography does not suggest otherwise, but the online review does.

The song 'Coral Rock' is also on a Shepp record with the same title. Has that ever been on CD?

Bertrand.

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Yes, I was referring to Juba Lee. Full discussion here:

Coral Rock was never on CD AFAIK. There is the original America LP and a Prestige reissue.

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"Coral Rock" also gets a shortened version on the Inner City/Carson LP Doodlin'. It's not what I'd call one of Shepp's greats from the period but it is a curious album. Then again I haven't listened to it in years.


I'd say the more interesting version is on the America LP, which also contains a nice ensemble take of "I Should Care" (with Shepp on piano).

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I like my "bootleggy" CD of Juba Lee.

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Orgasm is on Spotify

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Wait - the discography seems to suggest that Shorter only appears on one track of the Shepp CD, and not even his own tune. Is that correct?

Bertrand.

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Most of the LP is duets between Shepp and Reid. I actually can't find my LP of it for some reason. Listened to some tracks online and it looks like both "Coral Rock" and "Invitation" are the same tune, at least on the CD (and both sound like Blasé to me). The only quartet tune is a ragged "Worried About You." This jibes with what I remember - probably haven't listened to the album in about a decade.

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Up to mention that the concert celebrating Alan Shorter's music is this Thursday 11/16 at part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Take 5! Series from 5-7. Trumpeter J.S. Williams and his quartet present 'Orgasm: Redux - Modern interpretations of the Orgasm album'. FREE! On 12/21, Tim Green plays Wayne's music. Back-to-back Shorter brothers!

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