[Review] Wayne Shorter: Juju (1964)

A smart set of modal jazz featuring John Coltrane’s band and more than a little of his mojo.

Kronomyth 4.0: From Art, blue notes and Miles to go.

The second Blue Note set features six original compositions on tenor with Trane’s gang: McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones and Reggie Workman. It’s lyrical (natch) and direct, Wayne Shorter’s tenor cutting through the cloud rumblings of Tyner and Jones. The songs are typical of the tamed tempests from the early 60s, marked by sophisticated balladry (“House of Jade”), touristic travels abroad (“Mahjong,” “Juju”) and artful contrasts (“Yes Or No”). Unfortunately, any deeper discussion usually devolves into the jazz critic’s cant of harmonic shifts, modal scales and timbral distinctions, words that only serve to obfuscate rather than illuminate. So, in the hope of shedding some light on this fine work, I’ll tackle a few of the weightier descriptors.

Harmonic suspensions (courtesy of Bob Blumenthal’s 1999 liner notes): the carrying over of a note while the harmony shifts. Augmented chords (some guy at Amazon): basically a chord with a sharp note at the end (e.g., C-E-G#). Modal jazz: style of jazz popularized by John Coltrane where the playing is founded on a particular scale (or mode) rather than a series of chords.

I find these technical terms standoffish, since they tell me what the music is from a compositional standpoint but they say nothing to me about what the music feels like. Now, maybe you get a little chill when you hear the words “modal jazz,” I don’t know. And I suppose I envy you a little if you do. For me, Juju is the throaty tone of the tenor leading an upright and polite discussion while the piano and drums crash and tumble like leaves loosed in a small whirlwind and the bass harrumphing in accord with whatever the sax is saying. No modalities, tonalities or harmonic abnormalities enter my mind when I hear it.

Apparently, the session is indebted to Coltrane and purportedly an homage to him. Again, I just know what I like, and I like how Juju swings. It’s a different chapter than Shorter’s later fusion or R&B records, but I think I’ll stick around the 60s with Shorter for the time being.

Original elpee version

A1. Juju (8:30)
A2. Deluge (6:49)
A3. House of Jade (6:49)
B1. Mahjong (7:39)
B2. Yes or No (6:34)
B3. Twelve More Bars To Go (5:26)

CD bonus tracks
7. Juju (alternate take) (7:48)
8. House of Jade (6:37)

All songs written by Wayne Shorter.

The Players

Wayne Shorter (tenor saxophone) and Trane’s gang: Elvin Jones (drums), McCoy Tyner (piano) and Reggie Workman (bass). The sessions were recorded in August 1964 by the legendary Rudy Van Gelder and produced by Alfred Lion.

The Pictures

The album photographs were taken by Francis Wolff. The album was designed by Reid Miles.

The Plastic

Originally released in 1964 on mono & stereo elpee in the US (Blue Note, BLP-4182/BST-84142).

  1. Re-released in 1984 on elpee in the US (Blue Note, BST-84142).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in the US (Blue Note, 46514-2).
  3. Re-issued on compact disc on February 22, 1995 in Japan (Blue Note/EMI, TOCJ-4182).
  4. Re-released on expanded, remastered RVG edition compact disc on May 19, 1999 in the US (Blue Note, 99005-2) with 2 bonus tracks.

1 thought on “[Review] Wayne Shorter: Juju (1964)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *