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#Wayne Shorter


Wayne Shorter, Art Blakey and Lee Morgan in performance in 1960 (unknown photog)


Wayne Shorter, Art Blakey and Lee Morgan in performance in 1960 (unknown photog)

Tony Williams - Spring (w/ Wayne Shorter, Sam Rivers, Herbie Hancock and Gary Peacock)

Tony Williams - Spring (w/ Wayne Shorter, Sam Rivers, Herbie Hancock and Gary Peacock)

This past July, I was invited to Wallace Roney’s premier of Wayne Shorter’s “Universe” composition, and I was on hand to take some pictures (some I previously posted, but only in b&w). Wallace had a 23-piece orchestra.

See the rest of the pictures here.

Read a nice review about one of the sets on Jazz Times here.

Born on this day: Lee Morgan (Wayne Shorter is in the background)
Photo by Francis Wolff

Born on this day: Lee Morgan (Wayne Shorter is in the background)

Photo by Francis Wolff

For Henry: Hamiet Bluiett tackles Wayne Shorter’s Footprints. The bari sax adds such a beefy sound to it in the beginning. Damn!

Cerebral Decanting: SPEAK NO EVIL: Alex Hoffman Gives Wayne Shorter A Bad Review »



1.  Fuck Wayne Shorter.  Mediocrity as a musician, an artist, and a person.  Why is Wayne Shorter a good musician, a great artist or human being?

Let’s first discuss the musical elements: harmonically as an improvisor he is not special. Let’s take his solos on the “plugged nickel” sessions, most of the time he is not playing anything that is based on the chords of the songs. rhythmically he is not precise, sonically his sound is vulgar (loud, grating). He dilutes art with his charlatanism.

Now let’s talk about him as an artist: 

Art has always been through the centuries something that goes beyond the day-to-day. Wayne Shorter, his lack of attention to detail in his playing, is ordinary. It is like everyday life. Emotional, haphazard, unpredictable. Art should not be like every day life.

This is not according to me. This is according to thousands of years of philosophers, artists, writers, etc. I am not interested in the social, or in action. The idea of creativity is a myth. Individuality is a myth. We are all slaves to the species. A true artist must realize this and try to rise above his humanity. This is the thinking of Bach, Wagner, Schopenhauer, etc. Wayne Shorter is an expression of his humanity. Humanity is mediocre, always.

Art is not someone’s reflections on life. This is a modern-day bastardization of art. Entertainment is not art. There is nothing in music to listen to other than the technical aspects, unless you believe in the soul or the supernatural. Which I don’t. Art is not something that “brings me enjoyment.” Art goes beyond “enjoyment.” Enjoyment is an emotion, emotions are the everyday, the everyday is mediocre.

Life is trivial.


2.  If art was as simple as “enjoyment” then anything could be considered art. Life is trivial, life is an injustice, nobody ever asked to be born. To fight against life, and the instincts of life, that is noble. I’m a jazz musician because it seemed like something fun when I was 12. Again it’s not me, it’s Schopenhauer, Nietzche, Wagner, Bach, Lacan, Freud, etc.

Reactions to my opinion are more frightening than my opinion. The fact that I express extreme distaste for someone elicits responses that would make one think that I threatened to kill or rape somebody. It’s hypocrisy.

Happiness is always an illusion, as is sadness. Every emotion, love, hate, envy, pride, joy, they are all superficial and illusory. Only manifestation of what Schopenhauer called the “will of the species.” David Hume also demonstrated that the external world (the world of sensation) is an illusion, it can’t be proven, this includes our emotions, all of our feelings.

Why would you want to make music that recalls our emotions? That tries to imitate or invoke something that superficial? Charlie Parker was not a philosopher, he was a musician, and he said many contradictory things. He was not an intellectual, although he aspired to be. The problem is jazz musicians in general. It used to be that all artists were intellectual. You had to be able to defend yourself intellectually as an artist.

The danger of looking at music as a form of “enjoyment” is that it dilutes the meaning of music and art in general. Enjoyment is an emotion that is common to every day life. It is like having sex, eating, etc. These are part of the world as representation as Schopenhauer would call it, the veil of maya as the Hindus would call it, the illusion of reality in Buddhism

Schopenhauer, Hindus, and the Buddha (just to name a few) all agree that the “pleasures” of everyday life are superficial and unfulfilling. Desire will never be satisfied. Schopenhauer suggests an attempt at “willess” (meaning sort of loss of the self, which includes all emotion) appreciation of the art object as a way to temporarily escape the world of illusion.

3. The music of Wayne Shorter (aside from any discussion of the technical aspects compared to a classical composer) is part of the ordinary world of emotional expression. His inflections, dramatics, histrionics, outbursts, are displays of mediocre and every day emotion.

Compare this to a piece for lute by Bach (not the performance but the written music itself). It is pure music, only sixteenth notes, outlining logical harmony, with no dynamic markings. This music goes beyond the irrational, emotional, illogical world we live in. This is “grande arte” as they would say in Italian.

The human species doesn’t exist. The world is illusion. David Hume, Schopenhauer, Buddha, Hinduism, etc. I don’t care about the people, I care only about the music.

I’m not a buddhist. I know I am a slave, but I’ll admit it.

Hate is the most honest emotion. Love is the sigh of the species as Schopenhauer would say. Everything is illusion is the basis, then we have to decide what is valid from there. Existence is not a good thing. I like being hated more. Individuality, the “ego” is bullshit. Life is unjust, nobody asks to be born. Even if I’m wrong about everything, the fact that I have to suffer is unjust.

The fact that I have to exist is unjust.


4.  I don’t like too much emotion in music. That’s why I like Bix Beiderbecke more than Louis Armstrong. There is nothing really to do, except try to achieve some kind of sustainable suffering

I don’t think the blues is high art. Fuck jazz.

If you write music like Debussy, that is intentionally atonal that’s another thing, but to haphazardly use principles of tonal music and leave out the most important parts, voice leading, key, diminished chords; I don’t buy it.

I think it’s shallow for people to respond to any opinion based on their reaction to whatever they think the tone of the language may be. Language is a barrier anyway between true communication, words cannot capture the truths about life as Wittgenstein would say. We will always have our “armors” for self-defense, or else we would be completely honest with each other. Love is only a manifestation (as every emotion) of something that is not the individual, it is a lie, an illusion. What you think is love is actually a genetic altruism that only exists to propagate the species. We are only genetic vessels for our DNA. Freud, Darwin, Schopenhauer, Dawkins have argued similarly in the past. To me, happiness is always a disappointment, in the sense that it was for Pessoa, Proust, Goethe etc. I would prefer to try to understand the “why” of my supposed happiness than to live blindly in it, this makes me feel more complete. I’m not interested in a philosophy or way of living that “works,” self-destruction, disregard for my illusory conceptions of reality feel more genuine to me. I blame Wayne Shorter because it’s frustrating and painful for me to live in a world where he could be considered a great artist. I have a right to express that, at least according to the liberal values of the society that we live in, that I’m sure everybody that I know wouldn’t give up for a thing in the world.

5.  Wayne Shorter is a member of sgi, this is a cult. Members have an altar in their homes and pray for material possessions, this is directly against the teachings of the Buddha. Secondly, Buddhism says that life is equal to suffering. They are one and the same. That is one of the four noble truths. This includes human emotion. What I hear in Wayne Shorter includes too much overt emotional posturing to possibly represent the teachings of the Buddha, the ultimate ascetic.

Obviously I don’t care that much about having a career.

— from Alex Hoffman’s public Facebook page. Hoffman is a young jazz saxophonist; Shorter, 80, is releasing a new album this week. These observations by Hoffman were culled from his responses amid the nearly 500 comments posted as a result of Hoffman’s status update of “Fuck Wayne Shorter” on Feb 1 2013.

I knew I could count on tumblr to give me a nice summary of the fracas Alex Hoffman created. I certainly wasn’t going to read all the responses, even though it feels like I did since everyone keeps talking about it.

Here’s my takeaway from it.

1. Alex Hoffman is dead wrong about everything he has said. My reason for saying that isn’t because he has an unfavorable opinion of Wayne Shorter, it’s because he’s acting like an infant throwing a tantrum. Make no mistake, he did a reprehensible thing. He attacked a highly decorated and accomplished musician for absolutely no reason at all. He begins with “Fuck Wayne Shorter”, then it escalates to him saying Shorter is mediocre and nothing special, then he says his playing is vulgar, then he calls him a charlatan, then he attacks his faith, then accuses him of being in a cult and he continues from there. WTF? He’s not critiquing Mr. Shorter’s music, he is attacking him as a person. Why? Only Alex Hoffman truly knows, but he is entirely out of line.

2. Mr. Hoffman takes barbs at other sacred things. Many people might not have noticed it, but I sure did. From making it a point to say Charlie Parker wasn’t an intellectual, to positioning Bix Beiderbecke over Louis Armstrong, and saying the blues is not high art. He posits the Beiderbecke thing as his preference, but do I really need to deconstruct someone’s preference of Beiderbecke over Satchmo? That speaks for itself. However, I take umbrage with him besmirching the blues. That’s not to say that the blues needs to be exalted as some sort of “high art” to be worth a damn, but anytime these statements are made, without fail “high art” by default is something European. High art is never something from people of color, and definitely not black arts. Why is that? From composing music to philosophy, Mr. Hoffman’s viewpoint is no different. It is the standard Eurocentric ethos that most people with a western education ascribe to. It’s how they were taught. Here is a jazz musician essentially calling Bird dumb, preferring Beiderbecke to Satchmo, calling the blues lowbrow and attacking Wayne Shorter. All the while he elevates every Eurocentric thing that has little to nothing to do with the music he is playing. Oh, I noticed that alright. It reminds me of some white afrobeat musicians that take slight jabs or give backhanded compliments to Fela Kuti, the guy who created the music they are suckling from. As if they would exist without him or like they are doing something revolutionary. I always take pause when people attack the things that give them sustenance.

3. People who are defending Mr. Hoffman are just as deluded as he is. Thankfully, his defenders are few, but they don’t get a pass. They’re saying things like “It’s freedom of speech.”, as if freedom of speech is directional. In their world, we only get to hear Mr. Hoffman’s hateful diatribe and no one should respond. Should people responding not be afforded the luxury of freedom of speech? Or the classic “People responding are just as bad.” No they aren’t. The bad guy here is Mr. Hoffman who attacked someone without provocation or reason. Responding to hate filled comments doesn’t make you just as culpable as the hate filled commenter. Mr. Hoffman is not the victim here, even though he’s trying to play one now that it’s getting a bit hot under the collar for him. We should keep in mind that Mr. Hoffman lobbed his attack publicly. It would be one thing if he said his bile in private among friends, but he put it out there for the jazz community to see. He wanted a response, but I don’t think he envisioned the public smackdown he’s getting now.

4. There is nothing eloquent about saying “Fuck Wayne Shorter”. It’s not a critique. It’s not an opinion. It’s a direct insult. I’d love to say that this was some kind of youthful indiscretion, but Mr. Hoffman is not some pup wet behind the ears. He’s a grown man in his mid to late 20s. One should never compare themselves to other people, but compare what Wayne Shorter had accomplished at that age to Mr. Hoffman. It makes the whole thing even more farcical.

5. Without accounting for taste, it should not even be debatable that Wayne Shorter is the most prolific composer that is still alive from his generation. He was chiefly responsible for a big chunk of the compositions in whatever group he played in. From Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers to the Miles Davis Quintet to the Weather Report. Shorter was one of the few people that came to Miles with compositions that Miles didn’t even bother to change. If you know anything about Miles, then you know that it speaks volumes for him to just accept a composition without amending it. Shorter’s work as a leader let him stretch his wings wider as a composer. This is the person that Mr. Hoffman chooses to attack. What are Mr. Hoffman’s accomplishments? I’ve seen him a few times at Smalls. I reviewed a Brian Lynch album where Mr. Hoffman was a sideman, so I know he can play, but he is no Wayne Shorter, and he will never be. That’s no insult either. Hoffman’s attack on Shorter is like Smush Parker attacking Michael Jordan’s basketball abilities. The sheer hubris of it all. Truly astounding. Strangely, he doubles down on his asinine position as well. It’s quite embarrassing.

6. The world will remember Wayne Shorter. Can we say the same for Alex Hoffman? I don’t know what will happen in the future, but I think it’s safe to say that the trajectory for Mr. Hoffman’s success will not come close to that of Wayne Shorter. One thing Wayne Shorter wasn’t doing in his 20s was publicly attacking the legends that came before him. You’re not going to uncover something from Shorter in the late 50s publicly saying “Fuck Coleman Hawkins”. No, he was busy putting in work and touring the world with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, playing music that still remains fresh today. Music that is the blueprint for what Mr. Hoffman is playing, whether he chooses to acknowledge that or not.

Mr. Hoffman should focus more on his craft because I don’t think anyone is clamoring and chomping at the bits for his compositions. I’m certain that the fallout from his “Fuck Wayne Shorter” comment is the most attention he has received in his career. To that respect, maybe that was the plan from the get go. Congratulations to him I suppose, but if insulting an elder far more accomplished than you is the only time you are actually noticed, then what does it say about you?

I’ve been on a heavy 60s Miles Davis kick lately, and his 2nd great quintet just leaves me speechless. The sheer brilliance of these 5 guys working together like a well oiled machine just does it for me.

Listening to the song Madness on Nefertiti, I realize how Ron Carter’s playing adds just the right amount of weighty heft from 23 seconds in, like a master chef adding in the right amounts of an ingredient. Not too much, and not too scant - just right. Then there’s the 21 year old Tony Williams riding the cymbals. Did I mention he’s 21? Yeah, that’s a 21 year old.

Miles sure knew how to pick the right people. No one assembled groups better outside of Duke Ellington who was the expert in large groups. For small groups Miles reigned supreme. His consistency in this regard is unmatched. His expertise goes beyond being a talented horn player. He was a leader among leaders. This is the key thing that separates him from the pack in my opinion.

My interview with Lionel Loueke »

Last week, I sat down with Lionel Loueke for an interview. We talked about his humble beginnings in Benin, how he discovered jazz, and his influences, among other things. He also talked about how he got signed to Blue Note records, and what it was like working with Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock.

Click here to read the full interview.