Friday Night Forgotten Oldie: Birdland

Wayne Shorter, an influential jazz innovator whose lyrical, complex jazz compositions and pioneering saxophone playing sounded through more than half a century of American music, died earlier this month. No cause of death was given. He was 89.

In 2002 Shorter was interviewed by George Varga of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“Whatever that word, ‘jazz,’ could mean, to me it’s the spirit of the pursuit of freedom and happiness. And a sub-definition of jazz ‘No category’.”

Or, from a Varga interview in 1997:

“I feel the freedom to do music and be creative (means) you should be able to work your creativity through any medium. I hope my music will be regarded as an expression that came from a person who was indestructably happy. And who, if not thought of as happy at one time, arrived there — not through music — but through arriving at the highest possible life position. I’d like to be thought of not only for what I communicate, but also for what comes after. A doctor wrote me recently that my music made him want to be a better surgeon, and that made me want to be a better musician and human being.”

One of Shorter’s major accomplishment on his lengthy resume: Bridging the gap between jazz and popular muisc.

Here’s a perfect example. Shorter co-founded the ’70s fusion band Weather Report. Keyboardist Joe Zawinfulof the band composed the following as a tribute to the Birdland nightclub in New York City. Watch for Shorter’s sax work in this appearance on the Midnight Special on NBC-TV in 1977.


From the Associated Press:

Bobby Caldwell, a soulful R&B singer and songwriter who had a major hit in 1978 with “What You Won’t Do for Love” and a voice and musical style adored by generations of his fellow artists, has died, his wife said Wednesday.

Mary Caldwell told The Associated Press that he died in her arms at their home in Great Meadows, New Jersey, on Tuesday, after a long illness. He was 71.

The smooth soul jam “What You Won’t Do for Love” went to No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 6 on what was then called the Hot Selling Soul Singles chart. It became a long-term standard and career-defining hit for Caldwell, who also wrote the song.

Stories abound, many of them shared on social media after his death, of listeners being surprised to learn that Caldwell was white and not Black.

Caldwell appeared only in silhouette on the self-titled debut solo album on which “What You Won’t Do for Love” appears.

“Caldwell was the closing chapter in a generation in which record execs wanted to hide faces on album covers so perhaps maybe their artist could have a chance,” Questlove said.

In the 1990s, Caldwell shifted to recording and performing American standards, including songs made popular by Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole, he loved in his youth.

In a word, Caldwell was …smooth.

Another bonus.

I hope you’ll enjoy this from a 2005 album…

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