Shorter's Blue Note debut, NIGHT DREAMER, is a stunning statement from one of the premiere saxophonists and composers in the history of jazz. In 1964, after a long period as musical director for Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and newly joining Miles Davis' quintet, Shorter was primed to enter the field as a major solo artist. His guests include Lee Morgan (trumpet), renewing the outstanding frontline the two formed in Blakey's band, and McCoy Tyner (piano) and Elvin Jones (drums) from Coltrane's legendary quartet. The musical vision here, however, is Shorter's alone.
Shorter's distinctive compositional style begins to take shape with the opening title track, a bouncing waltz with a dusky, modal flavor and a subtle rhythmic drive. Likewise, his arrangement of an "Oriental Folk Song" has a similar burnished tone with beautifully executed harmonies between Shorter and Morgan. Interestingly, the swinging "Black Nile" and "Armageddon" are very reflective of Shorter's previous tenure with Blakey while perpetuating the range of his newfound freedom with Davis' group. "Charcoal Blues" is the most traditional piece in the set but nevertheless gives us a sense of his more independent leanings. Also included are two takes of the graceful ballad "Virgo," a classic Shorter composition.