…this is a fine tribute to a jazz colossus, from a band I hope we hear a lot more from.

World Citizen Music Records

Eran Har Even (guitar); Omer Govreen (bass); Wouter Kühne (drums)

Recorded Roode Bioscoop, Amsterdam, Netherlands February 2023

Wayne Shorter was not only a superb saxophonist but a remarkable composer, writing numerous tunes for artists such as Art Blakey, Miles Davis and Weather Report, as well as his own solo works. A number of his compositions have become jazz standards. Now, 41-year old guitarist Eran Har Even has released a tribute album to Wayne Shorter, featuring new interpretations of eight of Shorter’s compositions.

Eran Har Even was born in Israel and is now based in Amsterdam. He has played with Benny Golson, Terrell Stafford and the Dutch pianist Harmen Fraanje, an ECM artist. This album features two local musicians, bassist Omer Govreen and a young (he’s in his late twenties) and up-and-coming drummer, Wouter Kühne. Bassist and drummer have played together in another band, Govreen/Sever.

Har Even has selected tunes Shorter composed in the 1960s for Blakey, Miles and his solo albums, and while guitarists such as Ray Russell, Pat Martino and Lee Ritenour have covered one of Shorter’s best known tunes, ‘Footprints,’ it is absent from this album.

The first number, ‘Lost’ was originally on Shorter’s album The Soothsayer, recorded in 1965, but not released until 1979. The original version featured a sextet with a three-horn section (Shorter on tenor sax, James Spaulding on alto sax and Freddie Hubbard, trumpet), with McCoy Tyner on piano, Ron Cater, bass and Tony Williams on drums. In the original, the three horns harmonize the theme while the rhythm section sets up a strong pulse. Har Evan’s version has more power and energy, with a syncopated drum track. The guitarist plays with a clean, open sound, with a little distortion tastefully deployed to add some grittiness here and there. Har Evan’s angular, fluent playing brings to mind John Scofield. As the track concludes, Kühne unleashes a torrent of drum fills.

‘El Toro’ was on Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers album The Freedom Rider (recorded in 1961, released three years later) with a band that included Shorter and Lee Morgan on trumpet. Har Even’s offers a slower, more reflective version, which includes an extended solo from Govreen. The original version of ‘The Big Push’ – also from The Soothsayer – had a dramatic three-horn intro, but Har Even begins his version with a dream-like opening, his delicate guitar picking, accompanied by the sound of shimmering cymbals. Thirty seconds in, he plays the theme and the song takes off, with great interplay between bass and guitar – it’s a really good re-imagination.

‘One By One’ is from Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers 1963 live album Ugetsu, recorded at the Birdland club. The original was a swinging number that featured a three-horn section (trumpet, tenor sax and trombone) and sounded like a big band performance. The trio’s version is played at a faster tempo, with a syncopated drum pattern. The original sounded like someone strolling in the park; this version sounds like someone running for a bus, and it works. ‘Nefertiti’ from the 1967 Miles Davis of the same name, famously features trumpet and tenor sax repeatedly playing the theme, with no soloing from either instrument, leaving Tony Williams to improvise furiously beneath the horn section. Har Even plays the theme and Kühne drums energetically, but there are also sections where the guitarist strays from the melody and improvises.

The curiously titled ‘Dance Cadaverous’ (it was apparently inspired by a photograph Shorter saw of medical students about to dissect a human cadaver) and appeared on his  album Speak No Evil (recorded 1964, released 1966). The tune was composed in 3/4 time, and played by a quintet that included Freddie Hubbard, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Elvin Jones. The trio’s version showcases Kühne’s drumming prowess, whose inventive playing includes cross-stick taps and delicate cymbal strikes. ‘Capricorn’ was on Shorter’s 1969 jazz-fusion album Super Nova, which had Sonny Sharrock and John McLaughlin on guitar but no keyboard player – the album was recorded a week after Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew sessions, which included Shorter and Mclaughlin.

Shorter played soprano sax on ‘Capricorn,’ and the sweet sound of the soprano floated above a dark, restless rhythm section. The trio have opted for a lighter sound and more swing, with Har Evan’s guitar hovering above Govreen’s walking bass line and Kühne’s busy drumming – who also plays an extended – and impressive – drum solo, which takes up the second half of the tune. The closing number, ‘Night Dreamer’ is another tune written in 3/4 from Shorter’s 1964 album of the same name. Shorter said the title came from the music having a floating feeling above a heavy groove and the trio’s version has a dream-like feeling, with Har Even using reverb to create a spacious soundscape. There’s also a glistening quality to the guitar sound and the whole piece works really well. The press release for this album states that ‘We’re sure Shorter would have approved’ [of this project]. I couldn’t agree more: this is a fine tribute to a jazz colossus, from a band I hope we hear a lot more from.