April 1964 - most of America was reeling from the British Invasion, and the a good-sized hunk of the jazz world couldn’t make up its mind which was worse, the Beatles and their ilk or jazz’s avant-garde wing (Ayler, Coleman, etc.). Yet there were musicians that wouldn’t "take sides" and I like to think Mr. Shorter was one of ‘em. (He went on to play on albums by Steely Dan and Joni Mitchell, for instance.) Around this time, Wayne Shorter was a member of jazz’s Fab Five, the Miles Davis Quintet (whose drummer Tony Williams wanted, later in the 60s, to share a concert bill with the Beatles) while maintaining a "parallel" career recording as a leader for Blue Note. While he’s readily acknowledged as one of the tenor blowers of the post-Coltrane epoch, I don’t think he gets nearly enough credit as a composer.
While Night Dreamer - his first for Blue Note, btw - has "the Blue Note sound," it is not the typical state-the-catchy-theme-then-solos routine (not that there’s anything wrong with that). While Shorter’s compositions are not exactly "catchy" from the git-go, neither are they glib nor predictable - like Shorter’s sax playing, they’re well-thought and cerebral without being overly dry or staid and tender without being sentimental. The closest comparisons I can draw are Gil Evans and George Russell, without "sounding like" either. The group for this date is a little unusual, consisting as it does of ¾ of a John Coltrane Quartet [Elvin Jones = the big beat] and one of the Brass Gods, trumpeter Lee Morgan, the latter who, while maintaining his trademarked crackling tone, mutes his fire-spitting style a bit, perhaps in deference to Shorter’s conception of cool. While perhaps not an ideal entrance point for the neophyte, the True Believers (of both WS and/or mid-60s BN) will find plenty to savor here.