Anyone best known for sharing a stage with Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock is bound to have a hard time becoming a household name, but that never seems to have been one of Wayne Shorter's goals anyway. With Davis, Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams, Shorter filled out the lineup of Davis' groundbreaking '60s quintet. As a saxophonist, he not only had to hold his own against the heavyweights, he needed to create a sound that distinguished himself from his one-time teacher and predecessor in Davis' '50s quintet: John Coltrane. With a sound wired to the ensemble's hard-bop spirit, he quietly pulled his weight and helped steer the ship, contributing stand-out compositions that even Davis hesitated to alter.
Footprints: The Life And Music Of Wayne Shorter attempts to boil Shorter's accomplishments down to two discs, but it works better as an appetizer than a full meal. The first disc provides a nice summary of Shorter's progress from Art Blakey sideman to solo artist to Davis's orbit to co-leader of the fusion act Weather Report. Disc two gets mired in '70s and '80s lite-jazz muck before coming out at the other end with some backward-looking but pleasing recent recordings. Jazz is notoriously difficult to anthologizehence the dominance of multi-disc behemothsand slim collections like this often feel rushed when they try to capture the scope of a full career. But if anyone deserves the spotlight time, even if he never asked for it, Shorter is it.