This is no casual introduction or callow debut. First of all, the quintet is top-notch: Beside Shorter on the front line, Lee Morgan was regarded as the leading hard-bop trumpeter following the recent death of Clifford Brown, and pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Jimmy Cobb were the ongoing rhythm section for Miles Davis. Yet Shorter commands the sessions, composing all but one of the six songs and taking the lead solo on every track. While the compositions lack the sophistication of his later material, they already could be harmonically surprising (“Pug Nose”) or imbued with catchy melodies well-suited for improvisations (“Down in the Depths”). It’s true that Shorter’s early tenor work was indebted to the skids and effusions of John Coltrane (check his solo on the lone cover tune, “Mack the Knife”), but his tone is robust with a keening edge, and from the beginning his solos unveiled new facets of his compositions.
On the same day in November 1959 that Shorter finished recording this disc, he (and Morgan) went across the river to New Jersey to cut his first studio sessions as a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, a post he would hold for five years.