First of all, Super Nova is not purely a free jazz date as many have claimed, but the harmonic and rhythmic structures are BARELY there. Mostly it’s a lot of rubato, instrumental colors and Shorter’s ferocious blowing.
Perhaps what makes it seem like a free jazz date is Sonny Sharrock’s guitar playing, or maybe I should say scraping. He employs the guitar like a percussion instrument. It’s a tribute to the talent of all concerned (Miroslav Vitous on bass, Jack DeJohnette on drums, Airto Moreira on percussion) that even with Sharrock aboard, the results are so consistently lyrical and emotionally powerful.
It helps too that Maria Booker contributes an impromptu vocal on Dindi—she herself is so moved that she breaks into tears during the song. As well she should–this is most consistently passionate and soulful playing of Shorter’s career. Fortunately, the musicians had the presence of mind to pick up the tune while she was sobbing, effectively catching lightning in a bottle.
For those who have had trouble fully embracing free jazz, Super Nova might prove to be a helpful intermediary step.