Thursday, February 14, 2013

Wayne's Best in a While

Wayne Shorter's New CD Captures the Essence of His Quartet

Wayne Shorter released this month his first Blue Note Records CD in 40+plus years. That's really not the relevant part. People change record labels all the time. And Blue Note, while a strong label, doesn't bear the indelible stamp it did back in the day under Alfred Lion.

What Counts is the music, of course. It always does.

[PHOTO: Wayne Shorter, North Sea Jazz Festival 2012 © R.J. DeLuke]

This music, captured live during a European tour of the group in 2011, really is a great example how these amazing musicians function on the stage. Improvisations fly around with intensity and ease at the same time. Each member is involved in the conversations. Like most discussions, one voice will step to the forefront while others "listen," but what they say can spark a different reaction. That's encouraged. Hell, it's a mandate. Those series of reactions will vary from performance to performance.

But it doesn't come off as a hodge podge of stuff. There is form. Substance. Style. Brian Blade's drumming is wild, penetrating, yet somehow conversational. John Patitucci on bass is fantastic in his ability to listen to all the other voices and weave his playing in and around. Danilo Perez on piano--always remarkable in any setting--is unpredictable. Percussive. melodic. Serpentine. Almost like a point guard on a great NBA basketball team, keeping things at a high tempo and helping everyone else be at their best.

Then there's "the Wayne" As Miles once called him in an interview. AS in, "You know why I got The Wayne. He's so close to Coltrane."

That was then. In the now, Shorter bears little resemblance other than his willingness to experiment and let it fly. His soprano sax darts in and out of the rhythms created by his cohorts. Gone are the flowing lines that were part Trane and part Prez from the Blue Note days. He plays with bursts of statements that fit in the cracks sometimes; propel the music at others. His mind is always moving. And he brings that out in his longstanding band.

The CD sounds much like the concert at the North Sea Jazz Festival last summer, which was an ass-kicker. (George Rossy was the drummer on that tour, filing in with aplomb). It's even better to see live, because the looks back and forth. The smiles. The non--verbal communication is vivid. But this new CD is a great portrait of that.

There is also an extended piece in collaboration with the renowned Imani Winds which isn't part of the group's normal tour. But it's fine music. Regal and elegant in addition to maintaining it's improvisatory nature. Shorter plans to do more stuff with strings and larger aggregations. Being a composer without peer, that should be stunning.

In the meantime, his quartet continues to perform without a net.

At the Newport Jazz Festival this summer, and in Montreal, Wayne's group will play a concert that is part of his 80th birthday celebration this year. Herbie Hancock will be involved as well. In between those dates in Freihofer's Saratoga Jazz Festival in Saratoga Springs, NY. No announcement yet (coming soon tho), but a logical fit? Let' hope so!