Though some will argue about whether ten-time Grammy winner Wayne Shorter's primary impact on jazz has been as a composer or as a saxophonist, few will dispute his importance as one of jazz's leading figures of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Though indebted to John Coltrane, with whom he practiced in the mid-'50s, Shorter eventually developed his own more succinct manner on the tenor horn, retaining the tough tone quality and intensity and, in later years, adding elements of funk. On soprano, Shorter is almost another player entirely, his lovely tone shining like a light beam, his sensibilities attuned more to lyrical thoughts, his choice of notes becoming more spare as his career unfolded. As a composer, he is best known for carefully conceived, complex, long-limbed, endlessly winding tunes, many of which have become jazz standards. Of his mid-'60s albums for Blue Note, most notably Juju and Night Dreamer, the composer and the saxophone stylist meet, showcasing provocative compositions and arrangements performed with both subtlety and force. During his two decades with the six-time Grammy-winning Weather Report from the late '60s through the mid-'80s, and on his solo jazz-funk recordings for Columbia and Verve in the late '80s and early '90s, Shorter showcased both poles of his writing persona -- the inimitable lyricist and the emboldened tonal seeker who utilized what he'd learned from jazz and applied it to open creative possibilities for funk, even as he sought inspiration from international musical traditions. As a horn player, Shorter's membership in V.S.O.P. revealed he'd continued to grow and experiment. With 2002's Footprints Live!, continued on 2003's Alegria, Shorter showcased a new acoustic quartet dedicated to performing his compositions. In the new century's second decade, Shorter re-signed to Blue Note. Shorter started playing the clarinet at 16 but switched to tenor sax before entering New York University in 1952. After graduating with a BME in 1956, he played with Horace Silver for a short time until he was drafted into the Army for two years. Once out of the service, he joined Maynard Ferguson's band, meeting Ferguson's pianist Joe Zawinul in the process. The following year (1959), Shorter joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, where he remained until 1963, eventually becoming the band's music director. During the Blakey period, Shorter also made his debut on record as a leader, cutting several albums for Chicago's Vee-Jay label. After a few prior attempts to hire him away from Blakey, Miles Davis finally convinced Shorter to join his quintet in September 1964, thus completing the lineup of a group whose biggest impact would leapfrog a generation into the '80s. Staying with Miles until 1970, Shorter became the band's most prolific composer at times, contributing tunes like "E.S.P.," "Pinocchio," "Nefertiti," "Sanctuary," "Footprints," "Fall," and the signature description of Miles, "Prince of Darkness." While playing through Miles' transition from loose post-bop acoustic jazz into electronic jazz-rock, Shorter also took up the soprano in late 1968, an instrument that turned out to be more suited to riding above the new electronic timbres than the tenor. As a prolific solo artist for Blue Note during this period, Shorter expanded his palette from hard bop almost into the atonal avant-garde, with fascinating excursions into jazz-rock territory toward the turn of the decade. In November 1970, Shorter teamed up with old cohort Joe Zawinul and Miroslav Vitous to form Weather Report, where after a fierce start, Shorter's playing grew mellower, pithier, more consciously melodic, and gradually more subservient to Zawinul's concepts. By now he was playing mostly on soprano, though the tenor would re-emerge toward the end of WR's run. Shorter's solo ambitions were mostly on hold during the WR days, resulting in but one atypical solo album, Native Dancer, an attractive side trip into Brazilian-American tropicalismo in tandem with Milton Nascimento. Shorter also revisited the past in the late '70s by touring with Freddie Hubbard and ex-Miles sidemen Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams as V.S.O.P. Shorter finally left Weather Report in 1985. Still committed to electronics and fusion, his recorded compositions from the period feature welcoming rhythms and harmonically complex arrangements. After three Columbia albums during 1986-1988 -- Atlantis, Phantom Navigator and Joy Ryder -- and a tour with Santana (represented by the 2005 album Montreux 1988), he lapsed into silence, emerging again in 1992 with Wallace Roney and the V.S.O.P. rhythm section in the "A Tribute to Miles" band. In 1994, now on Verve, Shorter released High Life, an engaging electric collaboration with keyboardist Rachel Z. In concert, he has fielded an erratic series of bands, which could be incoherent one year (1995) and lean and fit the next (1996). He guested on the Rolling Stones' Bridges to Babylon in 1997, and on Herbie Hancock's Gershwin's World in 1998. In 2001, he was back with Hancock for Future 2 Future and on Marcus Miller's M². Footprints Live! was released in 2002 under his own name with a new band that included pianist Danilo Pérez, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Brian Blade, followed by Alegria in 2003 and Beyond the Sound Barrier in 2005. Given his long track record, Shorter's every record and appearance are still eagerly awaited by fans in the hope that he will thrill them again. Blue Note released Blue Note's Great Sessions: Wayne Shorter in 2006. Though absent from recording, Shorter continued to tour regularly with the same quartet after 2005. They re-emerged to record again in February of 2013 with a live outing from their 2011 tour. Without a Net, his first recording for Blue Note in 43 years, was released in February of 2013, as a precursor to his 80th birthday. Just after that release, the Wayne Shorter Quartet performed four of the leader's compositions with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Shorter immediately brought the quartet and orchestra into the studio to record those same four pieces: "Pegasus," "Prometheus Unbound," "Lotus," and "The Three Marias," as a unified suite. The title of this four-composition orchestral suite is also Shorter’s title character for the graphic novel: Emanon, or "no name" spelled backward. Each of the four movements has a corresponding theme in a graphic novel penned by Shorter and Monica Sly, illustrated by Randy DeBurke. It draws inspiration from the concept of a multiverse (where numerous universes co-exist simultaneously) and features a character named Emanon, an action-hero proxy of Shorter, a comic book aficionado since he was a boy. The story alludes to dystopian oppression and was clearly informed by the saxophonist's Buddhist studies. All told, the music -- performed by the quartet with and without the chamber orchestra -- was recorded live in London as well as in the studio; compiled, it created a triple album accompanied by the 84-page graphic novel. Emanon was issued in September of 2018, just after Shorter's 85th birthday.
© Richard S. Ginnell /TiVo
© Richard S. Ginnell /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2003 | Blue Note Records
Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
With the possible exception of its song, "Footprints," which would become a jazz standard, Adam's Apple received quite a bit less attention upon its release than some of the preceding albums in Wayne Shorter's catalog. That is a shame because it really does rank with the best of his output from this incredibly fertile period. From the first moments when Shorter's sax soars out in the eponymous opening track, with its warmth and roundness and power, it is hard not to like this album. It might not be turning as sharp of a corner stylistically as some of his earlier works, like Speak No Evil, but its impact is only dulled by the fact that Shorter has already arrived at the peak of his powers. Taken in isolation, this is one of the great works of mid-'60s jazz, but when Shorter has already achieved a unique performance style, compositional excellence, and a perfectly balanced relationship with his sidemen, it is hard to be impressed by the fact that he manages to continue to do these things album after album. But Shorter does shine here, while allowing strong players like Herbie Hancock to also have their place in the sun. Especially hypnotic are two very different songs, the ballad "Teru" and Shorter's tribute to John Coltrane, "Chief Crazy Horse," both of which also allow Hancock a chance to show what he could do. © Stacia Proefrock /TiVo
Jazz - Released January 1, 2013 | Blue Note Records
Distinctions Sélectionné par Ecoutez Voir
Without a Net is Wayne Shorter's first Blue Note recording date since August 26, 1970, when he recorded Moto Grosso Feio and Odyssey of Iska. That's nearly 43 years. Shorter has pursued many paths since then, as a member of Weather Report, and as a bandleader. This quartet was assembled for a 2001 European tour and has been playing together ever since. It shows. The interplay Shorter shares with pianist Danilo Pérez, bassist John Pattitucci, and drummer Brian Blade is not merely intuitive, it is seamlessly empathic. All but one of these tunes were recorded during the group's 2011 tour. The lone exception is "Pegasus," recorded with the Imani Winds at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. There are six new tunes here; the quartet is credited with two of them. Shorter also revises some others, including set opener "Orbits" (the original was on Miles Davis' Miles Smiles) and "Plaza Real" (from Weather Report's Procession album). The only outlier, "Flying Down to Rio," is a version of the title tune from a 1933 film. Fireworks from this band can be heard everywhere. But the group aesthetic is especially noticeable in the penetrating romanticism of "Starry Night," where what appears restrained -- at least initially -- is actually quite exploratory and forceful. It's also apparent in the slow deliberation at play in the brooding "Myrrh." "Plaza Real" is a different animal here. Shorter's soprano soars and swoops through the melody, extending it at each turn as Pérez offers bright, pulsing chords to highlight the harmonic richness on display. Blade digs deep into his tom-toms, and finds an alternate polyrhythmic route that underscores the elegance and momentum in Shorter's lyric invention. The album's centerpiece is the 23-minute "Pegasus," which expands the band into a nonet. It is a tone poem that commences very slowly and deliberately. But its form gradually opens to allow for great expressions of individual and group freedom. Shorter's athletic soprano solo is breathtaking. The arrangement on "Flying Down to Rio" turns its catchy yet off-kilter melody into a group dialogue centered around a swirling series of complex harmonic statements. Pattitucci introduces "Zero Gravity to the 10th Power" with a funky vamp before layers of melody, harmonic extrapolation, and rhythmic interplay are added. By the time Shorter takes his tenor solo, we've heard everything from Latin grooves to modal assertions to classical motifs and some near explosions from Blade. While any new album from Shorter is an event at this juncture (he's nearly 80 yet in peak form here as composer and soloist), Without a Net is special even among the recordings made by this outstanding group. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
Jazz - Released September 14, 2018 | Blue Note Records
For decades, composer and saxophonist Wayne Shorter has led one of the more impressive quartets in jazz. With pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Brian Blade, the 85-year-old saxophonist has explored the connections between chamber music and jazz. This band rehearses on-stage, creating innovative architectures via in-the-moment dialogue and improvising with unbridled freedom that never gives way to excess. Emanon is their first recording in five years and conceptual in nature. It comprises a four-part suite in a studio date from 2013 with the Orpheus Chamber Ensemble, and two 2016 live discs of the quartet playing the Emanon material with other tunes. It's packaged in an oversize hardbound book that contains a 36-page graphic novel that Shorter co-wrote with Monica Sly and illustrator Randy DeBurke. It follows the exploits of its "rogue philosopher"/warrior/protagonist namesake ("no name" spelled backwards, from a Dizzy Gillespie tune). He fights bad guys in the multiverse, a concept that shares principles with the Buddhist notion of emptiness, allowing for an infinite number of simultaneously existing universes that Emanon travels effortlessly between. Disc one begins with piano and soprano sax probing the suggestion of melody, but really it's the pianist offering Shorter a chance for dialogic thought. Orchestral brass, strings, and the rhythm section enter minutes later and create melody from rhythm and vice-versa. The full orchestra's colorful voicings introduce "Prometheus Unbound" with a majestic grandeur balanced by the quartet's subtler interventions. "Lotus" commences as a full-on orchestral thematic statement answered by a recurrent three-note piano ostinato that's countered by free blowing from Perez and Shorter. They are barely held in check by the fluid pulse from Blade and Patitucci. The chamber group's bold yet lush restatement later in the piece frames the quartet's interrogatory investigation of blues. "The Three Marias," whose origins date back to 1985's Atlantis, is rendered completely anew with Bernstein-esque orchestral flourishes and a sweeping theme. Shorter plays soprano and tenor with equal vigor. The quartet emerges to take over with speculative and assertive conversation until the last third, where the orchestra returns with tempi, texture, and dynamic changes ushering in a sweeping conclusion. The two live discs begin with a radically revisioned 27-minute version of "The Three Marias," where the group's close listening and instinctive risk-taking chart the unknown amid post-bop, modal jazz, and free improv. The medley of "Lost" and "Orbits" is edgier, traversing out jazz one moment and swinging grooves the next as Perez provides a wide palette for his bandmates to color. The final disc opens and closes with kaleidoscopic quartet versions of "Lotus" and "Prometheus Unbound," with stops at the traditional "She Moves Through the Fair" (unrecognizable from their 2003 version) and a short, blistering "Adventures Aboard the Golden Mean" that goes from 0-60 instantly in a bluesy workout led by Shorter's soprano, followed by Perez's Latin montunos and vamps given a heavy bottom by the rhythm section. While Emanon's suite may take some getting used to, it is a profoundly imaginative work; the quartet concert offers a killer portrait a group whose M.O. is pushing at the margins until they give way to something altogether new. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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