As far as elder statesmen of Jazz go, you can’t get much higher than Wayne Shorter, an alumnus of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and Miles Davis’ groups for years in the 1960s, as a member of fusion band Weather Report in the 70s and 80s as well as leader of his own successful quartets and bands alongside those, there are few in the world who deserve the term “living legend” as much as Wayne Shorter. This new release sees him return to the renowned Jazz Blue Note label after a 43 year absence, and his first full album since 2005’s Beyond The Sound Barrier Now 80 years old, Shorter’s playing is as inventive and exciting as it ever has been.
This album returns to the post bebop style that Shorter was associated with in the 1960s, a quartet, all playing loose arrangements with plenty of space for improvisation across extended passages. This album sees Shorter playing predominantly Soprano Saxophone with a beautiful, warm tone, flying around the horn with a dexterity that few can match.
Many of these recordings are taken from his 2010 and 2011 live shows, and therefore show the great man at his best- in front of an appreciative audience, baring his soul in a way that only a true improvisational genius can.
It can be said that this music is very self-indulgent and ostentatious and flashy, with long periods of time where the individual musicians are given free rein to play how and what they want (in the context of the improvisation of course, but an article on Jazz theory could go on forever) at the expense of longer, memorable melodic passages. However the style of post bebop, which is here shown to great effect has rarely been about long melodies. Although, the on “Pegasus”, the quartet is joined by The Imani Winds, giving the track a long, classical feel, almost like an extended piece of chamber music.
This album is absolutely wonderful. A form of Jazz which was close to being consigned to the history books, has made a welcome return. Back to the abstraction and imaginative freedom which years playing with greats like Miles et al has allowed him to practice, Shorter continues to be a truly inspirational player and still shows that what made this music so timeless in the 1950s and 60s is still alive and strong today; it just needed to have the fire rekindled underneath it, which has been done here with great success. Welcome back Wayne Shorter.