Saturday, February 02, 2013

Wayne Shorter Quartet - Without a Net (Blue Note, 2012)

Tenor and soprano saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter is one of the great enigmas of jazz. He falls into no camp: bop, hard-bop, fusion, he's played them all, but those labels all fall by the wayside to his singular vision. This is the third album he has made with his longstanding group of Danilo Perez on piano, John Patitucci on bass and Brian Blade on drums. This is a live album from their 2011 tour, with old compositions and new ones remade in the moment. "Orbits" opens the album with dark piano and abstract swirls of saxophone, developing into a collective improvisation that hints at the melody during their freewheeling improvisation. Heavy piano and bass open up a spacious musical landscape on "Starry Night." Perez's ripe piano is very important to to the texture of this song, with Shorter switching briefly to tenor saxophone to add strong accents. Edgy and intense stuccato blasts of piano and drum fire as saxophone arcs overhead. "S.S. Golden Mean" is an uptempo performance lead by very happy sounding soprano saxophone, and there is great sympathetic interplay between Shorter and Perez which anchors this song. After an exciting collective improvisation, Patitucci takes a bass solo as the other three lower their volume just a hair. "Pegasus" is the centerpiece of the album, a 23 minute performance where the quartet is augmented by the Imani Winds, a quartet that adds subtle texture and framing to Shorter's composition and the group's improvisation. The music opens with a fanfare that becomes more powerful and resonant as the quartet builds in. The leader sees joyous fascination in the possibilites offered by this configuration, and the quartet flexes its muscles amidst the larger concept. "Flying Down to Rio" is the album's one non-original, a song from an old movie that film buff Shorter had seen. It starts in a mellow fashion, but then as is the want of the group, they begin to twist and turn the source material like clay, taking liberties and shaping and molding the music into something scarcely recognizable as the originally melody but quite fascinating in its own right. The magic of this particular group is that they take nothing for granted. Everything is approached as a blank slate which can be painted on by the colors, hues and textures that the musicians find in the moment. It can be imposing stuff, but upon close listening there are moments of exhilaration. Without A Net -

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