Wayne Shorter: Without a Net – review
By: John Fordham
The Wayne Shorter quartet (with pianist Danilo Pérez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade) formed in 2000. Though many now regard them as the best small jazz ensemble in the world and they tour most years, this is only their third album – and all three are live. Shorter (pictured), 80 this year, returns to Blue Note, the scene of many of his 1960s triumphs. There are eight quartet tracks from a European tour (six new) plus a 23-minute piece augmented by the woodwind and brass ensemble Imani Winds. Orbits (from Miles Davis’s Miles Smiles) sets the tone, as Shorter’s soprano sax lines arrive over a sinister piano hook, duck in and out of intensifying free swing, and playfully echo Perez’s piano figures. SS Golden Mean has Shorter quoting Dizzy Gillespie’s Manteca, and Pegasus shifts from an opening motif like an old Mahavishnu Orchestra hook, through a sequence of shifting melodies and and breathtaking improvising. Flying Down to Rio – a quirky choice that works – finds the leader in more placid mood, blithely caressing the melody while the others stretch and pull away from it. Without a Net is free to bursting point, but it’s a triumph.
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