Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis
The Music of Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter is one of the living giants of jazz. In his career he’s been a critical member of legendary groups including Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and Miles Davis’ ensembles. With Miles and later as co-founder of Weather Report, Shorter helped birth the fusion jazz scene. He’s an innovative player on tenor and soprano saxophone and many of his compositions have become jazz standards. In 2008, The New York Times called Shorter “probably jazz’s greatest living small-group composer and a contender for greatest living improviser.” He was awarded a lifetime achievement Grammy in 2014. There are some culture critics who call jazz African America’s Classical music.
The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra is a personification of that view of jazz. The large ensemble’s home base is one of the world’s preeminent cultural institutions. The group is lead by trumpeter, composer and music philosopher, Wynton Marsalis. The Music of Wayne Shorter is the best kind of tribute. The members of the Orchestra have worked up new arrangement of Wayne’s material that doesn’t concentrate on the obvious hits. The best thing is, the tribute is taking place while the artist is still alive. Not only is he still alive, Shorter is up there on the stage, playing with the younger cats, breathing life into other people’s reimagining of his songs.
The Music of Wayne Shorter brings compositions originally composed for small ensembles to a big band setting. The arrangements are lushly orchestrated with intricate interplay between the sections. The opening flourishes of “Yes or No” set the tone for the album. The trumpets announce the coming of the Master; the rest of the band answers and the man himself fills the spaces. It’s a big sound that commands attention. The songs then moves into a bright swing tempo number with the kind of tones you can only achieve with a big band. Shorter’s soprano sax shines on three compositions, including the timely title, “Endangered Species.” On the remaining tracks, Wayne plays tenor. The ten selections on this two disc collection are culled from three 2015 concerts, when Shorter was 81. You can also hear selections from these shows on NPR’s Jazz Night in America and see the show’s companion video online. Shorter sounds great on these songs. He looks like he was having a lot of fun judging by the smiles seen in the video. This is the best way to pay tribute to a venerated musician, while they’re still alive and with them actively participating.