Saturday, April 27, 2013

Now I like Wayne Shorter's new stuff

After expressing mixed feelings about Wayne Shorter's new album, Without a Net, I've decided that I not only like it, I also like everything he's done since teaming up with Danilo Perez, John Patitucci and Brian Blade.

In this spirit, I have made plans to hear the quartet this summer in Chicago. No time like the present, and they'll never get any closer to Springfield.

I like the way Shorter integrates bits of lyricism, bombast and actual swing. He's one of the few players I'm hearing today who's trying to do something different that appeals to me. It's weird and unsettling that a dedicated jazz listener has to turn to a near-octogenarian for innovation.

I've always expected something new from jazz, even as I listened mostly to mainstream music. But I need to enjoy the innovations.

Different but dull: At this blog we've explored the disappointing "egghead" style of contemporary innovation. 

Same but exciting: Many great players are thriving in the mainstream. Tom Harrell has produced five albums with the same quintet with only small variations in concept; all are brilliant and more is better. Sonny Rollins, who's 82, seems to want to improve on his own mainstream work every time out. But I also want something different.

Different and exciting: I can't find much of that. I admire Rudresh Mahanthappa, but his continuous blowtorch approach is hard to take. I miss George Adams. He had a vocabulary on tenor that combined screeching Ayler-like leaps with Gospel and warm swing. At the very moment when his caterwauling became unpleasant, he pulled back into a groove.

I think Shorter is doing the same thing in a more expressionist way. Much of his playing is not about chops; it's about extremes of emotion ("Myrrh" on the new album is a succinct example of this). For me, this is a different and exciting approach. I like players with chops (see "same but exciting"), but I'm willing to give up chops in return for something new and appealing.

In contrast to Rollins, Shorter, 79, seems to feel that he has no obligation to verify his chops. If he wants to unleash an ear-splitting dissonant trill, he's going to do it, even though it does not require six-hour daily practice sessions to pull off. And just when your eardrums are about to rupture, he'll pull up and play a line from Mendelssohn.

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