How do you rehearse the unknown?
I’ve been waiting for this one for a LONG time. His quartet has gone through such extraordinary transformation, becoming a thing that functions on its own, with its own rules. It is wholly different than the standard approach of “jazz soloists” who operate around a preset progression, head and theme. Wayne’s music soars above all convention, defying patently inadequate titles like “free jazz” or “standards” or “acoustic quartet” or “avant garde.” It is all of that and none of that and so much more. He is quoted in the New York Times:
“We have to beware the trapdoors of the self,” he said recently.
“You think you’re the only one that has a mission,” he went on, “and your mission is so unique, and you expound this missionary process over and over again with something you call a vocabulary, which in itself becomes old and decrepit.” He laughed sharply.
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“We don’t count how much water there is in a wave when we see the ocean.”
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“To me there’s no such thing as beginning or end,” Mr. Shorter said. “I always say don’t discard the past completely because you have to bring with you the most valuable elements of experience, to be sort of like a flashlight. A flashlight into the unknown.”
80 years old and still exploring the unknown. Like he has any choice in the matter. Check out WayneShorter.com for further illumination.
Couldn’t let the day end without mentioning the man’s birthday. He’d be 83 today. This is a nice video from YouTube of The Quintet jamming in Stockholm in 1963. Accompanying the master in this piece are Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and an 18 year old Tony Williams. Pretty cool!
The latest Wayne Shorter installment is up over at Blogerantz. This Artist-of-the-Week stuff is exhausting and it’s taking time away from other writing. So it will be limited to special occasions when the spirit moves me.
But to properly document my little rants, a certain amount of research is necessary. Relax, I’m still mostly talking out my ass. Unlike this guy, who wrote an entire masters thesis on Wayne Shorter – Soundtrack For The Imagination – The Career And Compositions Of Wayne Shorter. Judson Cole Ritchie, you are a badass, whoever you are! I’m looking forward to pawing my way through all 131 pages!
As part of my ongoing celebration of Wayne Shorter’s music this week, here is New York Times review of his 75 birthdy concert at Carnegie Hall. He was joined by a classical wind section, but reviewer Ben Ratlif gives you a feel for what the extraordinary quartet has done during this amazing 8-year run.
They don’t stop between songs, they keep melodies obscured through harmony that’s constantly flowing, and they allow breathing room for everyone, almost rendering obsolete the old notions of jazz architecture — solos, backgrounds, vamps, bridges and so on. Why would you want anything to get in the way of that?
The first outrageously long Wayne Shorter mediation is posted over at Blogerantz. It occurs to me that one week is not nearly enough time to say everything I want to about this guy, but here’s a start.
I think I’m just going to focus on that troubling, yet fascinating, period of solo albums from the end of Weather Report (mid-80’s), leading up to the re-emergence of Wayne as an acoustic jazz icon (c. 2002). The post is about all kinds of Wayne-related shit, but the album that gets the rumination started is 1985’s Atlantis.
It’s a little hard to understand the gravity of this man’s achievment. He is, without a doubt, one of the most outstanding American composers ever. He’s up there with Zappa. He’s that big, but simply doesn’t get the credit, most likely because he has always taken things, especially with his solo albums, in his own direction. But, besides being singularly unique and enormously influential, he has also managed to create the most delicate, complex and achingly beautiful music I have ever heard.
I am going to try and start something new with Wayne – an ‘artist of the week’ feature. So I’ll try to share some of my general thoughts and observations on this sight and I’ll post some music over at Blogerantz, and, hopefully, there will be conceptual continuity and rejoicing.
More to come…