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Finally, Our Man Wayne in the Setting He Deserves
on May 22, 2002
I hate when reviewers use hackneyed phrases like "a return to form," but that's what Wayne Shorter has done on this album. It's a return to the lean, haunted, fiercely beautiful, exploratory small group format he plumbed the depths of during his Blue Note years, on such brilliant albums as "Adam's Apple" and "Juju." What a relief! It's been disheartening to hear Shorter's inimitable voice become first little more than another special effect in the Weather Report machine, and then pop up here and there in cluttered settings on his own later albums. (I know, I know, "Mysterious Traveller" and even "Heavy Weather" were majestic and ...kicking in places, but Shorter's own laser-like contributions were frequently overwhelmed by Zawinul's synth orchestrations, which sound more dated and time-bound these days than Shorter's earlier work.) Most disappointing of all, perhaps, was that weird duet session with Herbie Hancock several years ago, which promised intimacy and telepathy, and delivered only a couple of weary masters recycling their tonal cliches.
Finally, Wayne has surrounded himself with young players who obviously SCHOOLED themselves on those great Miles and Blue Note-era albums. The dark magus of Miles hovers over this session; like The Great Quintet, this is a band that can be lovely and terrifying in the same three bars. Blade is clearly the most energetic and sensitive young jazz drummer out there these days, Pattitucci is eminently tasteful and into-it, and Perez is all over the changes of such devastatingly beautiful melodies as "Masqualero" and "Footprints," deconstructing and reinventing while staying true to the incendiary spirit of the original recordings.
If you thought Shorter had just become another brand name worthy of reverence for his early work and worthy of keeping your mouth shut about the last 25 years of his music out of respect, put on this CD. This could have been a monumental trio session even without Shorter; with him, it's a historic event, evidence that these tunes will still raise the hairs on the back of people's necks in another 200 years.