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"Wayne Shorter still towers over jazz." Alegria - CD of the week!!

Discussion in 'Recordings [DB]' started by Bruce Lindfield, Mar 24, 2003.

  1. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    So I bought Wayne Shorter's "Alegria" last week and I do now really like it - but the surprise is that it is everything that the recent concerts were not!! ;)

    So there was a lot of criticism here and amongst musician friends I have talked to, of the recent concert tour. But with basically the same band - Perez,Pattituci, Blade - the new album has :

    Great tunes - recognisable melodies
    Interesting arrangements - almost orchestral
    Great grooves - some really nice percussion-led grroving
    Lots of supportive rhythm section playing with Wayne soloing

    I am still getting into it - but my regular newspaper, the Guardian - made it CD of the week! Not just "Jazz" CD of the week - but out of all the pop/rock/orchestral etc. CDs of the week. In fact they devoted the first whole page of their review section to this CD! :eek:

    Here's their review :

    John L Walters
    Friday March 21, 2003
    The Guardian

    Saxophonist Wayne Shorter still towers over jazz. For the past four decades he has combined compositional flair with an original and masterly command of tenor and soprano sax improvisation, as the front-line junior in two great Miles Davis bands, as Joe Zawinul's equal partner in Weather Report and as a solo artist since his 1960s Blue Note records.
    Solo albums such as Atlantis and Native Dancer are full of gems; his haiku-like contributions to platinum discs by Joni Mitchell and Steely Dan are moments to treasure.

    Yet some of us found it difficult to join in the chorus of high praise that greeted Shorter's 2002 release, Footprints Live (Verve). True, we had been starved of new releases by the great man for so long that anything was welcome, but this album, by Shorter's regular quartet (with bassist John Patitucci, drummer Brian Blade and Panamanian pianist Danilo Perez) was just a very good live concert recording.

    It makes a nice gig souvenir, with some impressive playing, but it is not a "great album" in the sense of a work that invites repeated playing; that can communicate beyond the central core of fans and musicians.

    Alegria is such an album. It has been so long since a major label produced a new studio-recorded jazz CD of this stature and quality that seasoned jazzbos may need to lie down for a bit in a darkened room.

    Every track is different - each song has a separate identity, sound and feeling. It can feel like a completely different album, depending on your mood, or the time of day, or how much concentration you are prepared to devote to it.

    Take the opening track, Sacajawea (a name inspired by Shorter's American Indian ancestry), played by his quartet. A joyous soprano sax cadenza leads the band into a classic jazz ensemble piece - funky in the non-fusion sense.

    But it is more than a quartet - Shorter overdubs himself on tenor and soprano, recreating the intimate front-line sound that he had with trumpeters such as Freddie Hubbard, or Miles Davis, on those 1960s recordings.

    Angola is a number that dates from that era, now reinterpreted with a deep acoustic pulse from drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and former Weather Report percussionist Alex Acuna. This is as rich and complex as Shorter's best tunes for that influential band, except that here the snaking riffs and chunky chords are for bass clarinet and brass section rather than synth and Rhodes.

    Twelfth Century Carol also hints at the "World Music in space" sound that Weather Report pioneered in the 1970s, with a Gil Evans-like, seven-piece brass section and Acuna locking into another great Patitucci/Carrington groove. Vendiendo Alegria, a beautiful ballad by Milka Himel and Joso Spralja, starts as a moving feature for Shorter's emotion-drenched soprano before kicking into Latin jazz orchestra mode.

    The creative arrangement of Leroy Anderson's Serenata is a six-minute concerto for Shorter's soprano, with woodwind quartet, cello and a restrained rhythm section including pianist Brad Mehldau.

    The similarly voiced Orbits is a re-imagining of another old Shorter tune, featuring the saxophonist at his most "out" against a delicately scored ensemble. Bachianas Brasileiras No 5 is an arrangement of Villa-Lobos's enduring (if overexposed) classical hit by producer Robert Sadin for cello ensemble, bass and percussion. After the long, solo cello theme statement, Shorter engages in thoughtful but characteristically oblique dialogue with the music.

    And there's the surprise choice of She Moved Through the Fair, the Irish traditional song made iconic by Margaret Barry's late 1950s version. Shorter's, for the quartet, is equally subtle: tenor and soprano sax against bass, fragile piano and Brian Blade's impossibly quiet drums - it's as if he is merely breathing on the cymbals. The closing Capricorn II shows the quartet at its most introspective and brilliant: just tenor, bass, piano and drums.

    Sadin's production of Alegria is superb throughout. The sympathetic selection of material and musicians, the attention to sonic detail and the way each cut reveals a different facet of Shorter at his very best - as composer, as bandleader, and as one of the world's great musicians - mark out Sadin as an outstanding jazz producer.

    As for Shorter, his ability with structure and part-writing, along with a sensitivity to timbre and melody, confirms his reputation as one of the great jazz composer-players. Alegria is an album in which you keep making new discoveries. As a DJ friend said to me: "It's a real grower."

    I can vouch for that - I've been listening to it for weeks, and it sounds great everywhere - in the lounge, study or kitchen, on long train journeys, on urban drifts with a personal stereo and, of course, when lying down in a darkened room.
  2. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Here's the link to the above :



    I just wanted to add that I really like the treatment of the traditional tune "She moves through the fair" and can't get it out of my head now!

    I also love the Cello arrangement of the Villa-Lobos tune - this is a great crossover between Jazz and Classical of the higest order without in any way being "cheesy" or diminishing either genre - truy a new form of "acoustic" music that enriches both.
  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I suppose I wondered if anybody else had got this - or whether they had been put off by the concerts?

    I think it's a real return to the best of Wayne Shorter as composer - I now think that some of the tracks sound like Weather Report in terms of compositions /arrangment - but with acoustic instruments taking the place of Joe Zawinul's keybords/synths - something I always wanted to hear!
  4. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Good stuff. After the concert, I wasn't sure whether I wanted to get the album or not - but maybe it would be a good one to get after all.
  5. AJ Love

    AJ Love

    Oct 8, 2002
    Madison WI USA
    well, its such a relative thing, opinions about music, but I would not at all say that Weather Report was Shorter at his best, although that type of a sound without Zawinul's synth sounds is a step in the right direction from Weather Report for this listener

    I greatly prefer what Shorter did with Miles Davis and his various solo albums over Weather Report
  6. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I've got a lot of his solo stuff with Blue Note - but it's nice to see an artist who is still working in the acoustic tradition and continuing making new and better music! :)
  7. I have *all* of his Blue Note stuff (I think :meh: ) and I love it all, even the real out stuff like 'The All Seeing Eye' and 'Schizophrenia'.

    I still haven't picked up the disc yet...thanks for the reminder! He's my favorite...flew all the way from Atlanta to SF to see him once.
  8. What a great CD, just got it in from Amazon a couple of weeks back!
    This CD has a good many flavors, and Wayne Shorter isn't a one-trick-pony composer..many forms and complicated tastes.
    I was fortunate enough to see Wayne Shorter and his band at Chicago's Symphony Center a couple of years back....gave the band a lot of room to work.
    Brian Blades/Danilo Perez/John Patitucci were nothing short of incredible..still are at this point.
    One of my surprise favorite CD's of the year to this point!
  9. wow, I just got it and won't be able to comment before several listenings...
  10. OK I think I can comment now. Great record. Sounds are good, and the compositions are (of course) stellar (it *is* Wayne, ya know?)

    Brian Blade and John P. sound great together.

    I'm trying to figure out 'Orbits', I've heard about 3 different renditions of that tune and none of them sound alike...this version is WAY different than the one on 'Miles Smiles' ... seems there is only a fragment of the melody there.
  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    As the Guardian review says, it is a long time since we had a great Jazz studio album and this has to be new Jazz album of the year. I can't see anyone topping it....?
  12. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    That is such horse****. Alegria is a fine disc, but The Guardian seems to have overlooked a few little numbers like, to pick at random:

    * Chris Potter's Gratitude
    * Dave Holland's Not For Nothing
    * Michael Brecker's Time Is Of The Essence

    or any of the seventeen other discs that make up my "Top 5" of the moment.

    Jayzush. To think that somebody got paid for writing that crap. I hereby sentence him to 30 days with Stanley Crouch!
  13. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    But those CDs were released last year or earlier- I'm talking about 2003 new releases!

    Stop living in the past!! ;)

    Seriously - those are all good albums - but are they "great"?
  14. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    If you didn't like the Guardian, here's the review from jazzreview.com :

    Featured Artist: Wayne Shorter

    CD Title: Alegria

    Year: 2003

    Record Label: Verve Music Group

    Style: BeBop / Hard Bop

    Musicians: Wayne Shorter (tenor & soprano saxophones), Danilo Perez (piano), Brad Meldau (piano), John Patitucci (bass), Brian Blade (drums), Terri Lyne Carrington (drums), Alex Acuna (percussion), Chris Potter (bass clarinet, tenor saxophone), Lew Solof (trumpet), Chris Gekker (trumpet), Jeremy Pelt (trumpet), Michael Boschen (trombone), Steve Davis (trombone), Bruce Eidem (trombone), Jim Pugh (trombone), Papo Vasquez (trombone), Charles Curtis (cello), Paul Dunkel (flute), Steven Taylor (oboe), Allen Blustine (clarinet, bass clarinet), Frank Morelli (bassoon), John Clark (horns), Stewart Rose (horns), Marcus Rojas (tuba)

    Review: With studious and radical reworking of pieces, legendary Wayne Shorter creates joy and imagination on his new album, “Alegria.” This is his first studio album as a leader in eight years and features some of the brightest performers in jazz today: Danilo Perez, Brad Meldau, John Patitucci, Brian Blade, Alex Acuna and Terri Lyne Carrington. This is a worthy follow-up to the widely acclaimed “Footprints Live!” from 2002. Each of the pieces is intelligently arranged and performed flawlessly.

    The only new Shorter composition is the initial track, ‘Sacajawea.’ It is a rousing burner with aural flights of fancy. It can be delicate and supremely rough, graceful and wild. Shorter and his band are utterly in control especially when the piece feels like it whips around a sharp turn at a dangerously high speed and still manages to keep the whole thing on track.

    Shorter rediscovers the brilliant classical Brazilian composer, Heitor Villa-Lobos, who re-thinks and re-imagines Bach. The result is simply a masterpiece. It is begins hauntingly with Acuna and Shorter but then sways along the dance floor to Charles Curtis on cello with a solo that is so sweet and sorrowful that it can bring tears to one’s eyes. Following the cello, Shorter begins a rich tenor improvisation in counterpoint to Curtis. The eventual interplay between Curtis and Shorter is breathtaking. This single track may be the most magnificent piece that I have heard in years. The roots are deep and old, but the branches are fresh and resoundingly modern. And it may provide listeners with a means to appreciate and intensively explore 20th century classical compositions by Bartok, Chavez, Shostakovich and Harrison.

    ‘Angola’ is a re-imagined bebop piece that was originally recorded when Shorter played with Miles Davis’ acoustic band. But this time, there is the brilliant incessant undertow of African rhythms and a slightly askew horn section. Shorter’s solos are concise and, at times, soaring.

    ‘12th Century Carol’ only casually uses the ancient melody initially which is then re-interpreted by Shorter on soprano. Perez, Carrington and Acuna are especially noteworthy on this piece. It is fierce and fearless piece of music. The Celtic folk song, ‘She Moves Through the Fair,’ is another re-imagining seen through a different lens of history and culture and pulled off convincingly and compellingly.

    “Alegria” weaves together many sources of music and uses them to almost symphonic effect. It is an album that requires repeated listening to appreciate its nuances and magisterial execution, both in terms of its insightful interpretations and its joyful improvisations.

    Tracks: Sacajawea, Serenata, Vendiento Alegria, Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5, Angola, Interlude, She Moves Through the Fair, Orbits, 12th Century Carol, Capricorn II

    Record Label Website: http://www.vervemusic.com

    Reviewed by: John Doll
  15. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Or allaboutjazz.com :

    Wayne Shorter | Verve

    "Sacajawea," the first track on Wayne Shorter's new CD, Alegría, is a monster. Shorter makes a succinct statement on soprano saxophone, and the rhythm section is off to an instant boil. His first tenor solo has a familiar urgency, and Danilo Perez's piano is striving yet economical. When the full quartet returns, Shorter duets with himself on both horns with harrowing intensity. At the finish, the band's laughter must be half nervous energy, half knowing that they nailed it.
    This degree of communication and commitment is evident on all three tracks that feature last year's Footprints Live! group. On "She Moves Through the Fair," Shorter deftly switches from sweet soprano to tenor and back, while Brian Blade's impressionistic cymbals splash underneath, like water being thrown from a pail and landing on a plate glass window. "Capricorn II" is a showcase for tenor and piano where both Shorter and Perez solo with bluesy mystery.

    The other tracks on Alegría, Shorter's first all-acoustic studio recording since 1967, augment the quartet with brass, winds, strings, and Latin percussion. While Perez and Blade are not on every track, John Patitucci's bass is, bowed elegantly in a duet with cello on a Brazilian version of Bach, pliant and chunky with Alex Acuña and Terri Lyne Carrington's percussion on "Angola" (from Shorter's Miles Davis years). On "Orbits," first heard during the Davis period, woodwinds embellish Shorter's dirty, strangulated tenor sound on top of Patitucci's muscular foundation. It's a rich contrast.

    Alegría is jazz music of the highest pedigree. It demonstrates the full range of Wayne Shorter's musical imagination and intelligence, challenging the conventions of category. At turns orchestral, classical, latinized and traditional, the work rewards repeated listening: for its brilliant arrangements, extraordinary rhythms, and wondrous individual musicianship. In Wayne Shorter, a giant walks among us.

    This review originally appeared in AllAboutJazz - New York.

    ~ Jeff Stockton

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