Wayne Shorter Celebrates His 75th Birthday

December 3rd, 2008

from New York Times

A Birthday Bash With a Harmonious Mix of Guests
By Ben Ratliff

Months ahead of time Wayne Shorter’s 75th birthday concert at Carnegie Hall was being described as a kind of collaboration with Imani Winds, a classical wind quintet. This caused minor concern among fans leading up to the show on Tuesday. It isn’t that Mr. Shorter, probably jazz’s greatest living small-group composer and a contender for greatest living improviser, shouldn’t be going outside his territory; the lessons of 20th-century classical music have become inseparable from his composing.

It’s that his territory is so good. There exists a generalized “what more can be done?” crisis of confidence about the small group in jazz, but Mr. Shorter’s quartet, formed in 2000, is nearly magnificent enough to ease it. With the pianist Danilo Perez, the bassist John Patitucci, the drummer Brian Blade and Mr. Shorter on tenor and soprano saxophones, the band has been settling into performances full of articulated mystery. 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?

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