wed 17/10/2018

Album of the Year: Wayne Shorter Quartet - Without A Net | reviews, news & interviews

Album of the Year: Wayne Shorter Quartet - Without A Net

Album of the Year: Wayne Shorter Quartet - Without A Net

2013 proved to be the sax icon's annus mirabilis

Taking small group music-making to another dimension: the Wayne Shorter Quartet

In jazz, 2013 belonged to Wayne Shorter. In recognition of a remarkable six-decade career as a saxophonist, educator and composer, Shorter, who turned 80 in August last year, received a lifetime achievement award from the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz – only the second time in the Institute’s history that it has bestowed such an honour (Quincy Jones being the first recipient in 1996). There were yet more awards from the Jazz Journalists Association: Lifetime Achievement in Jazz, Soprano Saxophonist of the Year, and Small Ensemble of the Year. Then there were the numerous headline gigs (including the London Jazz Festival), TV appearances (Arsenio Hall, Tavis Smiley) and reams of editorial.

Released in February 2013, the Wayne Shorter Quartet's Without A Net marked Shorter's return to Blue Note Records after 43 years. And what a return it was. Recorded live during a 2011 European tour - the one exception being the epic, 23-minute tone poem “Pegasus” in which the quartet is joined by the New York-based quintet Imani Winds – this barnburner of an album struck freewheeling jazz gold. Startling improv, a uniquely collegial four-way dialogue, playing that glowed with a singular evocative power: the ensemble cast of Shorter plus pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade fused disparate elements into something transcendent and utterly original. From the slow burn of “Myrrh” to the searching, high-velocity romanticism of “Starry Night”, two of six new Shorter compositions featured, the album took small group music-making to another dimension.

Other staggeringly good albums in 2013 included a trio of tributes. Terri Lyne Carrington's brilliant Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue paid homage to Ellington's classic 1963 trio recording with Charles Mingus and Max Roach, René Marie's I Wanna Be Evil presented a dazzling 10-track paean to her idol Eartha Kitt, while the music-making on Eliane Elias's I Thought About You (A Tribute to Chet Baker) was about as flowing, effortless and simpatico as you could wish for. In a new departure, Mirrors saw fellow octogenarian Kenny Wheeler setting poems by Stevie Smith, Lewis Carroll and W.B. Yeats – all beautifully sung by Norma Winstone and the outstanding, 24-strong London Vocal Project.

Other indispensable vocal albums of 2013 included Liane Carroll's Ballads, 11 terrific songs delivered in typically magisterial fashion, Cécile McLorin Salvant's WomanChild, one of the most hotly anticipated releases of the year, and rightly so; plus Gregory Porter's magnificent major label debut (also on Blue Note), Liquid Spirit.

Overleaf: Watch a clip of the Wayne Shorter Quartet performing at Jazz in Marciac.

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