WAYNE SHORTER, Emanon (Blue Note, 2018)
PERSONNEL: Wayne Shorter (Tenor and Soprano saxophone), Danilo Perez (piano), John Patitucci (bass), Brian Blade (drums), featuring the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra on Disc 1
1. Pegasus (14:56)
2. Prometheus Unbound (8:19)
3. Lotus (15:17)
4. The Three Marias (12:30)
1. The Three Marias (27:31)
2. Lost and Orbits Medley (9:51)
1. Lotus (13:36)
2. She Moves Through the Fair (6:24)
3. Adventures Aboard the Golden Mean (4:31)
4. Prometheus Unbound (14:26)
An eighty-something jazz legend with a mile-long resume and nothing left to prove could not be blamed for resting on his musical laurels and giving his audience more of what made him famous. God bless Wayne Shorter for not being that musician.
At age 85, Shorter continues to push the music he helped popularize into new frontiers, adding unexpected elements along the way. His latest release, Emanon is no exception. That being said, the most unexpected element of Emanon might be the graphic novel included in its packaging. Yet the book enhances the music, and vice versa. Shorter helped create the story of a “rogue philosopher” and planetary traveler named Emanon (read it backward), who seeks to conquer the evils of the oppressed worlds he visits. The art is bold and occasionally abstract. The same can be said for the music.
Shorter’s quartet pushes its sound outside the jazz norm. Where most bands sound centered before pushing the music way out, Shorter and company start relatively out, wander back in from time to time, then fly off to musical worlds rarely explored.
Adding to the outside nature of the music is the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, who might remind the casual listener of a low-key Sun-Ra Arkestra before they make their way back to the composition’s center. The music is delightfully off-balance, with Shorter’s soprano saxophone wailing over the top of the orchestra’s abstraction. The collaboration makes for a fascinating studio experience.
Shorter’s quartet features top-flight veterans, who take the music to a different level on-stage in front of a London audience. Some of the pieces are repeated from Disc 1, but mostly in title only. While the rest of the band teeters between mild abstraction and hard bop groove, Shorter uses his voice as the centering constant. It might remind one of the Miles Davis Quintet of the mid-60s, which featured Shorter on sax.
Emanon is not the recording expected from a musician who came on the scene in 1959. It is the recording of a legendary musician willing to push himself as far as he can for as long as he can. It is not to be missed.