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by Terry Robinson
Verve, Release Date: March 25, 2003
A new studio album by Wayne Shorter is always a sensation. The last one was released in 1995 ( High Life, a Marcus Miller production), so how does Wayne sound in the new millennium? Well, in a way, pretty much the same as since the 80's, insofar as he employs the same kind of compositional approach to music. This can be summarized as an architectural or maybe rather, a structural, approach, which introduces elements of the modern concert music into - well, what's left of Jazz. Wayne Shorter has a very unique and immediately recognizable way of doing this. Incidentally, it's the first all-acoustic recording from him since back in the 60's. This is not really such an important point, even though there are people who would like to segregate the world into acoustic and deplorable non-acoustic - nonsense! It does, however, give the music a coloring more suitable to Wayne's world than on those 80's records with their plastic drums, which are mainly responsible for the way those records ( Atlantis, Phantom Navigator and Joy Rider) have aged and now sound dated, despite their great moments. Wayne Shorter still plays very well and a lot here. To me, he is the best sax player alive. And the songs? There are new and older c ompositions by Wayne; the older ones are practically de- and reconstructed, you can hardly recognize them, quite a thrill for those who know the tunes from before. And there are compositions from other sources, like a 12th century carol (also completely deconstructed). Wayne Shorter certainly has strong Jazz roots, but this means little as far as his present musical interests are concerned. This free mind is a rare thing to be found anywhere, especially in the segregated world of American Jazz. And it's one of the reasons, which make Alegria so special.
The opening track is the least palatable to me: kind of hectic, much too constructed, far too intelligent for me. After that, the album finds its pace. The majority of the tracks tend to run at medium or slow speed. And that is good for the music and for the listener, for the compositions are all rather complicated, and at the slower pace, one can grasp the music and therefore appreciate it. Wayne plays both the soprano and the tenor saxes, sometimes at the same time, arrangements as well as solos, and this works better here maybe than ever before. The musicians: we are listening to a small orchestra here, and even though there are sometimes small solos, they are not what this music is about; it's not opera but a narrative, so to speak.
All in all, Alegria is a highly welcome production.
published 16.04.2005© 2005 jazz news :: home page