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Emperor`s New Clothes,
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This review is from: Without A Net (Audio CD)
The problem with free jazz, and it goes all the way back to Ornette Coleman, is that, apart from the melodies, every improvisation sounds just like every other improvisation. The additional problem with this Wayne Shorter quartet is that even the tunes are not very good. Jazz, like any other type of music, has to have a form, and Wayne Shorter was at his best round about the time of "Adam`s Apple" when each tune had a set form to which he improvised brilliantly.
For the past 10 years or so the Shorter quartets have presented a collective improvisation; and I suppose that the best aspect of his quartet is the dynamics, but even here, when they reach a crescendo, it amounts to nothing more than collective squeaks, squeals, heavy block chords from the piano, and the rummbling of thunder from the drums. In fact Brian Blade tries his absolute best not to swing, and I think he succeeds. I saw Brian Blade last year with Chick Corea and he was certainly swinging that night; so his playing on this CD must be the way Shorter wants it. As a fairly well respected jazz musician once said: "It don`t mean a thing if it ain`t got that swing".
The most substantial piece, at 23 minutes,is called "Pegasus", and here the quartet is joined by a "Wind Choir". The wind instruments play some interesting figures that are interspersed with solos from the quartet, and the piece builds up quite nicely. Unfortunately, when Shorter is playing in unison with the wind choir he plays as if he is playing solo, and not like he is playing with a wind section; the result is that the intonation of the section is not as good as it should have been.
It wouldn`t be quite right to say that the "music" on this CD is pretentious; I think the word is pompous: unduly grand or solemn. I give this CD two stars for Wayne Shorter`s technique on the soprano saxophone which, even at the age of eighty, is probably not surpassed by anyone else, except maybe Paquito d`Rivera.