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Artist Profiles

Wayne Shorter: The Soothsayer

By Published: June 6, 2005
Speaking more of his band, the accomplished group of pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade, Shorter is laudatory: "These guys are doing things...they don't worry about putting your best foot forward when guests come over the house. You cover your musical foundation; you don't want anyone to say anything about your musical foundation, weakness or anything like that. These guys make themselves vulnerable, because we know that music is the second important thing and we want to try to put the humanity thing first. You know, 'Out-Reach'. We want to stimulate this whole process of 'Will Somebody Please Stand Up and Think for Themselves!' or 'Think-Feel'. I call it 'Think-Feel'. It's okay to think-feel for yourself... We'll play anything that comes to us because we know that the dots have always been connected but artificially man has a history of disconnecting the dots.

For those who have heard Shorter in any circumstance, the idea of connecting dots must have a particular resonance. His lines are filled with wondrous gaps and spaces giving the impression he is hearing notes and sounds and textures he chooses not to articulate. "That's something we used to talk about when we were with Miles, he recounts. "Miles would say 'when you're not playing, when the music is going on and someone doesn't play during a piece or expression that's going on, that gives shape and purpose and all that to the whole entity of that moment, the essence of that moment.'

Asked why he has begun to play more soprano live, Shorter responds with the only grounded statement of the conversation: "Tenor has a way getting ground in the middle registers of the other instruments, unless you have the kind of equipment on stage that makes you sound like a record. Everything is so separated and mixed and everything that the instant you play the audience can hear the tenor like its standing right in front of you. Hear every instrument clear, separated. That takes a lot of money to have that kind of equipment. On record, a lot of tenor players are heard well on records historically and not as well in public because the register, the left hand of the pianist, the bass and overtones of the bass drum and all that soak up the middle register of the tenor saxophone.

The talk soon veers off again when asked the weighty, and given everything we've learned about Shorter, unnecessary, question of what expectations he places on himself. He mulls it over and places the answer within the context of spiritual mathematics. "I figure like if it's possible to be everywhere...I have a song...called 'Adventures Aboard the Golden Mean'. I was looking up that word 'Golden Mean' and the thing that struck me after columns and columns of explicatives, I saw one that struck me that said 'A place where there are no attachments to any extremes.' And some people I know think philosophically that the Golden Mean means the Middle Way and what I'm getting from this is not even attached to itself, the middle way, something called the middle way. Liberal, rightwing, no extreme. But the Golden Mean is a challenge to get to, it's not a place but it's a challenge to be free of all extremes and that was what jazz was supposed to be, like the little bee that goes around and pollinates, unknowingly sometimes pollinates, or when they say 'all music influences each other'...you could say that the Golden Mean is like a tinkerbell that flies around and touches all the other so-called categories and reminds them to be free. Reminds the people to be free because of 'et-er-ni-ty' and that's where the adventure is, the process of living, the eternal process has to be an adventure.

Recommended Listening:

· Art Blakey - Freedom Rider (Blue Note, 1961)

· Wayne Shorter - Speak No Evil (Blue Note, 1964)

· Miles Davis - Miles Smiles (Columbia, 1966)

· Wayne Shorter - Super Nova (Blue Note, 1969)

· Weather Report - Live in Tokyo (Columbia, 1972)

· Wayne Shorter - Beyond the Sound Barrier (Verve, 2002-2004)

Photo Credit
Mitchell Haddad



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