It is an utter joy to witness the profound evolution of a genius. With the release of Alegria,
Wayne Shorter continues to widen and refine his unique musical vision—and share it with the world. From the first few notes of the opening song, "Sacajawea," it becomes immediately evident that we're being invited into a lyrical sonic world that is beyond common jazz metaphor. This music is stripped of all superfluity and becomes a singular document—a meeting of heavy spirits.
The music on Alegria feels "lived in" and this aura pervades every piece on the recording, even the sessions with musicians outside of the quartet orbit and the overdubbed sections. The 'lived in' quality comes from Shorter himself; like his former employer Miles Davis, there is as much music in what he chooses not to play as what he does voice with his horn. His tremendous presence with each note and every gesture again recalls Miles Davis, inspiring those around him to rise to a higher level of understanding of the music they are asked to interpret.
There's an old photograph of Cecil Taylor sitting at the piano playing from a score composed of the singular image of a dancer in motion, with the word "presence" printed in bold black letters along the right side. Alegria reminds me of that photograph, but the music presented on this album shimmers with a different sort of intensity than the one conjured by Mr. Taylor. Shorter approaches "presence" more from a quiet Zen master's point of reference—akin to witnessing the subtle unfolding of a spring flower, or the gentle undulations of a mountain stream hung with teeming green plants. It is a powerful music filled with beauty and quiet fire.
Another fascinating aspect of this recording is the contrast in approach between pianists Danilo Perez and Brad Mehldau, as well as the drumming of Brian Blade and Terri Lyne Carrington. Shorter seems to be interested in the differences between these players, and I find it revealing that he chose to record with two different harmonic and rhythmic points of view. He responds to each individual in a subtle and rich manner—Mehldau takes a tune in a direction not chosen by Perez, and vice-versa. Carrington approaches the cymbals in a very different way than Blade, making for a deeper performance of the material as individual musicians.
In the end, Alegria is filled with music of individual presence, subtlety, sophistication, and a quiet, beautiful bravery that is quite admirable.
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