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Wayne Shorter: Alegria

Mark F. Turner By

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Wayne Shorter raised high expectations after last year's critically acclaimed Footprints Live . His new release, Alegria, continues to reveal the creativity and vitality in one of today's true jazz icons. Footprints was the first time Shorter had recorded live with his own acoustic group. The group, featuring the younger jazz talents of drummer Brian Blade, pianist Danilo Perez, and bassist John Patitucci, reconstructed Shorter compositions recorded over thirty years ago. The recording was nominated for a Grammy award for Jazz Record of the Year, and was applauded by both audiences and critics (including our own ).

Alegria is Shorter's first studio release in over eight years and he began recording it with his new group before the onset of the Footprints tour. It contains new material, featuring his touring group, along with a larger ensemble of musicians and instruments including brass, woodwind, and percussion. Reminiscent of Shorter's earlier solo recordings as well as with the '70s jazz super-group Weather Report, the music has a global feel, eclectic and free. Shorter has always been a brilliant composer, and with the addition of instruments such as the oboe, bassoon, and flute, each composition is layered with textures and timbres that open the music to fresh avenues.

If you were expecting your typical jazz post-bop recording, then think again. The first selection, "Sacajawea," morphs from a boogaloo groove, only to conclude in free jazz flight. Others feature highly composed arrangements such as "Orbits," which mixes strings and jazz in a unique way. Shorter's main quartet members continue to deliver keen musicianship, but it's his own playing and arranging skills that take the forefront. His signature soprano voice is as smooth as silk on the lovely selection "Serenata" which features a nice string and woodwind medley. His tenor is equally impressive and warm on "She Moves Through The Fair," and throaty on the new "Capricorn II." The recording also features contributions from guest artists including drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and Chris Potter on sax and bass clarinet. Alex Acuna, Shorter's ex-band member from Weather Report adds impeccable percussion to four selections.

At seventy years young, Shorter is proof of the ongoing quest of jazz: creating music that is vibrant, exploratory, and heartfelt. Appropriately "Alegría" means "joy" in Spanish, and the new recording is indeed moving, expressive, and a pleasure to listen to.

Title: Alegría | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Songlines Recordings


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