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With his most trusted cohorts standing shoulder-to-shoulder with himpianist Danilo Pérez, ever-ready bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Brian BladeWayne Shorter knows, beyond instinct, that any music he envisions will come to life. And inspire. And amaze.
And so we have Emanon, a three-CD set whose first discfour sweeping orchestral works recorded with the quartet and the 34-piece, player-conducted, innovative and expansive Orpheus Chamber Quartetserves, in a rather loose way, as the cinematic soundtrack to the Shorter/Monica Sly-penned, Randy DuBurke-illustrated anti-utopian graphic novel Emanon, which accompanies this elaborate release. Now that's a long sentence with a lot to unpack, but Shorter has proven, through the decades, that he is a man of many ideas. A man who believes that our better angels will always win out in the end.
Since childhood, Shorter's been a comic book fan, so the complacent citizens of Ypnos heel to their dark lives of degradation, setting the stage for Emanon, a rogue philosopher, to unleash the resistance of creative potential and the realization that multi-universes exist simultaneously. So, on "Pegasus," "Prometheus Unbound," "Lotus," and "The Three Marias," the orchestra swoops and swirls (at turns darkly and heroically), waltzing, waning, and going toe-to-toe with the quartet on a number of dynamic exchanges as Shorter works up passages of fugue-like intensity, creating a vibrant, breathing mix of Aaron Copland's "Fanfare For A Common Man" and Gershwin's "An American In Paris," with serious nods to Duke Ellington and Thelonius Monk.
Recorded live in London in 2016, discs two and three capture the quartet in full risk-defying mode, proving yet again to be one of the leading jazz units of our time (and, really, what else could they be with Shorter at the helm, surrounded by such a fearless team?). Three of the Emanon compositions are featured, "The Three Marias" being particularly reconfigured for a pliable 27 minutes with Perez taking the lead most of the way through. The traditional Irish ballad, "She Moves Through The Fair" (realized hauntingly in 1969 with the Sandy Denny-led Fairport Convention) is given an old Wayne Shorter/Miles Davis-style reading, with each player finding his voice amid the climatic whole.
Emanon may well be Shorter's first release in a number of years, but it goes a long well to prove he hasn't missed a beat.
Disc I: Pegasus; Prometheus Unbound; Lotus; The Three Marias. Disc II: The Three Marias; Lost and Orbits Medley. Disc III: Lotus; She Moves through the Fair; Adventures Aboard the Golden Mean; Prometheus Unbound.
Disc I: Wayne Shorter: tenor and soprano saxophones; Danilo Perez: piano; John Patitucci: bass; Brian Blade: drums; The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra: violin I: Richard Rood, concertmaster, Martha Caplin, Laura Frautschi, Joanna Jenner, Renee Jolles, Sophia Kessinger; violin II: Calvin Wiersma, principal, Ronnie Bauch, Adela Pena, Eriko Sato; viola: Dov Scheindlin, principal, Mark Holloway, Daniel Panner, Nardo Poy; cello: Eric Bartlett, principal, Melissa Meell, Jonathon Spitz, James Wilson; double bass: Donald Palma, principal, Jordan Frazier; flute: Susan Palma Nidel, principal, Elizabeth Mann; oboe: James Austin Smith, principal, Alexandra Knoll; clarinet: Alan Kay, principal, Alicia Lee; bassoon: Frank Morelli, principal, Marc Goldberg; horn: Stewart Rose, principal, Julie Landsman; trumpet: Louis Hanzlik, principal, Carl Albach; trombone: Michael Powell; timpani: Maya Gunji.