Wayne Shorter with Quintet and Orchestra

Craig Jolley BY

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University of Southern California
September 8, 2000

The evening began slowly with still another version of the Villa-Lobos Bachianas Brasileiras Number 5, the quintet accompanied by twelve cellos and a bass. Shorter on soprano sax took the role of the soprano voice in the original. The remainder of the first half was rendered by the quintet. Mascalero, barely recognizable from the 1967 original with Miles Davis, was distinguished by light-fingered, mulitextured drumming from Carrington and Acuna, a particularly complimentary team. They gave the music a sense continual momentum throughout the concert. Meldau's piano solo, finely percussive and sparingly chorded, recalled Herbie Hancock (pianist on the original record) without sounding derivative. Aung San Suu Kyi from Shorter's 1 + 1 duet with Hancock began with an Oriental motif and evolved into a blues. Early in his career Shorter fell under the spell of middle-period John Coltrane, often pouring out torrents of notes while building up steam. On this blues solo and elsewhere during the concert his spare, subtle lines tended to stay in the middle register and to evoke Miles as much as anybody. He began the solo with a fragment but interrupted it halfway through to go back to the fragment's beginning before developing it fully. On paper the quintet's instrumentation resembles Shorter's celebrated Weather Report, but the current band sounds more straight-ahead, subtle, and modern. After a long, opening drum solo Carrington launched a funky vamp on Juju (1964), the one piece suggesting a Weather Report feel. Shorter presented the theme ambiguously and finished his solo with a reference to Dizzy Gillespie's Manteca.
Bach's Das Alte Jahr Vergangen Ist with a 1940's Alec Wilder clarinet flavor introduced the full 90-member Thornton Orchestra, the quintet assuming a minor role on the piece. Acuna together with two Thornton percussionists and Carrington began Angola (1965) with a four-way dialog. Shorter soloed first over jazzical brass and woodwinds and finally over strings. After an orchestral prelude Orbits (1966) presented the quintet in concerto grosso (band within a band) format. Shorter on tenor continually drifted in and out. The next two pieces, new music from a current Shorter - Sadin recording project, integrated the quintet fully into the orchestra. Shorter treated soprano Nicol Mecerova's voice as a prominent, but complimentary instrument on Capricorn II. Syzygy, the most ambitious composition of the evening, was notable for Shorter's dry, airy string writing. The second movement featured Mehldau meandering over an orchestral figure. To tumultuous applause the quintet ended on Miles' modal All Blues with a mostly right-hand Mehldau solo in which harmonies were optional. Shorter played a similar concert at the Monterey Jazz Festival September 17, 2000. Brian Blade, drums and Danilo Perez, piano replaced Carrington and Mehldau and gave the quintet an even more abstract feel. Perez barely hinted at Shorter's themes during his solos. Instead of a full symphonic orchestra the quintet was backed by a chamber orchestra (brass and woodwinds) with sparer, less evolved arrangements. A Spanish Vendiendo Alegreia with dark Gil Evans orchestral sonorities was premiered. The Monterey concert balanced composition and improvisation, and Shorter played with more abandon and overt feeling.
Wayne Shorter - soprano, tenor, composer, arranger Brad Mehldau - piano John Patitucci - bass Terri Lynne Carrington - drums Alex Acuna - percussion Thornton Symphony Orchestra Robert Sadin, conductor & co-arranger

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