When Shorter and Marsalis brought the house down

This encounter between famed saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter and Wynton Marsalis’s Jazz at Lincoln Centre Orchestra was bound to be exciting – but also potentially problematic. Wayne Shorter shot to fame in the late Fifties and Sixties when he played with Miles Davis and Art Blakey, and penned some immortal standards. Since then, like some jazz Ulysses, he has roamed into distant seas with a trusty band of colleagues, creating vast visionary pieces that can play for an hour at a stretch. His eye is on the future.

Wynton Marsalis, on the other hand, looks back. He’s a conservator of the great jazz tradition, which he lovingly curates with his Jazz at Lincoln Centre Orchestra. “We’re going to swing tonight,” he announced from his chair at the back, alongside the other trumpeters. Before each number he gave a short history “…this is from the great Blue Note album of 1964…” while Shorter, in the place of honour at the front, listened with a faint smile.

It was odd to see this still-creative man being given a particular slot in history. But in the first number Yes or No, the trumpet section were so magnificently tight, and pianist Dan Nimmer’s little piano roulades so entertainingly free-and-easy, that misgivings were instantly blown away. Each number had been arranged for big band by a different player, and these were enjoyably varied. Tenor sax player Walter Blanding favoured the four-in-the-morning sound of plunger mutes in Lost, while drummer Ali Jackson gave the sci-fi inspiration of ESP an edge with his avant-gardish parallel chords.

by Ivan Hewett
Source: The Telegraph

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