Wayne Shorter’s saxophone was so omnipresent throughout jazz’s waves of upheaval in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s that it would have been easy to mistake the man for the type of standard bearer that kept the genre anchored to its roots while iconoclasts were busy pushing boundaries. There he was with Art Blakey, there he was with Miles, there he was on Blue Note, there he was with Weather Report. However, in all of those scenarios, Shorter was absolutely not there to provide a grounding assist; instead, he was often one of the primary people (if not the only person) whose daring compositional prowess and improvisational innovation was a defining factor in that music’s spectacular uniqueness. To be fair, Shorter is the recipient of all sorts of readers’ poll victories, lifetime achievement awards, Grammys, and effusive praise from his musical contemporaries and descendants, so while he is far from being some well-kept secret, any opportunity to spotlight his contributions is a good one. And in that spirit, trumpeter Terence Blanchard’s latest album is designed as a tribute to Shorter’s genius and influence. Interestingly, only five of the 12 tracks here are Shorter compositions—”The Elders,” “Fall,” “When It Was Now,” “Diana,” and “More Elders”—while the others were penned by Blanchard and members of the jazz quartet E-Collective, who back Blanchard on the album, alongside the strings of the Turtle Island Quartet.
Thanks to the presence of those groups, this is an album that—like Shorter’s career—is full of sonic surprises. Some cuts like “The Second Wave” veer sharply into contemporary classical territory, with invigorating compositional complexity and dynamic performances in which Blanchard—and “jazz” as a construct, for that matter—take a decided back seat. In fact, Blanchard and “jazz” are seldom the focal point of many of these tracks. Even on Shorter-penned numbers like “Diana” (from 1974’s Native Dancer, his divisive bossa-fusion album), the emphasis is on capturing the essence of the composition, rather than strictly recreating the original, a feat which is accomplished by Blanchard modifying his magnificently precise tone into a more open and exploratory one. The result is a dense, provocative, and incredibly rewarding album that recontextualizes all of the forms that Shorter worked in—fusion, modal, hard bop, and even third stream—into defiantly modern and genre-fluid textures. No doubt that the legend would approve. © Jason Ferguson/Qobuz.
Artist: Terence Blanchard ft. the E-Collective and the Turtle Island Quartet Song: Absence Purchase the new album: “Absence”: https://TerenceBlanchard.lnk.to/Absen… Subscribe to the Blue Note Channel: https://bluenote.lnk.to/subscribe