Without A Net
Blue Note Records
Here’s the document of Wayne Shorter and Quartet’s recent tour – since this was released the saxophonist turned 80. He plays with the vim and vigour of a man half that age. What’s dazzling here is that it’s not just a group of great players propping up a living legend – for some listeners that would, of course, be enough. No, this is Shorter leading a talented group, participating, interacting. John Patitucci is on bass, the wonderful Brian Blade on drums and pianist Danilo Perez – all of them are capable of carrying this, all are aware of when and how to stand back and let Shorter blow; of when, also, to come back in, to have his back always, to not so much give him a hand or leg up but to be there to share in it, to bounce ideas around and off one another – to participate, to co-create.
The centrepiece of this record is the 22 minute tone-poem, Pegasus. It’s extraordinary. It’s augmented by a brass and woodwind ensemble and brings to mind some of the experiments Max Roach worked on with double-quartets and small orchestras.
Without A Net is a title that’s been used many times in music – almost always to suggest the idea around the live performance, no safety net, let it all hang loose, hang out, fall possibly. But never has it been so correctly used, so embodied as on this release. And what a revelation it is to hear Shorter still conjuring such lines, still connecting, reacting, still conjuring and issuing such sounds, his soprano sax particularly sounding so light – but full. This album is bursting with content at 76 minutes across just nine tracks. But wonderfully so.
And as with the recent albums from Ahmad Jamal (two in two years from him) it’s a great revelation not just to have music from these elder statesmen of jazz but to have music this good; up there, in both cases, with the best work from across their bountiful catalogues.