Thursday, July 31, 2008
Wayne Shorter's Ensemble Straight Jacket
Wayne Shorter (Verve Records)
Fronting a superb brass and woodwind ensemble, saxophonist Wayne Shorter goes to expand his considerable palette with this 2003 set of compositions intended, I suppose, to highlight his talent as a master of texture, tone color and someone who can lead a large ensemble through theme and variation. This is not Ellington, this is not Julius Hemphill, this is not even Gunther Schuller. What is, though, is monotony on a virtuoso level.Technically there is much to admire, but there is little to enjoy, since the project is obsessed with making Alegria match other large-group efforts at the sacrifice of the punch and flurry a richly showcased set of improvisations would provide. Oh, if they had reached a little less and jammed a little more.Davis didn't forget to swing amid the expanded contexts of Kind of Blue, and neither Mingus nor Monk forgot the blues wail or the gospel shout in the textures and subtler angles of their respective concert works. There are moments here, of course where Shorter's tenor and soprano saxophone sorties emerge from the arty murk and redundant changes of the ensemble to lighten up the proceedings, but even here it feels rootless, divorced from the melodies they should be making statements upon; one senses Shorter trying to make something happen. Nothing does as a result.