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Without A Net: Possibly The Finest Album of Shorter's Career

February 27th, 2013

From Jazzwise

Wayne Shorter Quartet: Without A Net
By: Stuart Nicholson

It was 44 years ago that Wayne Shorter made his debut on the Blue Note label, as a precocious 26-year-old tenor saxophonist in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in 1959. Now in his 80th year, he has re-signed with the label that was scene of some of his great triumphs on the 1960s, when label founder Alfred Lion invited him to record as a leader in his own right in 1964 that resulted in classics such as Night Dreamer, Juju, Speak No Evil, Adam’s Apple and Super Nova.

It’s been a long journey since then, worldwide acclaim as a member of the Mile Davis Quintet and the Weather Report, and in more recent times the his own quartet, which made its debut record in 2002. But Without A Net is something special, comprising eight track recorded during the quartet’s 2011 European tour and the ninth track, the 23-minute ‘Pegasus’, recorded a the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles with the Imani Winds. The result is Blue Note’s finest recording since its reincarnation in the 1960s under EMI and quite possibly the finest album of Shorter’s career. The starting point of the group is the abstracted improvisational forms explored by Mile Davis in the 1960s that culminated in one of the great classics of recorded jazz, Live at the Plugged Nickel from 1965, its precepts carried forward through subsequent Mile groups, such as the lost sessions of 1069, through into his abstracted jams of Bitches Brew and beyond. This is the key that unlocks the door to this remarkable album, where Shorter’s maxim of “rehearsing the unknown,” with everybody responding to the impulses of the moment, results in some inspired music making that represents jazz at its finest, not just in the here and now, but of the past and the future as well.

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