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Published: 2003/06/26
by Jesse Markowitz

Alegria – Wayne Shorter

Verve Records 543558

Influential saxophonist Wayne Shorter has led an illustrious career that has
been a part of nearly every single style of modern jazz for the last 50
years. He started with trumpeter Maynard Ferguson's big band, but really
made it big as musical director of arguably the greatest incarnation of Art
Blakey's Jazz Messengers. From there, he moved on to Miles Davis' legendary
quintet, as well as co-leading the groundbreaking fusion outfit Weather
Report with Joe Zawinul. At the age of 69, he is still reaching a creative
peak, and is at the very top of contemporary jazz.

Attempting to put into words the beauty of Wayne Shorter's Alegria,
is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. There aren't adjectives to
describe the reed arrangement on the cover of classical composer Leroy
Anderson's "Serenata." There is no possible sentence that one can put down
on paper that could do justice to the distinction of Wayne Shorter's
saxophone style. Shorter said it best (and the most abstractly). He had just
hired the young pianist Renee Rosnes for his band. They were watching the
film Alien together, and in the scene where the alien comes out of
the guy's body, Wayne looked to Renee and said, "That is how I want this
band to sound."

Wayne Shorter has really outdone himself with Alegria, as there is
truly something for all of Wayne's fans on this record, unlike his other
Verve releases. 1995's High Life had beautiful orchestrations, but
somewhat static rhythm playing. 2001's Footprints Live featured the
telepathic group interplay of Wayne's current quartet, but had no new
material on it.

First, there is the brilliant playing from Shorter with the members of his
current quartet (pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci, drummer Brian
Blade), as well as special guests Brad Mehldau, Terri Lyne Carrington, and
ex-Weather Report buddy Alex Acuna. Second, the compositions, whether they
be new Wayne tunes ("Sacajawea" is a smokin' new boogaloo), updated versions
of old Wayne tunes (remember "Orbits," from the Miles Davis album Miles
Smiles?), or covers that range from the aptly titled traditional "12th
Century Carol" to "Bachianas Brasileiras #5" (a Bach inspired piece from the
modern Brazilian classical composer Heitor Villa-Lobos), are all works of
art. Lastly, Alegria finds Shorter working with a very broad use of
orchestral textures, including arrangements for brass sections, reed
sections, and string sections. It almost sounds like Shorter is adopting a
Gil Evans-like approach to his music. That would make sense, as he was a
featured soloist on Gil's 1963 post-Miles record Individualism Of Gil
Evans.

As was mentioned earlier, all one can do is say that Alegria is a
beautiful record that showcases great composition, the playing of great
musicians, and the arranging of Wayne Shorter. Words cannot do this music
justice. It must be taken in through the ears, not the eyes.

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