Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis: The Music of Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter was 81 years old when the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra chose to pay him tribute at its namesake New York City venue in 2015. Shorter could have sat in the audience, gotten up to take a bow and enjoyed the show along with the rest of the audience. He would have witnessed a modern big band—all of them expert players and many, including trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, bandleaders in their own right—interpreting his music, and no one would have faulted him. But Shorter, one of our greatest living saxophonists and composers, wasn’t about to play spectator—he solos on nearly every one of the 10 pieces spread over two CDs, switching between tenor and soprano, and never misplacing a note. Even among a crew as preternaturally gifted as this, his spotlighted turns stand out, forcing the listener to consider and reconsider. Of course, as this is Shorter’s material—much of it dating back to the early years of his six-decade career—he’s had time to think about what to play. But he never takes the easy way out by repeating what came before; on tunes like “Armageddon,” “Hammer Head” and “Lost,” Shorter approaches these selections as if they are new. It doesn’t hurt that he’s surrounded by some of the most instinctual musicians in contemporary jazz, each of whom not only supports Shorter but also honors him with their own well-considered contributions. The moment may belong to Wayne Shorter, but he’s been around long enough to know when to step off to the side, too.