Wayne Shorter: Emanon
It’s Wayne Shorter’s multiverse. We just live here. That’s the feeling one gets when wandering around inside Shorter’s world via Emanon , a sprawling package that includes three CDs and a graphic novel co-created by the revered saxophonist-composer. In keeping with the multiverse theory of co-existing parallel universes, his ambitious themes are manifested simultaneously in multiple forms. Disc one captures a 2013 presentation of the four-song “Emanon” suite by Shorter, pianist Danilo Pérez, bassist John Patitucci, drummer Brian Blade and the 34-piece Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. On the other discs, recorded in 2016, the quartet interprets three of the same four pieces, along with three other works, on a London stage. The concepts are also brought to life in the graphic novel, featuring a cosmic African-American superhero named Emanon. “Pegasus,” a version of which appeared on Shorter’s 2013 album Without a Net , kicks off with a slamming piano chord and roving soprano sax, and the two circle one another, increasing the intensity before the orchestra enters at the three-minute mark. Shorter’s large-ensemble writing isn’t easily classified. It seems to be located where contemporary classical crosses paths with cinematic grandeur—he’s a film buff—and harmonies owing to the likes of Ellington. Melodies rise and fall, and compete for dominance. Strings and brass suddenly pounce. On the 27-minute “The Three Marias” and elsewhere, the quartet digs into their trademark sound, variously sketching out or fully embracing Shorter’s melodies and taking a free-minded approach to building harmonies, rhythms and arrangements. Throughout, the leader’s soprano and tenor playing is absolutely robust, always searching for a way to lead the others to an even higher musical plane. They usually get there.