Endangered Species: The Music of Wayne Shorter
When David Weiss penned an Artist’s Choice column for JazzTimes last year on Wayne Shorter, he wrote, “He laid the foundation for so much of what it is to be a jazz musician today, as a composer and an improviser, that it’s impossible not to address at least some part of his vast legacy.”
Weiss has been addressing that legacy with his Endangered Species Band—a.k.a. the Wayne Shorter Tribute Big Band—for several years already, and now he’s released Endangered Species, a live Shorter tribute recorded in April 2012 at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in New York. The all-star 12-piece band for this go-’round features Geri Allen (piano), four saxophonists (Ravi Coltrane, Tim Green, Marcus Strickland and Norbert Stachel, the latter also contributing bass clarinet), a trio of trumpeters (Weiss, Jeremy Pelt and Diego Urcola), trombonists Joe Fiedler and Steve Davis, and a rhythm section of Dwayne Burno on bass and E.J. Strickland playing drums. With a cast like that, Weiss virtually guaranteed that the interpretations would take on lives of their own, and they do.
Weiss stays away from the more obvious Shorter compositions. “Nellie Bly,” which opens the program, goes back to the beginning of Shorter’s professional career as a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, and is given a full-blown, fired-up treatment by the extended group. Also from the Blakey era is “Mr. Jin,” which Weiss cut previously with an octet and here imbues with cinematic flourish. The relatively recent “Prometheus Unbound,” which closes the set, is a piece Shorter has performed both with Herbie Hancock and with chamber orchestra; it leans closer this night toward the latter approach, a layered, multi-dimensional epic charged with dynamics. A lone Weiss original, “The Turning Gate,” is also reprised from a previous disc of his; it’s not particularly Wayne-ish, but within this context it’s not out of place either.