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Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis: The Music of Wayne Shorter (Blue Engine)

A review of when the saxophonist joined the orchestra for three dates in 2015

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The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, The Music of Wayne Shorter
The cover of The Music of Wayne Shorter by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis

For the last 20 years, Wayne Shorter has devoted a considerable amount of his time to reinterpreting his catalog of the previous 50 years or so. In 2015, he was presented with another sort of reimagination when he joined the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra for a pair of concerts featuring members’ arrangements of both Shorter “hits” and deep cuts. NPR’s Jazz Night in America previously showcased some of the music, but this album offers the repertoire in full.

Shorter has long been hailed as the greatest living composer in small-combo jazz, and when the JALC Orchestra kicks into full swing on the opening track “Yes or No,” that gift is amplified. The playful yet sharp arrangement by Lincoln Center tenor man Victor Goines casts the orchestra’s various horn sections as differing aspects of the harmony: the shine of the trumpets in the high notes rings out over the sweep of the midrange saxes while the trombones articulate skeletal triads below. Each part captures some detail; the scope and incessant motion of Shorter’s movable harmonic feast can be more fully digested and appreciated.

The Music of Wayne Shorter covers a large swath of the saxophonist’s career over two discs and 10 tracks. Material runs from the careening, hard swing of Art Blakey, made even more sharp and brash in this setting, to late-1980s fusion like “The Three Marias” from Atlantis, which sounds in this setting like a blueprint for Shorter’s 2018 sci-fi epic Emanon (curiously, there are no entries from Shorter’s tenure with Miles Davis or Weather Report). The album ends, poetically, at the very beginning of Shorter’s career: “Mama G,” from Introducing Wayne Shorter. The straight-ahead, bouncy, and airy tune becomes a simple, joyful, and collective statement of appreciation and awe for one of our greatest artists.

Preview, buy or download The Music of Wayne Shorter on Amazon!

Jackson Sinnenberg

Jackson Sinnenberg is a broadcast journalist and writer based in Washington, D.C. He serves as an editor for Capitalbop, a non-profit that focuses on presenting live jazz and covering the D.C. jazz scene through grassroots journalism. He’s covered the city’s local jazz scene since 2015 but has covered national and international jazz, rock and pop artists for a variety of publications. He graduated from Georgetown in 2015 with a degree in American Musical Culture and will gladly argue why Kendrick Lamar is a jazz musician. Follow him @sinnenbergmusic.