The best live music takes you somewhere in the moment, though if we’re lucky there will be microphones on stage to capture the moments of discovery and surprise. This happened five years ago when Wayne Shorter performed with an ensemble of former protégés and collaborators including drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, bassist/vocalist/composer Esperanza Spalding, and pianist Leo Genovese at the 2017 Detroit Jazz Festival. (The performance was dedicated to the memory of pianist/composer Geri Allen, who was originally slated to be a part of this group but passed a few months before the concert from cancer at the age of 60.) A remarkably adventurous performance, it’s finally being released as a double-LP vinyl set with a fascinating bonus track.
There are so many moments of inspiration that unfold in this set of originals and songs by Fernando Brant, Milton Nascimento, and Geri Allen; from the spacey, fractal tenor that peeps through the clouds on “Someplace Called ‘Where’” to Spalding’s wide intervals and languid rubato intertwined with Shorter’s darting lines on “Endangered Species.” Carrington has played with Shorter for three decades, and you can tell there’s deep listening going on while backing Spalding’s wordless vocal on “Midnight in Carlotta’s Hair,” as well as the spontaneous breakout Carrington-Genovese duet on “Drummers Song.”
And then there’s that bonus track, “The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of (A Conversation),” presumably pulled together in the studio afterward. It finds Shorter scatting, telling inside jokes, dropping wisdom about the need to eschew academic restraints (“You can’t hide behind your instrument”), and setting up a snatch of a Lee Morgan story. It’s altogether fitting that the three principals offer a coda of insightful, reflexive musings.