The living legend, 88-year-Wayne Shorter is not quite through yet. Just in the past couple of weeks, a performance that he has been working on for a decade or so, finally opened. “Iphigenia,” is now playing in Boston and scheduled for a few other cities this fall as Shorter got some help from Esperanza Spalding to see the project through. Nonetheless, Shorter has not been performing jazz for the past four years due to health issues and he continues to receive tributes while he is still alive. The latest is from the no-nonsense, straight-ahead label, Posi-Tone, which has collected selections from its current and past roster of artists from albums released as early as 2008 and as recently as this past year on Shorter Moment – Exploring the World of Wayne.
Note that Terence Blanchard’s latest release Absence (covered on these pages) is essentially a tribute to Shorter’s music. In January 2020 we covered the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra Plays the Music of Wayne Shorter in a concert where the legend performed, and last Fall we had an expansive tribute from contemporary artists entitled Palladium 2020. There have been other projects too. So, what sets this one apart? Firstly, it’s the selections. Other than “Infant Eyes” and “ESP”, these are not the typical pieces that the other tributes focused on. Secondly, there’s a bluesy, soul-jazz flavor to many of these tunes, featuring organists and guitarists, not generally found in the other tributes. Thirdly, and related to the previous, four of the selections, due to the prominence of organ and guitar, do not even feature a saxophone. That last point alone, attests to Shorter’s legacy, as he will join a very elite group of composers at the highest level – Ellington, Mingus, Monk, Miles, Corea, Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, and maybe a handful of others as the top composers of the past 70 years.
Cherry, Gold, and Young are primarily guitar-organ albums while Yahel is a piano trio, and Out to Dinner is a quintet. The standout tracks are from Tarantino’s lovely alto on the ballad backed by the core Posi-tone rhythm section of pianist Art Hirahara, bassist Boris Kozlov, and drummer Rudy Royston; the Orrin Evans Captain Black Big Band featuring emphatic soloists Stacy Dillard on tenor and Tatum Greenblatt on trumpet; tenorist Walt Weiskopf (with Brian Charette on organ and Behn Gillece on vibes and stellar drumming from Steve Fidyk; Jared Gold in quartet with guitarist Dave Stryker, altoist Pat Cornelius, and drummer Sylvia Cuenca with intense, generous solos from the leader, Cornelius, and Stryker; and the best of all from the deeply emotive tenor of Wayne Escoffery accompanied only by Avi Rothbard on guitar.
This is a loving tribute done professionally and respectfully as we would expect from this fine label.