Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Wayne Shorter: Role Model

Sometime in the Fifties, the great jazz critic and aesthetician Andre Hodeir wrote a crusty essay, "Why Do They Age So Badly?" stating his contention that jazz was strictly a young man's game. It was a dumb idea then and it remains just as dumb now, particularly with Wayne Shorter giving lie to the entire notion as we speak. Just in time for a new millennium, Shorter, then into the seventh decade of his musical career, assembled the first permanent, fully acoustic jazz ensemble he had ever led, and began making the most avant garde music of his life. In league with a quartet of considerably younger players, Shorter's music became more responsive, elliptical, mysterious, poetic, unpredictable, dramatic, disruptive, and gorgeously arresting than it had been since the saxophonist left Miles Davis's band in 1969. There are more dangerous ideas in that septuagenarian head of his now than there ever were. In his own dart-and-dash improvising, lyrical writing and open form band leading, Shorter outstrips the majority of contemporary jazz musicians, young or old. If this is jazz maturity, I say bring it on.

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