Wayne Shorter

High Life

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Wayne Shorter's debut for Verve was his first release as a leader in quite a long time and his most rewarding recording since the prime years of Weather Report, 15 years before. Shorter and keyboardist Rachel Z spent a year working on developing and orchestrating his ideas and the results are these nine originals. Although use was made of orchestral horns and strings, most of the backing in these often-dense ensembles is by a standard rhythm section (which includes Marcus Miller on electric bass and bass clarinet) and Rachel Z's synthesizers. The pieces set moods rather than state singable melodies, are not afraid to utilize electronic rhythms now and then in an unpredictable fashion, and are both intelligent and largely danceable. However, Shorter's playing (not only on soprano and tenor but a bit of alto and baritone) is always distinctive and he sounds very much as if he is pushing himself. In fact, his emotional statements and the complexity of the ensembles push this music way above virtually all of the so-called "contemporary jazz" (which is often merely a synonym for jazzy pop) into the idiom of creative music. It helps for listeners to have a liking for the sound of Weather Report (even though this group is not a copy), but even Shorter's older fans will find his playing here to be quite stimulating.

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