Friday, May 7, 2010

Wayne Shorter

I'm realizing that some of what I may write here from time to time will be background material or an attempt to catch up with and further develop loose ends that accumulate over time. Back in February I had the occasion to comment on another blog, Ethan Iverson's "Do the Math" in which he developed a critique the work of saxophonist Wayne Shorter. Here was my response:

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February 11th, 2010
Completely side-stepping any of the larger issues raised here I feel compelled to state that all I need is one note from Wayne Shorter and it's game over. Nothing else matters. The sound in any one note he plays contains the complete DNA of his musical universe. I guess we can talk about the context or the fact that as listeners we may have our favorites but for me, the profundity of his sound and delivery make it hard to think about anything else. It changes my perception of the music being played around him.

The release of "Footprints Live" by his current quartet got me listening to jazz again (and more specifically to saxophonists) after many years during which I was in that phase of having to avoid certain influences while developing my own music. I'm now experiencing a great deal of joy in listening and reconnecting with the entire history of the music. I've tried very hard to figure out just how he makes that sound and it's a total mystery to me. And I'm very happy to be in that position as it has reaffirmed the endlessness in front of us.

So what am I saying, why am I writing this? Maybe just to say that it's great when the joy from the music outweighs the arguments that often surround it. Not trying to put down the conversation, there are points well worth considering. I'm just realizing (and happily so) that there is so much to do!

And thanks for your articles about Lester Young which I enjoyed. I'm finally at a place where I feel I'm able to hear past "style" and really connect with many early players who's sound I did not connect with as strongly with when I was younger, due mainly to issues of style. As with Wayne Shorter and Lester Young, there is an essence that transcends style. That quality can be elusive when we are distracted by so many other considerations (in life and music). But what's really beautiful is that it is a timeless quality. And that means that there is always some new music to be made.

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Some subsequent posters commented on my response. I think there was a feeling that I may have been saying Wayne Shorter's sound and work should outweigh any criticism. That's not quite accurate. It's just that I find myself much less interested in such criticisms as they really don't provide me with much of anything. Whereas the music itself and those qualities I elaborated upon, very much do. And so I mention this more as a matter of context as I have the feeling that I'll be writing even more about sound in the coming weeks and months. Working through some of this in word form may actually help as it relates to my practice.

And I might also point out that I feel as if I learn something from every saxophonist I hear. And there are certainly many players worth listening to here in NYC as well as all over the world. One fellow saxophonist who has my attention is Tony Malaby. I'll just drop his name here as a suggestion for any readers who might not already be familiar with Tony's work. Tony has developed a very unique sound on the horn. Look him up! And of course, there are many others who's names I will share from time to time.

1 comment:

  1. I loved that quote as well. I heard something similiar about a guy who was fortunate to play with BB King in the late 60s. He talked about practicing for months, trying to familiarize himself with the arrangements etc. BB hit one long note to start the gig.."and in that note was the Mississippi river, the Delta, the pain, the joy..etc" Some people just have that and it goes across genres.