Wayne Shorter Quartet
Without a Net



by BrianE USER (29 Reviews)
February 5th, 2013 | 13 replies

Release Date: 2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The legendary saxophonist continues to push the boundaries of jazz

The year 1967 presented a clear dividing line for jazz. Up until that point, bebop was king; it was an era marked by unrestricted creativity and boundless imagination. This was the period where jazz's transcendent names - Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, et. al, were releasing their most groundbreaking works, and capturing public imagination in the process.

But by 1967, it was more or less over. With Coltrane dead and Davis soon to retreat from the public eye, the movement had lost its two most visible stars. Jazz fusion began making a strong bid for bebop's crown, and one of its key figures was Wayne Shorter. He had been a protege during the bebop era, learning the craft under giants like Davis and Art Blakey, making contributions here and there. In 1971, when he founded jazz fusion mainstays Weather Report with Joe Zawinul, he took the first steps toward crafting his own indelible imprint upon the annals of jazz.

Shorter's recordings today are still steeped in those traditions he helped forge over 40 years ago. If you're looking for relaxing background jazz or a soundtrack for an elegant dinner party, this is not your album. If, however, you want to listen to a visionary capable of pushing jazz's boundaries and challenging your understanding of the art form, Shorter will provide that in spades.

His quartet engages in a somewhat unusual style. Shorter is the bandleader -- on paper. In reality, it's more like a party of equals, so many times they'll go off in their own direction without losing their theme or sense of cohesion. This is truly a staggering feat; it literally opens up a hundred million directions they could go within a single piece. There are moments of pure cacophony, then there are little subdued moments that ease you into a lull, and sometimes there are moments of pure, lovely melody. But it usually isn't long before Shorter's sharp saxophone stabs penetrate into the foreground like an unexpected guest.

The songs on this album can be broken down into three separate categories. Let's start with Shorter's reinventions of previously recorded songs. He picked out three songs from different eras, rewrote them, and produced a work that fits cleverly fits under the umbrella of what he's trying to do on the album.

Album opener "Orbits" was a standard bebop piece he wrote for Davis's 1967 album Miles Smiles, but the version presented here sounds like a quartet directed by a mad scientist. It opens with some menacing piano chords from Danilo Perez and demented sax, setting the tone for the rest of the album. The main refrain from the original song is retained, but the rest is unrecognizable. Shorter employs shrill sax, and the piano work sounds like a five alarm fire is going off. But even as the band members drift apart from one another, they always manage to find their way back.

"Plaza Real" was a song Shorter originally wrote for The Weather Report. The original had more of a warm, eclectic flavor to it, with more whistling, flutes and electronic effects. The Without a Net version doesn't bear a great resemblance to its predecessor, but it does bring the same startling level of musicianship. This is one of the band's more passionate pieces. There are plenty of wild solos from Shorter as drummer Brian Blade goes wild. You can even hear whooping and hollering from the crowd around the 3:08 mark.

His last reinvention is the title song from "Flying Down to Rio." This one sounds virtually nothing like the original, but appropriately is more subdued than his other two reinventions It serves as a great showoff piece for Blade and Perez.

The second category consists of several original compositions preformed with Shorter's quartet only. "S.S. Golden Mean" is one of Shorter's greatest showoff pieces, which he coats in wild frilly saxophone solos that go all over the place. The song's underbelly is crisp and melodious, at least until the drums start to make their presence known about halfway through.

"Starry Night" is a more calm and subdued, allowing the talents of Perez and bassist John Patitucci to take center stage. Shorter picks up the pace later on and the whole band goes nuts at the end. "Myrrh" is one of the briefer but more enjoyable pieces, being predicated upon a sense of unease and tension established by Shorter's piercing sax shrieks and the clattering of cymbals and drum pads. It ends in a roar, finalized by the clanging crescendo of the piano.

"Zero Gravity to the 10th Power," meanwhile, provides Patitucci with his moment in the sun. The entire rhythm section is insane here. Shorter takes a backseat on this track until near the end, at which point he frenetically alternates solos between himself and Perez.

Finally, there is the 23 minute piece "Pegasus" which the Wayne Shorter Quartet recorded alongside the Imani Winds quintet. This gives the piece a strong orchestral feel; think Fantasia mixed along with free flowing jazz. The Imani Winds take the lead for the first third of the song, then they begin to lay a backdrop for Shorter to solo off of. He takes the lead in the song's second half, before tapering off and allowing the two outfits to masterfully complement one another for the last few minutes of the song.

Without a Net, like many of Shorter's recent releases, is a demanding piece of jazz. You have to be in the mood for it, and it certainly isn't for everyone. Given its length and density, there may be times this album makes your head hurt.

Shorter has long had an affinity for experimentation and there's no chance he's shying away from that. Yet it perfectly captures what jazz is about -- the interplay, the improvisation, the way each bandmember can feel each other like putting on an old glove -- these have always been the core elements of the art form, experimental or not. The opportunity that Without a Net presents is a chance to see some of the world's greatest living musicians executing these principles better than practically anyone in the business could do on their best day.

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Comments:Add a Comment 
February 5th 2013


new shorter damn nice

February 5th 2013


Album Rating: 3.5

you rule for reviewing this. gonna check it out soon

February 5th 2013


Album Rating: 3.5

i'm liking it alot, up to Pegasus at the moment. he turns 80 this year so it's impressive that the music is still so far out

February 5th 2013


I saw Shorter live some weeks ago, excellent concert. Good to see this getting reviewed! Patitucci is
fantastic, btw. I've got to check out more stuff from his catalog, the man is a beast.

edit: Artist name should be 'Wayne Shorter Quartet,' even though some of the songs in here were
composed in his days with Miles' second great quintet. This ensemble is a different entity and
therefore shouldn't be considered part of his solo work, going to ask for a change.

Contributing Reviewer
February 5th 2013


Album Rating: 3.5

aww just found this looks like ima love it, review is very TBT-y so i won't pos but good shit reviewing regardless.

Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2013


Album Rating: 4.0

Well, alright. POS'd!

I just got this album and was going to review it myself, but you beat me to it. I heard this was going to have a bit of a modal and avant-garde feel to it, so I'll have to see for myself.

February 5th 2013


paperback, the fact that this wasn't written by you severely threw me off

February 5th 2013


I'm actually happy to see another person reviewing this, nothing better than more jazz fans on
sputnik. You should feel that way too! See, it's good that liledman, paper, and I are not the only
ones that care about this amazing genre. ((albeit overlooked on this website)

Staff Reviewer
February 6th 2013


Album Rating: 4.0


Oh, I've actually written my own review of this that I'll turn it in later on tonight, there's no way in hell I'm not going to write about one of my favourite saxophonists. But like Gian said, it's nice to see others stepping up to write about jazz albums.

Congrats on the feature, Brian. I was hoping you'd get it.

February 6th 2013


Album Rating: 4.0

Wow, very honored to have the feature. Not expecting it at all, thanks everyone. Pretty cool you've seen him live, GiaNXGX. I'm seeing him on April 12. Should be a great show.

February 6th 2013


Nice review mate, might have to check this out

February 6th 2013


great review man. Love me some jazz. Check out:

"Jerome Sabbagh - Plugged In" it rules. Here's a song from the album:


February 7th 2013


The cover looks like Franz Ferdinand's debut album cover/logo

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