The Wayne Shorter Quartet, ‘‘Without a Net’’ (Blue Note)
Saxophonist Wayne Shorter ranks among jazz’s greatest composers, but when his quartet performs live — as on this album — his compositions are mere frameworks for daring improvisations that take off in unexpected directions without a safety net. His acoustic quartet includes three leaders in their own right — pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade — who've developed an almost telepathic interplay after 12 years together.
On ‘‘Without a Net,’’ his first Blue Note recording in 43 years, the 79-year-old Shorter remakes two earlier compositions, ‘‘Orbits,’’ written for the Miles Davis Quintet, and ‘‘Plaza Real,’’ created for his jazz-fusion band Weather Report. ‘‘Flying Down to Rio,’’ from the 1933 film that first paired Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, is transformed into a harmonically complex, other worldly exploration.
There are six new Shorter compositions, ranging from the hypnotically melodic ‘‘Starry Night’’ to the 23-minute chamber jazz, tone poem, ‘‘Pegasus,’’ performed with The Imani Winds quintet that walks a tightrope between written and improvised music.