Happy Birthday to Wayne Shorter, who turned 76 years old today. He still looks and sounds pretty fantastic – just further evidence that thinking young keeps you young, I suppose.
I saw Wayne and Herbie Hancock play a duo concert when I was in high school; I think it was on their 1+1 tour. I went with a drummer friend of mine, and my parents. As I remember, my parents did not love the show – Wayne and Herbie got into some extremely abstract stuff. But I was fascinated. It sounded like jazz, but not like any jazz I had ever heard. It was as if the music was light refracted through a prism – separated out into its individual components, which could then be explored one at a time. My friend and I ran into singer Kurt Elling after the show, and we asked him what he thought. “We’re just sitting at the feet of the masters,” he replied, shaking his head in disbelief.
This was perhaps the first time that I encountered really challenging music and enjoyed it. Rather than being put off by the difficulty of following the music, I was drawn in, intrigued by this world of half-veiled melodies and explosive sunbursts of sound. In retrospect, it’s no wonder that I was first comfortable entering this strange new land by walking in the footprints of Wayne and Herbie. One couldn’t ask for better guides.
It’s been four years since Wayne’s last new album; four years in which he’s been leading one of the most dynamic and acclaimed groups in jazz. How is it possible that we don’t have more records of this band? Why isn’t Verve churning out live recordings the way ECM does with the Keith Jarrett Trio? Get on it, Wayne!