Wayne Shorter's 80th Birthday (which was two days prior to this review being posted) has led to world-wide celebrations of Shorter's music. For example, in Washington DC, there have been several groups leading retrospectives of Shorter's compositions from different stages of his career. In a similar vein, trumpeter David Weiss arranged and orchestrated several Shorter compositions and then assembled an All-Star, twelve member big band. This band performed at Jazz at Lincoln Center where they were recorded. Endangered Species: The Music of Wayne Shorter (Motéma Music) is collected from those performances.
Its quite a band that Weiss assembled. The saxophone section included Tim Green on alto sax; Marcus Strickland on tenor and soprano sax; Ravi Coltrane on tenor saxophone and Norbert Stachel on baritone sax and bass clarinet. Diego Urcola and Jeremy Pelt along with Weiss are the trumpet section while Joe Fiedler and Steve Davis are on trombone. The rhythm section has Geri Allen on piano, Dwayne Burno on bass and E.J. Strickland on drums. This large group provides for a different take on these compositions than generally were initially heard when first recorded with smaller groups. Also, it does result with a certain similarity between the performances whereas Shorter's performance of a composition such as Nellie Bly with Art Blakey would have a different flavor than Fall with Miles Davis.
With that in mind, there are plenty of pleasures. Weiss' arrangements provided a rich backdrop along with the marvelous full ensemble playing to set the mood and frame the solos. The rhythm section sparkles with Geri Allen stunning both as part of the rhythm and as soloist . Throughout there are plenty of brilliant playing including trombonist Davis at the beginning of Nellie Bly; trumpeter Pelt and saxophonist Coltrane on Fall; Tim Green on "Mr. Jin"; Marcus Strickland on soprano sax on Weiss' The Turning Gate (the one non-Shorter composition but based on one of Shorter's works); Pelt and Allen on the lovely ballad Eva; and Pelt and Strickland on the closing Prometheus Unbound.
Whether one agrees with annotator Bill Milkowski that Wayne Shorter is jazz's greatest living composer, there is little question that he is amongst the greatest and has produced one of the most significant body of compositions over six decades. By investing the compositions with his own musical vision and assembling a terrific band, David Weiss has produced this substantial salute to Wayne Shorter that shows how fresh and contemporary the music of Wayne Shorter remains as it continues to inspire so many musicians and listeners.
I received my review copy from a publicist for this release.