Footprints: The Life and Music of Wayne Shorter
First Appeared in The Music Box, December 2004, Volume 11, #12
Written by John Metzger
Most anthological compilations tend to avoid traversing the varied, circuitous, back-road excursions of artists whose careers have been as wildly eclectic as Wayne Shorter’s, and as a result, these collections completely fail to capture the full breadth of their subjects’ influence. Refreshingly, the new, two-disc, career retrospective Footprints: The Life and Music of Wayne Shorter doesn’t shy from exploring these diversions, and while 2 ½ hours of material doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of Shorter’s most essential moments, it does provide a stunningly rich portrait of a brilliant musician and composer. Presented almost entirely in chronological order, the set touches briefly upon his early days with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers via the swinging strut of Lester Left Town. It also provides a mere peripheral examination of Shorter’s stellar Blue Note recordings, presenting only the lyrical beauty of Speak No Evil and the ruminative gracefulness of Infant’s Eyes. From his time with Miles Davis comes a quartet of groundbreaking selections (E.S.P., Footprints, Nefertiti, and Sanctuary), which furnish a cursory glimpse at the development of fusion, while the material plucked from his days with Weather Report further highlights Shorter’s playfully adventurous spirit through a series of world-beat rhythms and heady grooves. The remainder of Footprints delves into the saxophonist’s pop incursions with Steely Dan (Aja) and Joni Mitchell (The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines), his experiments with synthesizers and drum programming during the ’80s, and a few more recent selections (such as his reunion with Herbie Hancock on Aung San Suu Kyi and a three-year old concert rendition of Masquelero). Despite the almost mind-boggling diversity of the material, however, the juxtaposition of styles is surprisingly seamless. Although it should have been an insurmountably impossible task to condense a career that has spanned half of a century into a manageable collection, the songs on Footprints: The Life and Music of Wayne Shorter were so well chosen that they successfully do just that. While there always will be better representations that focus upon specific segments of Shorter’s work, there likely never will be another collection that is as concise and complete as this.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2004 The Music Box