Michael Nesmith Returns, Following Heart Surgery
by Best Classic Bands Staff
Despite undergoing quadruple bypass heart surgery this summer, Michael Nesmith is touring in September to promote his recent live album with the First National Band Redux. A 12-date tour, which began Friday night (September 7) in Houston, Tex., is packed into a roughly two-week schedule with what he calls a “great band, great players.” (Watch several songs below.)
The Houston Chronicle reports that Nesmith got emotional at the Heights Theater and had “tears run down his face during a three-song solo mini-set” during the 90-minute performance.
In June, the final four dates of his duo tour with fellow Monkees member, Micky Dolenz, was abruptly canceled for what was initially described as “minor health issue.” It was subsequently revealed that Nesmith was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Those dates have since been rescheduled for 2019. Tickets for “The Mike and Micky Show” are available here.
Earlier this year, the 75-year-old singer-songwriter staged a reunion of his other groundbreaking group, the First National Band. Calling it the First National Band Redux, Nez played the famous Troubadour in West Hollywood. That performance was released on July 27 by 7a Records, a British label specializing in Monkees-related material. The Chronicle report indicated that two of Nesmith’s sons are performing with him on the tour.
Watch Nesmith perform on September 7, including his own well known song, “Different Drum”
Nesmith sounded in great spirits in a recent note on his Facebook page: “My health is stabilizing and I have green-lit the rest of the tour that I had to cancel with Micky. Not sure what might happen in the future but looking forward to the dates that will start (in just a few weeks — yikes!) in Houston. Then on to Austin, Dallas and places Northeast!
“Great band, great players — music sounds better than ever. See you on stage.” (See the itinerary below.)
Upon leaving the Monkees in 1970, says a press release for the FNB album, Nesmith started the pioneering country-rock outfit the First National band. The FNB released three albums—Magnetic South, Loose Salute and Nevada Fighter—”that sold very little on their initial release, but have since been heralded as absolute classics that helped shape country rock.”
With the passing of original members John London and Red Rhodes, says the press release, “It was thought the FNB would never perform again. But the internet went into meltdown late last year when Nez announced he was assembling a new posse of musicians to honor this music and take it out on the road again.”
Related: Q&A with Michael Nesmith
Watch three tunes from the Troubadour concert
Michael Nesmith and First National Band Redux 2018 Tour (Tickets are available here and here)
Sep 08 – Austin, TX – Paramount Theater
Sep 09 – Dallas, TX – Kessler Theater
Sep 11 – Nashville, TN – CMA Theater at the Country Music HoF
Sep 13 – Chicago, IL – Old Town School of Folk Music
Sep 14 – Royal Oak, MI – Royal Oak Music Theatre
Sep 15 – Kent, OH – The Kent Stage
Sep 17 – Alexandria, VA – The Birchmere
Sep 19 – Somerville, MA – Somerville Theatre
Sep 20 – New York, NY – Concert Hall at the NY Society for Ethical Culture
Sep 22 – Phoenixville, PA – Colonial Theatre
Sep 23 – Ridgefield, CT – Ridgefield Playhouse
MADELEINE PEYROUX’S ‘ANTHEM’ RESULTS IN LEONARD COHEN INSPIRED COLLABORATIVE EFFORT (ALBUM REVIEW)
It’s been a quick 22 years since Madeleine Peyroux’s breakthrough with Dreamland and ten years since her last album of original songs. Yet, Anthem stands as Peyroux’s greatest work to date. She certainly harnessed plenty of talent for this collaborative effort, involving a team of five writers and 18 participating musicians. This is a challenging album that moves in and out of the confines (if there are any) of jazz into uncharted contemporary territory where few would dare to venture. Peyroux, though, has rather limitless curiosity, always rises to daunting challenges, and delivers in her singular voice, which is undeniably beautiful, not at all powerful, but remarkably effective due to her unique phrasing.
Her team of writers have worked with the best – Patrick Warren (Bonnie Raitt, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen), Brain MacLeod Leonard Cohen, Tina Turner), David Baerwald (Joni Mitchell, Sheryl Crow) and producer Larry Klein (Joni Mitchell, Shawn Colvin, Herbie Hancock). They are all basically the rhythm section player on the album too. Together they cast a sober, poetic, and provocative point of view on the current state of our times.
The album gestated during the 2016 US elections and ultimately fused political outlooks with personal takes that are at times bleak or compassionate. There’s a dark bitterness threading through many of the songs but hope and resilience emerge too. They were a team huddled in one room, ruminating over a stream of news (fake and real) that sparked personal experiences, and hence more ideas. Let’s face it; we’ve endured many troubling issues and events recently. This team finds very creative ways to express reactions to them
David Baerwald’s mourning over the passing of poet John Ashberry was the catalyst for “All My Heroes” where he tempers admirable qualities (‘light fires in the shadows”) with their vulnerabilities and frailties. “Lullaby,” written by all five, was inspired by the image of a solitary woman in the midst of a wide open sea singing to her child as she’s in a boat facing the unknown against a backdrop of a haunting, mysterious musical score. It’s difficult to imagine anyone but Peyroux pulling this off.
Most of it is not preachy stuff. Many of the messages are delivered through lyrical imagery and metaphors. “Down on Me” is a lament over financial tribulations. “Ghosts of Tomorrow” speaks to unfulfilled dreams. Even tunes like “Party Tyme, “On a Sunday Afternoon” and “Might As Well Dance” seem somewhat light on the surface but there’s plenty of darkness and resignation in the lyrics. On the other hand, “The Brand New Deal” is as hard hitting as a Gil Scott-Heron piece with its ending scathing litany aimed directly at POTUS 45 – “commodification, consumerization, deregulation, privatization, objectification, sexualization, rationalization, overcompensation, disinformation, discrimination, under-education, de facto segregation, homogenization, criminalization, desensitization, mass incarceration.”
The album takes its title from Leonard Cohen’s tune that Peyroux says is becoming her own personal anthem, tying together all the stories and themes on the record. Cohen’s ability to “make you think about things without forcing you into it” became the major thread for the project. Sometimes fewer words are better than an endless string of details. Another key track of the album is Paul Eluard’s poem “Liberté” which came about by a friend requesting that Peyroux contribute a song to the documentary On the Tips of One’s Toes dealing with a family grappling with their son’s fatal illness. It’s well-known poem in France and was recently set to music by French rocker Marc Lavoine. The 21 verse poem was edited, and its stanzas adapted before Peyroux and Klein wrote their original composition. It addresses the entire human experience from childhood to adulthood, illness, death and recovery. Accompanied only by Klein’s acoustic guitar and Warren’s ethereal synth strings, Peyroux delivers it in her mesmerizing style.
Given the many musical passages, not the mention the thoughtful writing, it’s evident that Peyroux and team invested tons of time in the studio. She says, ‘this album was about discovering the original songs as they were being recorded” and to “let the songs choose their own path.” Usually committee decisions don’t work but this is a stunning example of collaboration producing an uncategorizable, enduring work of art.
Elvis Costello Reveals New LP After Cancer Scare
by Best Classic Bands Staff
Eight years after his last full studio solo album, and 10 after his last with the Imposters, Elvis Costello will release a new album—his first for Concord Records. The album, Look Now, coming October 12, was formally revealed on July 27, three weeks to the day after the singer-songwriter revealed that he had “a small but very aggressive cancerous malignancy.”
The demands of his recuperation from surgery required him to cancel the six remaining dates of his European tour. But a North American tour this fall will continue as planned.
Costello co-wrote two of the songs on Look Now with Burt Bacharach, who makes a guest appearance on piano on those two ballads, “Don’t Look Now” and “Photographs Can Lie.”
“Burnt Sugar is So Bitter” was written with Carole King. The album was co-produced by Costello and Sebastian Krys – the Latin Grammy Producer of the Year for 2007 and 2015.
“I knew if we could make an album with the scope of ‘Imperial Bedroom’ and some of the beauty and emotion of ‘Painted From Memory’, we would really have something,” said Costello.
Listen to “Suspect My Tears,” released on September 7
Two other songs from Look Now, “Unwanted Number” and “Under Lime” have been released. Listen to them below.
In the meantime, Costello and the Imposters will still launch a 20-city North American tour in November. The run begins Nov. 2 in Bethlehem, Penn., and continues through Dec. 4, when it winds up in Vancouver, B.C. The title of the tour is “Look Now and Then…It’s Elvis Costello & The Imposters.”
The band includes Steve Nieve (keyboards), Davey Faragher (bass) and Pete Thomas (drums).
Related: The inside story of Costello’s U.S. launch
Costello’s last album under his own name was 2010’s National Ransom, for the Hear Music/Universal label. That was preceded in 2008 by Momofuku, with the Imposters, for the Lost Highway label. In 2013, Costello teamed with the Roots to release Wise Up Ghost for Blue Note Records.
Watch the lyric video for “Unwanted Number” from Look Now
Look Now Track Listing
1. Under Lime
2. Don’t Look Now
3. Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter
4. Stripping Paper
5. Unwanted Number
6. I Let The Sun Go Down
7. Mr. & Mrs. Hush
8. Photographs Can Lie
9. Dishonor The Stars
10. Suspect My Tears
11. Why Won’t Heaven Help Me?
12. He’s Given Me Things
Deluxe Special Edition Tracks
13. Isabelle In Tears
14. Adieu Paris (L’Envie Des Étoiles)
15. The Final Mrs. Curtain
16. You Shouldn’t Look At Me That Way
Listen to “Under Lime” from the new album
The title of the new tour bears some similarity to that of Costello’s Las Vegas run of 2017, which was called “Now/Not Now.”
Elvis Costello 2018 Tour Dates (Tickets are available here and here)
Nov 02 – Bethlehem, PA – Sands Bethlehem Event Center
Nov 03 – Atlantic City, NJ – Mark G Etess Arena at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
Nov 04 – Washington, DC – DAR Constitution Hall
Nov 06 – Asbury Park, NJ – Paramount Theatre
Nov 07 – Verona, NY – Turning Stone Resort Casino
Nov 09 – Wallingford, CT Toyota Presents Oakdale Theatre
Nov 10 – Boston, MA – Boch Center Wang Theatre
Nov 11 – Buffalo, NY – Shea’s Performing Arts Center
Nov 13 – Detroit, MI – The Fillmore Detroit
Nov 15 – Minneapolis, MN – Northrop Auditorium
Nov 17 – Grand Rapids, MI – 20 Monroe Live
Nov 19 – Memphis, TN – Orpheum Theatre
Nov 21 – St. Louis, MO – Peabody Opera House
Nov 23 – Thackerville, OK – WinStar World Casino
Nov 25 – Denver, CO – Fillmore Auditorium
Nov 27 – Phoenix, AZ – Comerica Theatre
Nov 28 – Anaheim, CA – House of Blues Anaheim
Nov 29 – Los Angeles, CA – The Wiltern
Dec 01 – San Francisco, CA – The Masonic
Dec 03 – Seattle, WA – Paramount Theatre
Dec 04 – Vancouver, BC – Queen Elizabeth Theatre
REMASTERED, AFRO-CUBAN ALL STARS FROM 1996, THE GENESIS OF BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB, SPARKLE ON “A TODA CUBA LE GUSTA” (ALBUM REVIEW)
A Toda Cuba Le Gusta, the debut album by the Afro-Cuban All Stars was the first in a trilogy of special albums recorded by World Circuit in a single two-week session at Havana’s Egrem studios in 1996. This is the re-mastered re-issued version. The other albums, which share many of the same personnel, were Buena Vista Social Club and Introducing Ruben Gonzalez. This recording marks the beginning of what led to a series of albums involving Cuban artists under the Buena Vista Social Club banner, much of it due to the efforts of Ry Cooder, who guests on one track with these All Stars. Among the artists featured on those albums, some of whom appear here (*), were Compay Segundo, Omara Portunondo, Ibrahim Ferrer*, Eliades Ochoa, and Barbarito Torres*.
The All Stars were brought together by musical director Juan de Marcos González (who was previously the leader of the son group Sierra Maestra) as a backing band for his heroes: the legendary soneros (singers) from the 1940s and 1950s – the ‘Golden Age’ of Cuban music. González had long embraced a dream to put together a band combining the ‘old masters’ and the new generation of Cuban musicians. A meeting with World Circuit’s Nick Gold gave him the opportunity he was seeking. With his contemporary arrangements, his choice of musicians and wide ranging repertoire combined with the all-acoustic ensemble’s talents, he found an extraordinary balance between relaxed playing, spontaneous solos, and contagious energy.
The thirteen-piece band comprises four generations of some of Cuba’s finest musicians. The list of lead vocalists is a virtual ‘who’s who’ of Cuba’s best: the octogenarian Pío Leyva and septuagenarians Raúl Planas, Manuel ‘Puntillita’ Licea and Ibrahim Ferrer are joined by younger rising stars, Antonio ‘Maceo’ and Félix Valoy.
To back these legendary singers, González worked hard to assemble top shelf talent. He coaxed the legendary pianist Ruben Gonzalez, out of retirement. He tapped Cuba’s finest bassist, Orlando ‘Cachaito’ López, who learnt his trade as part of the extraordinary bass playing López dynasty which includes his father Orestes López and uncle Israel ‘Cachao’ López. The six-piece horn section (three trumpets, two trombones, sax, flute) is from the Havana’s Tropicana Orchestra. The trumpet solos are by Manuel ‘Guajiro’ Mirabal. The album also features guest solos from Ry Cooder on guitar (“Alto Songo”), Orchestra Aragón’s legendary flute player, Richard Egües (“Havana del Este”) and Barbarito Torres on laoud (“Amor Verdadero”). These players were joined by six piece percussion section.
As you listen, you can practically feel the vivacious studio atmosphere where the older players were inspired by the youthful energy surrounding them. The rejuvenated singers relived their glory years. The entire recording was completed in under a week. The next day work started on what became the breakthrough Buena Vista Social Club album.
Listen closely for the different Cuban styles including: danzón, son montuno, guaguancó, mozambique, afro, mambo and guajira. We’ll briefly reference the tracks highlighting the principal players, leaving the composers aside. “Amor Verdadero” is a guajira-son arranged following the classical style of the Afro-Cuban Jazz bands from the 1950s such. Manuel “Puntillita” Licea is lead vocalist. “Alto Songo” is a son montuno arranged by de Marcos González. Four generations of singers are represented in Raúl Planas, Pío Leyva, Manuel “Puntillita” Licea and José Antonio “Maceo” Rodriguez. Rubén González delivers a piano solo and Cooder plays slide guitar.
“Habana del Este” is a danzonete-chá in homage to Havana’s region along the east coast from Matanzas. The flute is played by Richard Egües, and de Marcos González plays a tres solo. The title track,”A Toda Cuba le Gusta,” is a son arranged by de Marcos González in a new version blending elements of son, mambo and mozambique. Lead vocalist is Raúl Planas, who sang in the 1950s with Sonora Matancera, Conjunto Rumbavana, Celia Cruz, and others.”Fiesta de la Rumba” is a collage of various traditional Cuban guaguancós with the tres taking the lead. Lead vocalist is Félix Baloy and backing vocals from all the other singers and musicians.
“Los Sitio’ Asere” is a guaguancó-son written about Los Sitio’, a barrio in Havana famous for its nightlife and fiestas in the 1940s and 50s. Lead vocalist is Félix Baloy, who sang with Cuban son bands. Sharing the lead is José Antonio “Maceo” Rodriguez, lead singer in Sierra Maestra since the 1980s.”Pío Mentiroso” is a guaracha re-arranged by de Marcos González, who added new material in the form of two montunos and two mambos, written for three trumpets. Pío Leyva is lead vocalist and Manuel “Guajiro” Mirabal plays a trumpet solo.
“Maria Caracoles” is a new version of the well-known 1950s Mozambique. Lead vocals are by Ibrahim Ferrer.”Clasiqueando con Rubén” was composed by de Marcos González as an experiment mixing baroque with tropical dance music, following the principles of Haydn and Bach and arranged to the canons of son. Rubén González leads on piano, with participation from the brass and rhythm section, and a Cuban crescendo with contributions from trombone and congas. “Elube Chango” is a son-afro as a praise song to the Santería gods. It is sung in the Yoruba language by de Marcos González, who also plays tres solos. Manuel “Guajiro” Mirabal (trumpet), Demetrio Muñiz (trombone) and Miguel “Angá” Díaz (congas) also deliver solos. The tempo is upbeat, within the rhythm known in Cuba as timba.
Immerse yourself in this joyous music. You’ll likely revisit some of those Buena Vista Social Club albums from twenty years ago too. This is where it all began.
Linda Ronstadt Plans Speaking Engagements
by Best Classic Bands Staff
Singer Linda Ronstadt, who revealed in 2013 that she has Parkinson’s disease and can no longer sing, is easing back into the public eye with a series of speaking engagements. “A Conversation With Linda Ronstadt” has seven dates booked in California and other western states in September and October. She also has dates on the east coast in spring 2019. (See the schedule below.)
According to an article written by Joel Selvin and published in the San Francisco Chronicle, at earlier events in Arizona, the 71-year-old Ronstadt “recollected her career interspersed with snippets of recordings and videos. She even answered questions from the audience.” Selvin added, “Reviews from those events noted, with some surprise, how funny Ronstadt was, as if she has finally made public the brilliant, chatty, outgoing private self her friends have always known.
Ronstadt’s last performance as a singer took place in 2009 and she has spent most of her time since then out of the public eye. The singer, who now lives in San Francisco, now speaks in what Selvin describes as a “whisper.” Although she works out in a gym and with a physical trainer, and takes medication to control the disease, she recognizes that she will never improve to the point that she can sing again.
Related: A look back at Ronstadt’s Heart Like a Wheel album
In an interview published previ...ssic Bands, Ronstadt was asked if she would still be singing if she hadn’t contracted Parkinson’s. “You can’t tell what would have happened if you’d gone on a different path,” she said. “I know I’d be singing because I sang my whole life since I was born. I’d at least be singing in the shower or driving my car or harmonizing with somebody. But I can’t do any of that now. I’m grateful for the fact that I can talk. I don’t know how much longer that’s going to last.”
Ronstadt published Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir in 2013.
Watch Ronstadt on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1983
A Conversation With Linda Ronstadt Dates (Tickets are available here and here.)
Sep 15 – San Rafael, CA – Angelico Concert Hall
Sep 21 – Folsom, CA – Harris Center
Sep 29 – Saratoga, CA – The Mountain Winery
Oct 04 – Cerritos, CA – Cerritos Center for the Perf. Arts
Oct 06 – Los Angeles, CA – The Theatre at Ace Hotel
Oct 14 – Portland, OR – Revolution Hall
Oct 25 – Reno, NV – Pioneer Center for the Perf. Arts
May 02 – Morristown, NJ – Mayo PAC
May 04 – New York, NY – The Town Hall
SEAN LENNON HELPS RELEASE PRIMUS OFFSHOOT BEANPOLE’S LOST ALBUM ‘ALL MY KIN’ (ALBUM REVIEW)
The Music: There is a freaky sense of abandon pinging around Beanpole’s collection of fifteen short tracks; a comically loose, yet supposedly lyrically based concept album on half-food/half human hybrids, illegal family bonds and other whacky outings. The intro track sets the scene with running bass, scratchy guitars and layers of singing before the frantic “Chicken Boy” squawks, but it is “Cousins” which provides the first highlight via accordions, cymbals and a kaleidoscope of sound around incestuous lyrics in the vein of Ween.
The Crash Test Dummies sounding “Farmer Loved an Onion” is another successful tale of misplaced affections while “Pumpkin Pickin’ Time” is a mid-album highlight with dramatic drumming and swelling sounds supported by childlike backing vocals. “Grandma” mixes punkish outer space runs with the boing of a mouth harp while “Children In Your Garden” has screeching guitars and powerful bass.
The album less successfully slips into freaky spoken word outings with minimal accompaniment on the second side with “Judge Wapner” and “Monkey Boy” that are both limp and one note. The frequent musical interludes can be interesting but extraneous while tracks like “Sponge Boy” and “Embryo” are simply annoying missteps.
The Story: Sifting through the marketing hype and deliberately misleading PR spin can be tricky as Sean Lennon released the album on his Chimera Music stating:
Beanpole’s All My Kin is a concept album for post-modern America. It chronicles the epic tale of Chicken Boy and his dangerously interrelated family. Years of isolation have resulted in the birth of a child who is part man and part poultry. Despite obvious adoration for their uniquely feathered offspring, having fallen upon hard times they consider the unthinkable: will Chicken Boy be sacrificed to feed his hungry family
There are zero stakes as there is no linking of concepts around all of the silliness and cartoonish sounds. The record was actually recorded by none other than Les Claypool in the late eighties early/nineties with Primus mate Larry Lelonde and Spent Poets Adam Gates and Derek Greenberg onboard. The group intentionally switched instruments and wrote songs on the fly for an amateur feeling throughout.
The Verdict: Claypool’s music has always been well suited for the absurd and Beanpole’s All of My Kin jumps to the front of the line when it comes to his bizarre releases. While he recently teamed up with Lennon to strike freak rock gold on Monolith of Phobos, All My Kin is much more of an oddity, but one that surprisingly works well early before losing steam over the second half of the record.
If you are a fan of acts like They Might Be Giants, Captain Beefheart, The Meat Puppets or even joke groups like Green Jelly, GWAR or Weird Al you might want to check out Beanpole, also if Lloyd Kaufman and Troma are looking for inspiration regarding a new low budget freak-out flick, All My Kin is the perfect soundtrack.
WAYNE SHORTER RELEASES VISUAL AND MUSICAL PROJECT SPANNING THREE ALBUMS OF ORIGINAL MUSIC ON “EMANON” (ALBUM REVIEW)
As you can tell from the big headline Eamon is a multi-media project. We will focus on the music but the accompanying graphic novel and its back story is essential to understanding both the impetus for the project and the musical pieces too. The title of the project and the four-composition orchestral suite is also Shorter’s title character for the graphic novel. “Emanon” is “no name” spelled backward, inspired by a Dizzy Gillespie piece in the late’40s that Shorter heard as teenager.
Shorter, now 84, has long been one of the most foremost composers in jazz but the orchestral approach is a new twist for him. Credit the inspiration to his long-time musical partner Miles Davis. Shorter remembers, “Just before Miles passed he said, ‘Wayne, I want you to write something for me with strings and an orchestra, but make sure you put a window in so I can get out of there.’ He definitely did not say, “Make the strings swing.” Working with an orchestra is like crossing the street and talking to a neighbor you haven’t talked to for 10 years. It’s the thing the world needs now: joining forces.”
The main driving force behind the character is Shorter’s lifelong comic book aficionado. He’s identified with heroes and alternate realms (which you may have gleaned from some of his compositions for Weather Report). Shorter even created his own comic book of blue ink drawings, Other Worlds, at age 15. At the suggestion of Blue Note president, Don Was, Shorter had investigated the well-respected Randy DuBurke’s illustrations in graphic novels on Malcolm X and Deadwood Dick. He could relate to DuBurke’s approach from his earliest childhood memories.
As it turns out, Shorter wanted DuBurke to be able to collaborate by listening to the musical vision that Shorter had already formed. He had four studio tracks: “Pegasus,” “Lotus,” “The Three Marias,” and “Prometheus Unbound.” Shorter’s quartet with pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Brian Blade recorded this music with the 34-piece Orpheus Chamber Orchestra in February 2013, the day after a combined Carnegie Hall performance. With this music as his guide, DuBurke went to work on the sketches. Then, with these sketches in hand, the screenwriter Monica Sly, who helped Shorter and Herbie Hancock write their viral 2016 “Letter to the Next Generation of Artists,” worked with Shorter to develop and structure the graphic novel. The central idea is multiverse theory. So, each of four universes represented by each piece, exists simultaneously, in a way lining up with the in-the-moment improvisational nature of jazz. Each of the four pieces is meant to be rather dark, connoting fears that the novel tried to match.
Shorter’s beautiful soprano sax is at first heard only against dissonant piano chords before the orchestra joins on “Pegasus,” Emanon’s first world, addressing the complacency of people who fear their power and potential, instead living in prescribed boxes. The sweeping, suspenseful nature of this oft dramatic score, like the others that follow, is more like a twentieth century classical piece of Copland or Stravinsky than jazz. Yet, listen closely and you’ll hear a spontaneity that’s unlike most classical written scores. That’s because the Orpheus orchestra is conducted cooperatively by the musicians themselves. This was important to Shorter; that they grasped his vision and spirit for the expansive music.
”Prometheus Unbound” is about fear of the unknown and has the kind of orchestral sound one associates with sci-fi soundtracks as Shorter makes his entrance on soprano mid-piece following Perez’s piano sequence. “Lotus” speaks to the destructive effects of divisive thinking and how these fears could lead to war. The Buddhist symbol of the lotus flower presents an alternative which the character Emanon carries out in the story itself. The quartet has a bit more prominence here amidst the massive orchestral backdrop with Shorter again on soprano and Perez stretching out on piano propelled by Patitucci and Blade.
In “The Three Marias,” the novel has Emanon confronting the fear of knowledge that leads to censorship and curbing of freedoms. The name is from the real-life arrest of three Portuguese women for writing obscene literature. It’s originally heard in electric format on Shorter’s 1985 Atlantisalbum but here Shorter turned to Perez and Patitucci to orchestrate this version. Patitucci says, “I think he asked us in the spirt of a father challenging his sons. The two collaborated while on tour focusing mostly on the strings, sharing their progress with Shorter. Patitucci continues, “And after we’d performed it live, we wound up honing it even more – it was fitting, because that’s Wayne’s own method, endless revision.”
The remaining two discs are The Wayne Shorter Quartet Live in London comprised of all of the preceding pieces except “Pegasus” with “Lost and Orbits Medley,” (“Orbits” dates to Shorter’s Miles Davis Quintet tenure), “She Moves Through the Fair,” a showcase for Blade and Patitucci; and the soprano -punctuated “Adventures Aboard the Golden Mean.” “Pegasus” appeared on Shorter’s previous recording, 2013’s Without a Net, there performed with the Imani Winds. Like Without a Net, the enthusiastic audience response accents the brilliant solos from all four members. Yet, it’s the group interplay that is even more remarkable as they explore layers of melody, inventive harmonics and dazzling shifts in rhythm. Unlike the orchestral settings, Shorter plays both tenor and soprano, depending on the piece. For example, his tenor graces the first piece, “The Three Marias,” on which he played soprano in the orchestral setting. His quartet has been playing together since 2001; hence they are so tuned in; seemingly knowing each other’s every move, even though Shorter is as unpredictable as any. The crescendo that emphatically concludes “Prometheus Unbound,” the final three minutes or so, is a terrific snapshot of how tightly interwoven this unit is.
Emanon is fulfillment of a lifetime vision for Shorter, a chance to not only display his composing skills, but storytelling and art as well as his clear signature tone, (especially on soprano) and imaginative soloing. News just broke that Shorter will be a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors this year and odds are, as a ten-time Grammy winner, he may be adding to that number with this work.
Note that Emanon is a physical-only release that will be available in two versions, a Standard Edition that packages 3x CDs with the graphic novel, and a Deluxe Edition that packages 3x 180g vinyl LPs and 3x CDs with the graphic novel enclosed in a hardcover slipcase.
Just Music-No Categories-Enjoy It!