Sunday, February 17, 2013

Wayne Shorter's CQ, PQ, and IQ

Our Curiosity Quotient, or CQ, and Passion Quotient, or PQ, are becoming as important as our Intelligence Quotient, familiarly known as IQ, according to a recent brilliant column by  New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.  I couldn't agree more.  For my day job, I work with educators and students to promote that mindset. Now I'm thinking about how it relates to the the music I listen to.

Wayne Shorter's CQ, PQ, and IQ

Wayne Shorter's music has impressed me for decades with its delightful cocktail of CQ, PQ, and IQ.   I stumbled upon the music of Weather Report, which he co-led with the late and great Joe Zawinul, when I was in high school.  Their music was vastly different from most of the other music I listened to then.  While each player's virtuosity was self-evident by virtue of his technical dexterity, I was mostly moved by the beautiful melodies Weather Report wrote and how its songs painted musical landscapes. Listen to Black Market in a quiet space with your eyes closed to experience this. Back then I was also taken by the complexities of the improvisations in Weather Report's music.

A few years later, I learned that Wayne Shorter had played with Miles Davis Quintet in the 1960s.  Over time I have become a fan of many of the other alums of that amazing group, including Herbie Hancock, and Ron Carter

Recently I was delighted to read that Wayne Shorter's quartet was releasing a new album.  I downloaded it as soon as it came out and found it to be a total joy.  Wayne Shorter,  now 80,  has not lost any of his CQ, PQ, or IQ.  Listening to Without a Net, I find it's immediately apparent that the music he is creating today is much more abstract and less structured than the music of Weather Report.  While performed using acoustical rather than electronic instruments, the music is nonetheless electrifying. The quartet's improvisations and musical conversations tell complex stories.

The opening riff of the first tune, "Orbits," played both on the string bass and bass notes of the piano,  told me that that I was for a treat. The riff, played in an odd time signature and with adventurous syncopation, is tantalizing. I was immediately taken with the CQ. 

From there the fun begins. Nine compositions are performed on the album.  All deserve multiple listens, and it's far too early for me to settle on a favorite.  That said, I'm particularly drawn to the deconstruction of Vincent Youmans's, Gus Kahn's, and Edward Eliscu's 1933 tune (from the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film of the same name) "Flying down to Rio." Clearly Shorter loves this tune.  The PQ jumps out at the listener.

Enjoy listening to the IQ in "Plaza Real":

 If you are a Wayne Shorter fan, or simply a fan of musicians who dare to go where few others do, I think you will love Without a Net.

Other Notes: 

February has been a great month for enjoying terrific new music from old friends.  If you were a fan of the group Roxy Music, I encourage you to check out Bryan Ferry's new release, The Jazz Age, in which he recasts many Roxy Music tunes, such as "Do the Strand" and "Love is the Drug," as if they had been written and performed in the 1920s.  No ironic humor here.  The band plays these tunes seriously, and result is a joy.

Lastly, I want to give a shout out to my co-blogger, Fletcher McNeill, for turning me on to First Aid Kit.  Thanks to his post I've been listening to and enjoying this terrific band.

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