Wayne Shorter almost named his Verve album "High Life"
"Instant Gratification" instead. The recording is, he says,
all about the "regaining of patience" through "thorough"
music that gives you "the complete picture."
amicable, facetious twist of the lips indicates he knows how
impossible it is to explain music with words but he'll try anyway: "There
are mostly sound bites and jump cuts out there. I see a lot of people
sitting through 'Pulp Fiction' and 'Braveheart,' which are basically
designed so you do not have to pay attention to follow the story.
"On the other hand, I hear the beginning of a hue and
cry from people wanting more substance. More involvement. Something
more than a series of explosions. Implosions. Whatever. Exploitative
You wonder how seriously he's taking
himself when he stops to play with such words. But he says he's "going
for it" for real. "I want to crack this impatience thing.
Kids are too busy jumping around to pay attention. They won't walk
through a museum. They can't sit still long enough to listen to Bach.
It's malignant. Instant gratification leads to AIDS and quick divorce."
is neither a surprise nor coincidence that much of the "hue and
cry" about his record is from women. Women tell him "High
Life" has "a whole lot to lean into." They say they
hear an entire wardrobe - jewelry, ornaments, all sorts of colored
fabric - in there.
Women are attracted to his music in
general. Marilyn Mazur, Geri Allen, Terri Lynne Carrington, Renee
Rosnes and Tracy Wormsworth have worked with him, and the keyboardist
Rachel Z had a key influence on "High Life."
meeting her, watching a video she was in, he liked the way she took
her time with music even though she was performing on national
television. He mused and then muttered: "So, young people can
still have patience."
He started to put the album
together with Rachel Z and producer Marcus Miller, who had produced
Miles Davis's "Tutu." Shortly before his death, Miles had
advised Shorter to make a romantic album. Shorter considered the album
in question to be a "romantic adventure."
honestly, it was aimed at the Contemporary Jazz chart, an easy
listening category. By extending form and designing subtle sound
configurations, Shorter managed to squeeze a great deal of grace and
substance into the Contemporary easy chair. But his pitch at patience
and "the complete picture" did not, like "Tutu,"
enlarge the category itself. Shorter described it as "an attempt
to raise the IQ of commercial music."
Hancock, Chick Corea and Pat Metheny, he knows how to mix musical and
commercial calls. He can hit pay dirt pretty much at will. He has made
many moves in his long and varied career - writing, playing, leading -
circling between yin and yang and contention and concession in wide
Wearing a Versace shirt, looking nowhere near
his 62 years, he was at ease being interviewed in the lobby of the
Ritz Hotel in Paris. King of the hill, as it were. He lived near
Mulholland Drive on the crown of Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles. He
related to living there as a sort of bizarre modulation rather than a
There was a movie projection room with a big screen in the
house ("the real deal"), THX sound, well-stocked video and
audio libraries, and a computerized 24-track recording studio with
rhythm machines, samplers, synthesizers and the rest. Steel shutters
and an electric alarm system had been installed. One of his two
Mercedes had been stolen recently, but it was okay; he was insured.
may seem like a surprisingly fancy bunker for a jazz saxophone player
but he's a lot more than that and he's sort of surprised himself.
After making his name with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, he joined
Miles Davis for six influential years. It was a cutting edge quintet
with Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams. In his autobiography,
Davis named Shorter the band's "intellectual musical catalyst."
They advanced their own edge, taking standard harmony and
form to a point where there was nowhere to go but out (modality) or in
(rock). Shorter went both ways. All the while he had been writing
two-fisted, brainy songs in a style described as "nostalgic
lyricism." The collective influence of "Speak No Evil,"
"Children of the Night," "Beauty and the Beast," "Water
Babies," "Nefertiti," "Footprints" and all
the others on the jazz palate comes close to equaling that of Cole
Porter. Few nights go by in the clubs without a Wayne Shorter tune
He wrote songs for Weather Report, the hot and
anything but heavy jazz-rock fusion group he co-founded with Joe
Zawinul and Miroslav Vitous, later joined by Jaco Pastorius; his
saxophone sound was one of its key definitions.
Billboard magazine, Shorter's "days with Weather Report resulted
in music so influential that it continues to inform today." As
the years went by, however, he played an increasingly passive role as
he first withdrew from the spotlight and then faded out of focus both
on and off the bandstand.
He finally quit in favor of touring
with all-stars and recording with names like Joni Mitchell, Pino
Daniele, Milton Nascimento and Steely Dan. After co-leading a band
with Carlos Santana in 1989, he reacted to a contractual problem with
a record company by being "grateful for the hiatus." It was
time to take off and "go real slow."
continued to cover his songs, Weather Report was reissued on CD.
Plugged into the Internet and with an E-mail address, he was ripe for
the slow lane behind closed doors on Mulholland. He spent time with
his wife Ana Maria - they were very close (she vanished on infamous
TWA flight 800 to Paris) - and their friends.
He read books,
watched ball games and movies, sat in the sun, learned about
computers: "I'd been out on the road pretty much 30 straight
years. I was in no hurry. I needed time to think."
thought about the future: "We will have medical smart rooms in
our houses with robotic facilities and fail-safe systems. We won't
need to call a doctor any more. Vehicles will be automatically
directed on smart highways."
"On the other hand, we
might not even need highways any more after the invasion of enough
stuff like creative harmonizers and medical smart rooms. Why go out?
People are leaving their houses less and less as it is. Soon the only
way out will be via the eject button. Bam! May Day! Straight up."
Which is what got him thinking about instant gratification
in the first place.