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A stroll through an aural carnival
Ian K. Hughes | San Mateo, CA | 09/27/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Following the breakup of the famed fusion band Weather Report, Wayne Shorter set forth on decade-long musical journey, recording four albums of music which placed more emphasis on tightly controlled "through composition". The last of these albums was "HIGH LIFE" ( 1995 ), in which Shorter ( in addition to playing tenor/soprano saxophone ) wrote, orchestrated and arranged all the compositions ( performed by a small contingent of brass/woodwind/string instruments mixed with the standard "fusion" rhythm section and Rachel Z's synthesized background material ). A certain level of "maximalism" is on display, as Shorter the craftsman meticulously plies his trade: asymmetrical melodic themes, syncopated electric bass lines and lush impressionistic harmony woven into Marcus Miller's propulsive production style."HIGH LIFE" is an adventurous blend of mystery and romance, a stroll through an aural carnival ( jazz, pop, classical and "world" music as seen through the funhouse mirror ). Production elements notwithstanding, it would be a mistake to identify the "popular" surface of the music as any concession to the mass market since Shorter's distinctive musical personality ( incredibly consistent over 40 years ) is readily apparent throughout. To be sure, "HIGH LIFE" is not the same type of ensemble effort as the Miles Davis Quintet or Weather Report; it would perhaps be better to think of the music as a kind of "soundtrack in search of a film", its cinematic aesthetic akin to the nocturnal peregrinations of the late Astor Piazzolla ( e.g. "ZERO HOUR" ). While he has recently returned ( "FOOTPRINTS: LIVE!" ) to the acoustic jazz combo format, the "urban contemporary" style of "HIGH LIFE" deserves attention as yet another example of Wayne Shorter's longstanding creativity. Brief descriptions of the tunes:The opener ( "Children of the Night" ) is a slightly disturbing midnight drive through city streets, its haunting theme and ethereal soprano sax played over heavy "hip-hop" style drumming. "At the Fair": another foray into Shorter's surreal imaginative world."Maya" is a bluesy tune of sultry allure."On the Milky Way Express" is a coruscating sequel to the opening tune.The ominous tone of "Pandora Awakened" is evocative of Shorter's classic album "SPEAK NO EVIL"
( 1965 ). "Virgo Rising" features an undulating sensuality influenced by "world" music."High Life": wearily dissonant romanticism ( similar to Frank Zappa )."Midnight in Carlotta's Hair": an eerie ride on a Shorter carousel.The brief closing tune ( "Black Swan" ), played by strings with light accompaniment, is a beautiful sequence of Ravelian harmony: a pensive dream hovering between comfort and disquiet."
High Life Is High Art.
(5 out of 5 stars)
"High Life is an album that disappoints in one fashion: you wish Wayne Shorter would produce more music which features electric and electronic instruments interpreting his musical scores. On this album, Shorter, in his customary fashion, composes clever, adventurous, and logical melodies. The album also features Shorter's masterfully underplayed and understated yet spacious saxophone playing. His supporting cast of Marcus Miller, Will Calhoun, Rachel Z, and David Gilmore, among others, do a wonderful job bringing his songs to life. And what songs! His auditory writings evoke vivid visual images in the mind. At the Fair, where one can almost see a merry-go-round and ferris wheel spinning in the air, and Pandora's Awakening, where the song transforms as if Pandora's Box was actually opened, are prime examples. This album has been panned by those who seem to long for the Shorter of the past. Time moves on and Shorter's art has evolved in a most sophisticated manner. Please Wayne give us more!"
Ian K. Hughes | 07/29/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This album might sound strange for some or too electric for old Wayne shorter lovers...but one thing for sure , it' s one of the best recording of the nineties.....wonderful compositions, superior harmonies , great sounds.....the musicians are brilliant from Marcus Miller to David Gilmore and Rachel Z ... Playing on layers with and against each other ...The climax of the songs remains strangely monotonous leaving all the room for the music to speak ... Wayne Shorter proves once again that he's one of the great innovators and inventors , opening new paths for the new generation of musicians..."