From February 2016. The first night of the latest Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra residency, this was a very special occasion because to find Wayne Shorter on a stage together anywhere with Wynton Marsalis is not an every day event by any means.
Skain was sat by drummer Ali Jackson at the back in his customary place within the trumpet section, Wayne of course sat up front near the piano, the saxophonists in the orchestra you could tell slightly in awe and admiration in a line fanning out beside him.
The 82-year-old Miles Davis and Weather Report giant of jazz played on most pieces, the evening filled with his many classic compositions, and there was a certain democracy in the arranging of his music as quite a number of the 15-piece orchestra – Victor Goines, Walter Blanding, Ted Nash, Vincent Gardner, Marcus Printup, Chris Crenshaw, Carlos Henriquez, Ali Jackson, Sherman Irby and Wynton himself – contributed to the shape and style in their input.
The second set opened with ‘E. S. P.,’ probably the pick of the whole evening, in terms of ensemble rapport speaking of which there’s a lightness of touch in all sections, power only when needed and such swift response to tempo and volume, the texture like silk or sable, the switches from saxes through trombones, reeds and flute skimming across the air to the rhythm section all part of a pulsing flicker and shimmer. The main rhythmic pull and push was left to Henriquez, whose arrangement of ‘The Three Marias’ let the music breathe and murmur.
Wynton name-checked Wayne very respectfully many times, sometimes referring to him by his first and last name, sometimes “Mr Shorter” and the Newark-born great, switching from tenor which he began the concert with on ‘Yes or No’ from JuJu to soprano for large chunks of the concert the tenor coming back sometimes. His soprano playing was just beautiful at times, containing that oblique sense of mystery and musical alchemy that for decades he has conjured so uniquely, the beauty in his interpreting even the most naked of notes so striking and unforgettable.