David Weiss/Endangered Species: The Music of Wayne Shorter – Motema MTM, 67:41 ****:
(David Weiss- conductor and trumpet; Tim Green – alto sax; Marcus Strickland- tenor and soprano sax; Ravi Coltrane – tenor sax; Norbert Stachel- baritone sax and bass clarinet; Diego Urcola- trumpet; Jeremy Pelt- trumpet; Joe Fielder – trombone; Steve Davis- trombone; Geri Allen – piano; Dwayne Burno- bass; E. J. Strickland- drums)
Recorded live at the premier upscale jazz club in New York City, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola at Jazz at Lincoln City on April 27, 2012, David Weiss’ band’s exploration of Wayne Shorter’s compositions must have been a hard ticket to come by even in the jazz-heavyweight mecca of jazz venues in New York City.
Weiss is an adventure taker, whether it be leading the super-star small group, The Cookers, or attempting to resurrect the late stage career of Freddie Hubbard, David is keeping the tradition alive.
Not happy to do more small group arrangements of Wayne Shorter, a bit overdone, Weiss decided to open up Shorter’s music to a brass-heavy contingent with four saxes complementing five horns. during a week long engagement at Jazz at the Lincoln Center to celebrate the 80th birthday of the ageless Mr. Shorter.
Song selection on the night of April 27, 2012 is varied, ranging from Wayne’s career beginning in the late 1950s all the way to “Prometheus Bound” from 2003’s Alegria. The lucky audience that night got to sample a smorgasbord ranging from Wayne’s contribution with Maynard Ferguson and Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, through late ’60s Miles Davis (the 14 minute ballad, “Fall”) all the way through the aforementioned “Prometheus.” Added to the mix is a Weiss original, “Turning Gate.” Every track exceeds eight minutes, and the group gets to stretch out both on solos and contrapuntal movements.
The saxes hold their own with the hard charging brass section, as evidenced by Tim Green’s mad blowing on the opener, “Nellie Bly.” “Fly” lets the audience catch their breath on the gorgeous ballad. The great Jeremy Pelt begins tender before upping the ante on succeeding choruses. Jeremy has inherited the mantle of fire breathers from the ’60s like Hubbard and Morgan. “Mr. Jin” follows with Steve Davis’ burnished trombone lines backed by Burno and Strickland in the rhythm section, before Tim Green really jacks up the firepower with a double time lung workout.
Weiss’ tune, “The Turning Gate” lets the brothers Strickland shine with Marcus’ striking soprano sax being propelled by his brother, E. J.’s drums. Geri Allen’s piano solo steps into the spotlight here as well. We are treated to another ballad from Wayne’s pen on Eva, from the Ugetsu Messenger’s 1963 album. Pelt shows his lyrical side here.
The evening concludes with a change of pace on “Prometheus Unbound,” which blends a rich chamber jazz vibe alongside some fireworks from the high notes of Jeremy Pelt, to the brothers Strickland again in another friendly family feud.
“Endangered Species” is a welcome addition to the honors that Wayne Shorter accrues as he powers into his 80s. I saw no mention in Bill Milkowski’s liner notes whether Wayne was the esteemed guest of honor that evening. I can’t help but imagine that Shorter would have appreciated Weiss and his group’s energy and facile playing that special night.
TrackList: Nellie Bly, Fall, Mr. Jin, The Turning Gate, Eva, Prometheus Unbound