Wayne Shorter Quartet offers daring improvisations

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By CHARLES J. GANS, Associated Press

The Wayne Shorter Quartet, "Without a Net" (Blue Note)

Saxophonist Wayne Shorter ranks among jazz's greatest composers, but when his quartet performs live — as on this album — his compositions are mere frameworks for daring improvisations that take off in unexpected directions without a safety net. His acoustic quartet includes three leaders in their own right — pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade — who've developed an almost telepathic interplay after 12 years together.

On "Without a Net," his first Blue Note recording in 43 years, the 79-year-old Shorter remakes two earlier compositions, "Orbits," written for the Miles Davis Quintet, and "Plaza Real," created for his jazz-fusion band Weather Report. "Flying Down to Rio," from the 1933 film that first paired Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, is transformed into a harmonically complex, other worldly exploration.

There are six new Shorter compositions, ranging from the hypnotically melodic "Starry Night" to the 23-minute chamber jazz, tone poem, "Pegasus," performed with The Imani Winds quintet that walks a tightrope between written and improvised music.

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