The Wayne Shorter Quartet

Released September 14, 2018

Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Album 2019

Jazzwise Top 10 Releases of 2018

JazzTimes Top 10 Albums of 2018

The Guardian Highest Rated Jazz Albums of All Time




In February 2013 upon the release of Without A Net, The Wayne Shorter Quartet performed four of Shorter’s compositions with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Shorter immediately brought the quartet and orchestra into the studio to record those same four pieces: “Pegasus,” “Prometheus Unbound,” “Lotus,” and “The Three Marias.”

“Just before Miles [Davis] passed,” Shorter remembers, “He said, ‘Wayne, I want you to write something for me with strings and an orchestra, but make sure you put a window in so I can get out of there.’ He definitely did not say, ‘Make the strings swing.’ Working with an orchestra is like crossing the street and talking to a neighbor you haven’t talked to for 10 years. It’s the thing the world needs now: joining forces.”

The title of this four-composition orchestral suite is also Shorter’s title character for the graphic novel: Emanon, or “no name” spelled backward. “When Dizzy Gillespie had a piece of music in the late 40s called ‘Emanon,’ it hit me way back then as a teenager: ‘No name’ means a whole lot. The connection with Emanon and artists and other heroes is the quest to find originality, which is probably the closest thing you can get to creation,” Shorter says. “Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and some comic heroes, they lose their power or identity and become something called human, so that a human being has to do the same thing that Superman and all of them do.”

Later, Blue Note president Don Was introduced Shorter, who is an avid comic book aficionado, to DuBurke’s illustrations, and the saxophonist became enamored with the Brooklyn-raised, Switzerland-based artist’s work in graphic novels on Malcolm X and Deadwood Dick. “I could sort of project myself into Randy’s general state of mind from childhood,” Shorter says. “I could see it in his drawings. He has those ‘I wish’ lines in his work; he’s aiming for how he wants the world to be.”

After DuBurke enthusiastically joined the project and had a long talk with Shorter about the composition titles, quantum mechanics, and much else, he got to work using those four pieces as inspiration. “I’d put the Emanon cuts on,” DuBurke says. “Or I’d watch Cosmos videos with Neil de Grasse Tyson. Whatever came into my head as I sat at the drawing board, I sketched in black and white or in color. Wayne said, ‘Nobody’s gonna edit you, just go with it.’ So I felt entirely free creatively, and delivered some first story sketches to Wayne.”

With DuBurke’s panels in hand, Sly, a screenwriter who helped Shorter and Herbie Hancock write their viral 2016 “Open Letter to the Next Generation of Artists,” worked with Shorter to develop and structure the graphic novel. Central to the story was the multiverse theory, or the idea that the universe we inhabit is one of an infinite number that all exist in parallel realities. Listening to each of four orchestral tracks, Sly and Shorter “came up with a fear that matched the vibe of the track,” Sly says. “That ‘fear’ then defined the world Emanon would be inhabiting in that specific universe of the story. And each of the four universes exists simultaneously—from what I know, that’s very in line with the improvisational, everything-exists-in-the-moment aspect of jazz.”

“Emanon is like so many characters in that role of trying to find a way in the world, and also make the world around him a better place,” DuBurke says. Longtime fans of Shorter may read something of the musician himself into the character. “Wayne is fearless in the face of adversity,” Sly says. “Excited by the prospect of the unknown. Brave enough to stand up for justice and stand out in a crowd, yet sensitive and aware of the value of each life around him.”

“Wayne is the great American composer,” Patitucci says. “It’s always been a matter of him having the chance to display all that he can do in large musical forms, and also in his other areas of brilliance and imagination like art and storytelling, too. So Emanon is a fulfillment of a lifetime vision.” With Emanon, Wayne Shorter shares his artistic multiverse. Everyone will create his or her own experience with the novel and music—but be prepared for that experience to involve the unknown. “After reading and listening to Emanon, you might begin to notice alternative realities glimmering beneath the everyday world around you,” Esperanza Spalding writes in her introduction to the novel.

Track Listing:

Disc 1

1. Pegasus (Wayne Shorter / Monica Sly) 14:54

2. Prometheus Unbound (Wayne Shorter / Monica Sly) 8:19

3. Lotus (Wayne Shorter / Monica Sly) 15:16

4. The Three Marias (Wayne Shorter / Monica Sly) 12:29

Disc 2

1. The Three Marias (Wayne Shorter / Monica Sly) 27:31

2. Lost and Orbits Medley (Wayne Shorter / Monica Sly) 9:50

Disc 3

1. Lotus (Wayne Shorter / Monica Sly) 13:36 

2. She Moves Through the Fair (Wayne Shorter / Monica Sly) 6:24  

3. Adventures Aboard the Golden Mean (Wayne Shorter / Monica Sly) 4:30       

4. Prometheus Unbound (Wayne Shorter / Monica Sly) 14:26


Wayne Shorter: tenor and soprano saxophones

Danilo Perez: piano

John Patitucci: bass

Brian Blade: drums

The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra:

violin I: Richard Rood (concertmaster), Martha Caplin, Laura Frautschi, Joanna Jenner, Renee Jolles, Sophia Kessinger

violin II: Calvin Wiersma (principal), Ronnie Bauch, Adela Pena, Eriko Sato

viola: Dov Scheindlin (principal), Mark Holloway, Daniel Panner, Nardo Poy

cello: Eric Bartlett (principal), Melissa Meell, Jonathon Spitz, James Wilson

double bass: Donald Palma (principal), Jordan Frazier

flute: Susan Palma Nidel (principal), Elizabeth Mann

oboe: James Austin Smith (principal), Alexandra Knoll

clarinet: Alan Kay (principal), Alicia Lee

bassoon: Frank Morelli (principal), Marc Goldberg

horn: Stewart Rose (principal), Julie Landsman

trumpet: Louis Hanzlik (principal), Carl Albach

trombone: Michael Powell

timpani: Maya Gunji

Disc 1 recorded in New York City and Casco Viejo, Panama in 2016

Discs 2 and 3 were recorded live in the Barbican Centre, London

Produced by Wayne Shorter and Don Was

Executive Producers: Scott Southard and Tom Korkidis

Engineer: Jeff Ciampa

Engineer, Mixing: Rob Griffin

Art Direction, Design: Todd Gallopo


Just the fifth release from Wayne Shorter’s celebrated acoustic quartet in its near two-decade career, the triple-CD plus graphic novel that is Emanon marks something of a creative high point in its journey. The first CD, a four-part suite for quartet and the thirty-four-piece Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, is Shorter’s first studio recording since Alegria(Verve, 2003), while the second and third discs capture the quartet live in London. The accompanying forty-eight page comic-book, co-written by Shorter and Monica Sly, with illustrations by Randy Duburke, is a science-fiction epic of Homer-esque proportions. 
The comic-book tale is thematically related to the suite and depicts a dystopian world of tyrannical government, censorship and a climate of fear that engenders apathy, suspicion of the foreign and dehumanisation. Changing the status quo can only come about via change within the individual. A revolution is called for. A parable of our times? Perhaps so. Although the musical narrative is open to interpretation, the tensions and drama inherent in Shorter’s orchestral score broadly reflect the heroic struggle of the comic-book hero, the rogue philosopher, Emanon. 
All the music was recorded in 2013, which begs the question as to why it’s taken so long for this recording to see the light of day. In effect, Emanon musically represents a snapshot of the quartet half a decade ago. The live music on CDs two and three is as thrilling, for the most part, as we’ve come to expect from this rather unique improvising unit, but it’s the orchestral suite that stands out for its originality. 
The fifteen-minute “Pegasus” sees early sparring between Danilo Pérez, and Shorter on soprano, the pianist’s probing creating little stepping stones for the saxophonist’s improvisations. A brief strings and brass call-and-response ensues before a three-note brass motif ignites the string section. Melody and rhythm are inextricably linked as short, staccato phrases from brass and strings in turn, strung together like beads, provide a punchy rhythmic current. Brian Blade, John Patitucci and Perez trace the orchestral pulses, with Shorter arriving late to ride the cresting wave with a spiralling solo. The full orchestral voice regally announces the intense yet repetitive “Prometheus Unbound,” which toggles between gently treading quartet interludes and bouyant orchestral passages. The lush romanticism that opens “Lotus” is soon swept up in an epic orchestral wave, a grand, three-note ostinato transferred to piano, which then underpins a quartet dialogue where Perez and Shorter’s free blowing is anchored by Blade and Patitucci’s steady course. The baton passes back and forth between orchestra and quartet in a sustained segment that marries lyricism and bold phrasing. The quartet eventually tears loose with skittering exchanges between Shorter and Perez, the three-note ostinato resurfacing as the prelude to a stirring, closing fanfare. 
Shorter plays soprano, and to a lesser extent tenor, on “The Three Marias,” an episodic piece where restless quartet exploration is framed by distinctive orchestral lines that are melodically pronounced and rhythmically vibrant in turn. The greater ebb and flow of this final piece, with its dramatic denouement, provides an emotionally intense, uplifting conclusion to the stirring fifty-minute suite. 
The live discs faithfully document of one of contemporary jazz’s most exciting small ensembles. Disc two features a sprawling, twenty-seven minute version of “The Three Marias,” where protracted collective ruminations, with Shorter on tenor saxophone, seem always on the point of lift-off. In the final few minutes a quickening rhythmic pulse briefly signals collective release, before the quartet makes the softest of landings. Without pause, the quartet slides into a medley of “Lost” and “Orbits,” Perez’ riffing stoking the quartet’s fire as Shorter follows his muse. Perez and Blade gradually force their way to the forefront of the narrative in a fiery finale that provides dramatic release after nearly forty minutes of simmering tension. 
The subtle percussive stirrings of “Lotus,” which kicks off disc three, quickly give way to more robust terrain, with Perez’ restless tilling freeing Shorter, on soprano, and cajoling Blade, whose explosive accents are all the more effective for their sparing release. “She Moves through the Fair,” unrecognizable from the quartet’s studio version from 2003, begins with a burrowing Patitucci solo before developing into a Perez’ feature, the pianist’s animated solo punctuated by Blade’s snap and crackle. A short but lively “Adventures aboard the Golden Mean” sees the quartet go straight for the jugular, with Shorter on soprano leading the way, without preamble, through an uncluttered, blues-edged workout colored by Perez’ Latin-tinged vamps. 
The set concludes with a hypnotic, fourteen-minute “Prometheus Unbound,” the soft initial stirrings of bass arco, high-register piano, rumbling mallets and lowing soprano ceding way to greater rhythmic impetus. A middle section of delicate understatement—lightly coursing, bluesy piano and earthy bass—is steered by Perez and Shorter into exuberant collective exploration, with a mantra-like motif, played in unison by Shorter and Perez, unleashing Blade’s fire and guiding the quartet towards a spectacular finish. 
Shorter’s most ambitious project in his sixty-year career, Emanon is in some ways a curious release. The orchestral arrangements represent some of the most impassioned and arresting music Shorter has ever committed to disc. The two live discs, as tirelessly inventive as the performances are, serve up more of what has come before and arguably detract from the singularity of the orchestral collaboration. The graphic novel is a take it or leave it affair. Still, it’s cause for celebration that Shorter and his remarkable quartet are still fearlessly pushing the sound barrier with such evident joy. 

Ian Patterson (AllAboutJazz)