As featured soloist on Shorter’s twin specialisms of tenor and soprano saxophones, Marsalis never tried to emulate his hero, although Shorter’s liking for precise, gnomic phrases possibly influenced his thought processes occasionally. His playing was by turns direct and expansive and always brilliantly cogent and in the spirit of the composition, be it ever so slightly mysterious or downright amiable.
Shorter’s prolific output over the past 50-plus years meant that SNJO’s team of arrangers were spoiled for choice when selecting the 10 pieces and if some of those choices, such as Speak No Evil and ESP were perhaps inevitable, the settings were far from predictable.
Florian Ross’s fabulous take on Nefertiti saw its insinuating melody slither and permeate through the orchestra seductively with a particularly effective pairing of Marsalis’s tenor and Phil O’Malley’s trombone, and for Infant Eyes, Michael Abene produced a masterful, sumptuous orchestration behind Marsalis’s cool, soulful tenor.
The centrepiece, however, was Footprints, a staple of jazz jam sessions the world over, here reimagined by Manu Pekar as a mini-epic that allowed Alyn Cosker to further develop his in-time-out-of-time drum solo mischief-magic and Marsalis, on soprano, to explore dancing and strutting sequences as well as fashioning a gorgeous minor blues with pianist Steve Hamilton.