Talking Talkhouse: Further thoughts on Wayne Shorter’s “Without A Net”


Dave’s review of “Without A Net” can be read at

Thrilled the other night at Jazz Standard to see keyboardist Jim Beard! I heard him in several different Wayne Shorter groups around the time I moved to New York, between 1984 and 1989 or so. Beard played all of the Atlantis material with Shorter, as well as playing on the album Phantom Navigator and in subsequent live performances. Since writing about Shorter’s new work for The Talkhouse, I have had several interesting conversations about it, and Jim Beard had some observations that hadn’t occurred to me.

We talked about the contrast between Shorter’s meticulously crafted scores and the freedom with which his current quartet plays. The music I used to hear Beard play in those bands was so complicated, and they played it note perfect! Incredible harmonies and gnarly bass lines, all written out with crossed t’s and dotted i’s on every page of the beautiful handwritten scores, almost like a graphic novel or super hero comic book.

The contrast between that precise notation and the freely improvised approach of the current band is stunning. You would almost think it was a different musician, so different is the attitude. And yet, Shorter pulls it off and makes it make as much sense as music can make.

The beautiful and precise scores still inhabit Shorter’s writing, it’s just that his intention in performing it with this quartet is not tethered to any specific rendition of what is on the page. You could say it’s an about face. Or you could say it’s a radical reinvention of what it means to notate and perform music. You could also go back to Shorter’s earlier work and wonder if all of this was already lurking in the pages when it was created.