4 February

Article on Wayne Shorter in yesterday's New York Times (Major Jazz Eminence, Little Grise) suggests that the traditionalist assault of the 1980's is finally done and gone. Consider the signposts. If you believe those critics who can stand to listen to his albums in their entirety, Wynton Marsalis's Black Codes (From the Underground), featuring a quintet (with Brandford Marsalis, Kenny Kirkland, Charnet Moffett, and Jeff Tain Watts) justly criticized for emulating the second Miles Davis Quintet of 1965-1968 (with Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams), ranks among his best. His debut album had even featured Hancock, Carter, and Williams as the rhythm section on a few tracks. At the same time, Shorter's post-Fusion work was being pilloried. Twentysome years later, though, Shorter returned to acoustic Jazz, not as a traditionalist (though he has performed some of his older, well-known pieces), but with a quartet that accepts the non-constraints of Free Jazz to a greater extent than the Davis quintet. Marsalis, meanwhile, dropped by Columbia Records, continues to play retreads, paeans to past greats that fail to pay proper respect precisely because of his traditionalism--and because his work is supported by the same sort of social groups and cultural institutions that have always kept, and still keep, Jazz in a second-rate position.