Guitarist Dave Askren and saxophonist Jeff Benedict may not be household contemporary jazz names, but they should be after two previous dual albums and now Paraphernalia, an inspiringly curated, emotionally wide ranging and lovingly and intricately re-imagined celebration of the melodic, harmonic and rhythmic genius of legendary saxman Wayne Shorter.
Ensembling beautifully with bassist Jonathan Pintoff and percussionist Chris Garcia, they bring their individual mile-long all-star resumes and 25 years of on and off collaborations into the service of one of jazz’s most prodigious catalogs. The duo does more than simply find fresh, alternately sensual, swinging, Latin and boogaloo coolness and freewheeling improvisations to vintage classics from Shorter’s era with Miles Davis’ Second Great Quintet and beyond to his time as a founder of Weather Report (“E.S.P.,” “Mahjong,” an electronics-free “Harlequin”).
Taking a wide-ranging view, Askren and Benedict truly capture a deeply creative and spirit-infused era of modern jazz history. As exciting as the grooving, often polyrhythmic tunes are, the emotional core of Paraphernalia emerges from the two intimate sax and guitar only ballads, “Miyako” (named for Shorter’s daughter) and the Spanish-tinged “Infant Eyes.”
The liner notes are uncredited but are a must-read for historical insight as you listen, enjoy and contemplate the rush of history coming your way.