Wayne Shorter: Live, 'Without a Net'

Mar 1, 2013 9:00 AM, Mix, By Blair Jackson


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Wayne Shorter

Wayne Shorter

The incomparable tenor and soprano saxophonist Wayne Shorter may be turning 80 this August, but he’s not slowing down and his music is every bit as vital as ever. His latest release is the live Without a Net, featuring the amazing acoustic group he’s fronted since 2000—Danilo Perez (piano), John Patitucci (bass) and Brian Blade (drums). The nine-song collection serves up a mixture of sonorous melodies, dissonant excursions and complex pieces that visit many styles; all Shorter compositions except “Flying Down to Rio,” from the Astaire-Rogers film.

Without a Net was recorded to iZ RADAR by Shorter’s “sound traffic controller” since 1995, Rob Griffin, on a seven-show tour of Europe in the fall of 2011. “I was very fortunate to have a group endorsement with DPA Microphones,” Griffin says, “so all the mics on there, except on ‘Pegasus’ with the Imani Winds [from the Disney Concert Hall in 2008], are DPAs, and I couldn’t be happier.”

He used four mics around Blade’s kit—a wide cardioid 4028 on the kick, 4021 cardioids as overheads “from his ear position, angled down to get his dynamics and tone from his perspective,” and a tiny 4061 omni “taped to the side of the rack tom as a center-kit mic.” Piano was three 4021s—low, mid and hi inside. Bass was a 4021 on a clip between the bridge and tailpiece, as well as a David Gage piezo pickup and Rolf Spuler WooDi. Shorter takes a 4028, which Griffin says, “has no leakage problems, and being wide cardioid, has much less proximity effect and an even tone.”

“I don’t go for a room sound,” he says. “I want it to sound as if the audience is right in front of the band on a stool, six feet from Wayne. I like the humanity that comes forth when you’re close, the little quirks of energy.”

Extended Q&A With Engineer Rob Griffin on the Recording of the Wayne Shorter Quartet's Without a Net Live Album

Rob Griffin

Rob Griffin

On recording a band over time (Griffin previously cut Footprints Live and Beyond the Sound Barrier in concert with the Quartet): You start to understand each musician and the way they play. Because I feel as if I'm the matrix between everything they're trying to accomplish and the audience. To connect the musicians' hearts and intentions to each heart in the audience, it has to pass through me and this instrument we call a console. I take that responsibility very seriously. Over time, it's allowed me to make better and wiser microphone choices and placement choices and understand how those choices can affect the music and the performance. My job is to reveal everything and add nothing.

The plan for Without a Net: The original intention for this record was to release a single concert from the seven we were doing in Europe. After the first show in London, I went backstage to Wayne as soon as the show was over and I said, “Hey, I've got the title for the new CD-Live in London,” because it was really killing; it was so good. What's funny is we didn't end up using anything from that show! The shows kept getting better. But it's a mix, with seven different venues, which means seven different pianos, seven different drum kits. John Patitucci carries his own bass, thank goodness.

A bit about the drum mics: On Brian [Blade] I was concerned, with the DPA endorsement, what we would do with the bass drum, because I had been using a Royer R122 ribbon I really liked. But the 4028 wide cardioid ended up being fantastic. The isolation is super, and I'm able to pick up a wider area of the head and get a much better tonality on the bass drum. And those mics will really take the level. I mike Brian with 4021 cardioid overheads from his ear position. It hit me some years ago that Brian has spent his whole life getting his dynamics and tone from his perspective--his ears are his microphones--so I put those two as close to his ears as I can without being intrusive, and angled down.

On the 4061 rack tom mic: I'm picking up the whole kit with the other mics, but when Brian starts to use his hands on the skin of the snare drum I can grab that, or if I need more rack or snare. Brian also tends to throw various thicknesses of towels on his snare and he plays with that and then throws it off, and it's good for that. So it's mostly for the really soft stuff, and it's a nice center image if I want it.

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