Unassuming and nearly unequaled, saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter has quietly remained one of the most durable forces in jazz for over a half-century. Though not as recognizable to casual fans as names like John Coltrane or Charlie “Bird” Parker, Shorter’s impact has been on a par with those legends.
Shorter’s career has spanned all the developments of jazz for the last 60 years. Taking up saxophone as a teen, the New Jersey native graduated from New York University, then dove into the Hard Bop scene of the late 1950s. His first taste of fame came in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, where he would later become one of its most noted composers and musical directors.
In the mid 1960s, Shorter joined Miles Davis and became a vital cog in one of the most influential combos in jazz history. The saxophonist in what’s now known as Davis’ Second Great Quintet composed half their songs and a number of those — like “Footprints,” “E.S.P.” and “Nefertiti” — became standards.
Shorter collaborated with Davis in his landmark fusion period and launched his own highly exploratory solo work. As the 1970s flowered, Shorter broke away from Davis fully and formed the fusion combo Weather Report. In the 1980s, he toured in the highly successful combo V.S.O.P.
Shorter would go on to stretch beyond stringent jazz, recording with Carlos Santana, Joni Mitchell and Steely Dan. His output and collaboration continued and his 2003 album, “Alegria,” pulled in a Grammy Award.
The Mystic Order of the Jazz Obsessed (MOJO) will salute this titanic musical force on Monday, July 27, at 6:30 p.m. at Gulf City Lodge (601 State St.). Musical interpretations will be rendered by saxophonist Rebecca Barry, guitarist John Cochran, bassist Tom Latenser and drummer Fred Domulot.
Entrance is $12, $10 for students and military and $8 for MOJO members, and includes a light jambalaya dinner. A cash bar is available.
For more info, call 251-459-2298, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to mojojazz.org.
New names and places among Arts Nappie winners
If you looked at the Nappie results, you saw some change. We’ve expanded the categories for artists, breaking things down by medium. An award for graphic artists was added along with one for art events. The results shook things up this year.
Best Local Painter: Amber Ivey Lane
Her shop/studio at the foot of Spring Hill stays busy with parties, private functions and lessons, so it is surprising Lane finds the time for commissioned work. However, her sizable abstract paintings hang in homes throughout the Mobile area and in showplaces like Fairhope’s Lyons Share Gallery, Sarah B. Atchison’s, Room Service Mobile and the St. Paul’s Campus store.
Lane has also branched out beyond the immediate area thanks to representation by Alexander and Victor Fine Art and the John-Richard Showroom in High Point, North Carolina.
Best Local Sculptor: Bruce Larsen
If for some reason you don’t know Bruce Larsen by now, check out the profile of him in the center spread of this issue. I promise, you’ve seen his work.
Best Mixed Media Artist: Julie Rhames
Rhames finished second in 2014’s Best Local Artist category. She was voted to Mobile Bay magazine’s 2014 Class of 40 under 40, where she listed donation of work to charities such as cancer research, animal shelters and hunger relief as a point of pride. Her website photos reveal a predilection for metallic hues and heavy impasto — fitting since she lists an associate degree in jewelry design from Bishop State Community College.
Best Local Graphic Design Artist: Johnny Gwin
A founding member of Hummingbird Ideas, designer Johnny Gwin is famous not just for having his body parts x-rayed 5,284 times for various ads, not just as Mobile’s oldest skate punk, not just as Mr. Stacy Wellborn but also for being one of the kings of Mobile social media. His talents are obvious, as he has to be churning out work at a phenomenal pace to allow the time necessary for his Internet omnipresence.
Best Art Gallery: Lyons Share
This is the first year since, well, I don’t when, that Cathedral Square Gallery, Ashland Gallery, Robertson Gallery or even the now-defunct Host Gallery haven’t been mentioned in this spot. Lyons Share has been open in Fairhope for about 20 years now. It not only has a sizable gallery space but is known for custom framing and being a hot spot during Fairhope’s monthly First Friday Artwalks.
Best Museum: Mobile Museum of Art
This returning champion repeated its performance and for good reason. It offers a surfeit of activities and shows, and its Mardi Gras exhibit in the last year curried a lot of local favor.
I was half-expecting to see the History Museum of Mobile make a closing surge in light of the general sympathy they stirred after the staff was handed pink slips in the past month.
Best Theatre Group: Joe Jefferson Players
Who says there aren’t advantages to longevity? Joe Jefferson is one of the state’s oldest troupes and even natural disasters like the Midtown tornadoes can’t bow their spirit. They are the community theater most likely to mount large and lavish musical productions, and that pays off when voting comes around.
Best Play or Performance: Aida
As I was saying, musicals are the name of the game at Joe Jefferson Playhouse and audiences were knocked out by this Spring 2015 production starring the beguiling and talented Terry Jackson in the title role. The score by Elton John and Tim Rice meshed with the Giuseppe Verdi tale to enthrall audiences, most of whom it would appear remembered the experience at Nappie time.
Best Local Actor: Brandon M. Caten
Another repeat winner from 2014, Caten nearly stole the show in the aforementioned “Aida” at JJP. His comedic timing blended well with his more dramatic work to garner notice from those in the house.
Caten has been cast in lead roles in three local theatres, appearing as Albert J. Peterson in Chickasaw Civic Theatre’s “Bye, Bye Birdie” in 2011, as Joe in Mobile Theatre Guild’s “9 to 5” in 2012 and as Emmett Forrest in JJP’s “Legally Blonde, the Musical” in 2013. He also filled a wealth of roles in “Forbidden Broadway” at Mobile Theatre Guild.
Caten also teaches voice in his own studio and at Brandy Brown Studio.
Best Arts Event: LoDa Artwalk
For a decade now, this monthly event has been a cornerstone of downtown development and it appears stalwart. There was some question in the last 10 months as to whether the city’s decision to start requiring licensing of vendors would dampen activities, but recent numbers indicate it is as strong as ever, especially during the hottest part of the year.
Since Arts Alive left downtown for Brookley and Temporal City Festival evaporated altogether, it wasn’t really a shock Artwalk took home this honor. I guess they could have faced competition from Fairhope’s First Friday Artwalk or Annual Arts and Crafts Festival, but on this side of the bay there weren’t really any other contenders — none with the sheer numbers of participation, that’s for sure.
Congrats to all the winners!