AFTER establishing himself as a major jazz voice in the '60s, Wayne Shorter has rarely been heard in recent years. He released no solo albums and became increasingly overshadowed within Weather Report by co-leader Joe Zawinul. So "Atlantis," Shorter's first solo album in 14 years, marks a most happy comeback. Though he doesn't blow as freely and vigorously as he did for Art Blakey and Miles Davis in the '60s, Shorter plays with a refinement and suppleness that complement his richly harmonic new writing.
Shorter combines his best composing in years with Weather Report-style arrangements. Each tune begins with an attractive melodic theme by Shorter over the assertive jazz-rock groove of the rhythm section. The melody then spreads slowly and inexorably, as Shorter's variations wander ever farther each time before returning to the main theme.
Highlights include the arresting one-bar soprano sax figure of "The Three Marias"; the leisurely, sensual soprano sax/flute duet on "The Last Silk Hat"; the wordless chorale of "Atlantis"; and, best of all, "Who Goes There," which climaxes with Shorter's sax tangents shooting off in all directions.
From earlier in Shorter's career comes the re-release of his long out-of-print 1967 album, "Adam's Apple." On this classic, Shorter opens with a muscular, resonant tone that expands his wonderfully harmonic blues, ballads and bebop. Moreover, he is joined by his then-bandmate in the Miles Davis quintet, pianist Herbie Hancock, who plays with a sensitivity and imagination he's seldom equaled since.
WAYNE SHORTER -- "Atlantis" (Columbia FC40055); "Adam's Apple" (Blue Note 84232); appearing through Sunday at Blues Alley.