The road has been well-paved for Wayne Shorter's first studio album in eight years; the sax titan's new Verve set, Footprints Live!, justly earned critical acclaim last year, and a Blue Note two-disc

The road has been well-paved for Wayne Shorter's first studio album in eight years; the sax titan's new Verve set, Footprints Live!, justly earned critical acclaim last year, and a Blue Note two-disc anthology reminded press and public of his ever-influential early work. Alegría features not only the stellar band from the live disc but such guest stars as pianist Brad Mehldau, plus strings and winds. Thoughtfully produced, the album is a richly colored mosaic, ranging from arrangements of a medieval carol and the Celtic standard "She Moves Through the Fair" to fresh takes on past Shorter gems "Angola" and "Orbits." There is one new Shorter tune, the strong, scene-setting "Sacajawea." Undoubtedly the jazz veteran of the hour, Shorter tours with his quartet throughout 2003, including high-profile gigs at Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Bowl.—BB