So, Wayne Shorter remembers how he’d step up to the mic and the rhythm section — that’s Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on bass, Tony Williams on drums — would mostly or even almost wholly drop out, leaving him hanging, as we say today. And that was partially provocation — “Can you do it?” And partly its opposite — “We trust you to do it. We wouldn’t leave you hanging, if we didn’t know you could swing.” And so the five men caper across the then-mid-Miles catalog, waving cursorily at head melodies, Williams’s bottomless all-of-six-piece set collapsing time into half time, afterburning half time into double time, roaring like a logic storm presented with the problem of a farmhouse.
The lights are low. The images on the walls, and a few laid across display tables, emerge from the sinister darkness. And “Exile On Main Street,” possibly the greatest album from the band being feted in these photos, plays on a loop. Oozy murk supporting distant, plaintive vocals recorded seemingly in a next-door snoozing abattoir, soul and country and gospel sung neck-deep in a factory-runoff river teeming with snapping turtles and cracked Jack Daniels glass, it remains some of the toughest and least-scrutable rock and roll ever made. This new exhibit at Experience Music Project, “The Rolling Stones 1972, Photographs by Jim Marshall,” gives us the most comprehensive visual record of the group at the time. The exhibit runs through Jan. 6, 2013.