Wayne Shorter Quartet, Barbican | reviews, news & interviews
Wayne Shorter Quartet, Barbican
Wayne Shorter Quartet, Barbican
Legendary saxophonist in autumnal mood, but as brilliant and inventive as ever
Wayne Shorter's current band do strange things with time - it seems to stretch and bend like in some subatomic experiment featuring rogue neutrinos. Their nifty time signatures would fuse any computer. The nature of the music itself seems outside time, both echoing that modern jazz annus mirabilis 1959 and being futuristic at the same time.
Shorter enjoys quoting his old cohort Miles Davis’s more enigmatic comments like, “Do you ever get fed up of making music that sounds like music?” What Shorter and his band do is at any rate not like anyone else’s music – they use a huge palette of colours, shiveringly chromatic, atonal and rough at times – at others sweet and mournful, notably when Shorter plays his soprano sax as though summoning up the spirit world.
Shorter's instrumental contributions to key bands like Miles Davis’s, Art Blakey’s and Weather Report would be enough to give him legendary status in jazz circles, but much more than that, he is probably the most consistently creative composer in jazz. Many of Miles’s best-known tunes were by him, like "Prince of Darkness", "ESP", "Footprints", "Sanctuary" and "Nefertiti", and he has been composing prolifically ever since.
Although he's 78, last night’s sold-out concert was all new material, to me anyway, except for what sounded like a version of “Atlantis” as an encore and a quote from Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme”. At that age, you might be expecting some diminution of powers, but the clarity and range of his sax playing is as forceful as ever. Perhaps, though, from the off there was a more autumnal, wistful feel to the concert than other times I’ve seen him.
Reading about Steve Jobs this week and his abilities, according to co-workers, to create a “Reality Distortion Field” where his audience would be convinced of what he was saying, however outlandish, Shorter used to have a similar, more dominating, charismatic presence than was in evidence last night. But the more introspective Shorter was equally devasting.
The first number, which clocked in at an album's length 40-odd minutes but seemed to pass in a flash, was as much a classical as a jazz piece. The piece mixed evanescent beauty, and more violent storms, with grooves occasionally spotted hoving into view but never exactly arriving.
His band were as tight as you might expect as they know each other so well by now – he has kept the same quartet since the millennium, all of whom played dynamically, with lots of light and shade. Drummer Brian Blade ranged from skitterish to muscular, Danilo Perez's piano went from pretty to vicious, while the relatively self-effacing bassist John Patitucci held it all together. Shorter meanwhile floated on top with some intensely melodic sax lines, added rhythm and more abstract improvisations.
As band leader, Shorter performed like a man who has nothing to prove; every night as he tries (and succeeds) to reinvent invigoratingly fresh new music, his main competition is himself.
Watch the Wayne Shorter Quartet perform "Joy Rider"
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