Wayne Shorter Quartet

Concert Hall, June 13


Wayne Shorter Quartet
Photo: Daniel Boud.

This was exhilarating and tinged with greatness. The Wayne Shorter Quartet has been together 16 years, and its unique approach to jazz has developed further since its 2010 visit; grown farther from its antecedents, whether they be Shorter’s own projects (including Weather Report), his association with Miles Davis or others entirely.

Six years ago collective improvisation already predominated over soloing, and that now became a musical world of shifting foregrounds as ephemeral as sandcastles on a beach. Simultaneously the statement of rhythm has become more oblique, so that when there was a regular pulse pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade delighted in dancing around it rather than stating it.

At 82 Shorter now sat to blow his saxophones, although he probably actually played more than last time. His tenor was generally breathy, sand-blasted and restrained, with occasional eruptions of the brawny, restless sound of yore, while his soprano was fiercer and harder-edged, and yet also more lyrical.

Again Shorter presented lengthy suite-like pieces without verbal introduction, many of which seemed to be new works from this man who is arguably jazz’s most significant living composer. Often Perez furnished the glorious architecture that the others embellished. When Shorter played tenor this was windswept music: almost bleak, yet eerily beautiful. When he was on soprano the energy and drama compounded, until his lines were like tracer fire racing across the sky, infinitely brighter than any Vivid lights, with Blade detonating shattering blasts of drums and cymbals, sometimes at the least expected places. If Perez provided the elegant spine, Patitucci added the flesh and muscle, his arco playing as magnificent as any you will hear in jazz.

Shorter and company have moved far beyond hackneyed conventions to a higher plane; to essences far removed from idle displays. There they make art that is rarefied yet intensely human; often minimalist, yet capable of arching up to almost frightening peaks. And for once the sound mix was every bit as good as the music.