December 2008

The Wayne Shorter Quartet
December 5, 2008 Massey Hall Toronto
The sublime subtlety of a giant misnamed ‘Shorter’.
by Aline Badr
Picture this: on a green field of grass, a father throws a balloon up in the air while his three kids insistently nudge it, pass it around, laughing and giggling as their dad looks on and pushes the balloon further for his kids to jump higher and keep the balloon aloft.

The grass may not have been green on that cold December night, but this was the scene at Toronto’s Massey Hall when the legendary saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter shared the stage with pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade.

Since the 1960s, Shorter has contributed to the enormous success of well-known bands such as Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Miles Davis’ second Quintet and the fusion band Weather Report, but not until the year 2000 has Shorter led his own band, the Wayne Shorter Quartet.

No one would argue that few musicians have had the impact Shorter has on Jazz, whether as a composer or saxophonist, which is why you would expect or even allow the man some self-indulgence. Quite to the contrary. It was astounding how unassuming and subtle this giant, misnamed ‘Shorter’, in fact was.

Shorter’s minimalist presence on stage was indeed sublime. His sense of humour was notable in many instances as he occasionally appeared startled by his own sound or that of each member of his band, or as he picked up his mouth piece and dropped it a few times, incorporating the sound harmoniously into the tune, “Prometheus Unbound”. Perhaps this wasn’t humour but rather his remarkable humble ability to be fully and easily engaged in the moment. His generosity and quiet confidence were evident as he gave room for Perez, Patitucci and Blade to shine individually in this magical and dense bubble he had created, filled with palpable energy that kept all of us in attendance, aloft.

The concert was expressed in free flowing obscurities and an improvisational style synonymous with Shorter. Perez, Patitucci and Blade played with ferocious hunger, which Shorter encouraged. To say that Blade was possessed is an understatement. He moved with incredible agility and suppleness appearing almost snake-like, with every limb of his body giving into a remarkable power to make the most explosive of sounds. Patitucci's sensitivity and tone in his bass playing enhanced the music’s shape and Perez added to the charm of the night with his insightful and innovative treatments to the rhythm.

Wayne Shorte
The Quartet mostly played tunes from their records Alegría released in 2003 and Beyond the Sound Barrier in 2005. Their compositions start with a minimal theme. Shorter plays hard, slowly building the momentum for the tunes to perpetually contort themselves by the unrelenting force of his band members and eventually generate an explosive release. Throughout the concert, the band didn’t stop between songs, making each tune flow into the other with insistent nudging and consistent creativity, producing a sublime level of elation, even euphoria.

It was when they played a familiar tune that I felt myself return to semi-consciousness, when I heard my friend reiterate in my ear what I had already sensed. How incredible that a tune as old as “Footprints” can sound as fresh as it did. Perhaps this is why Jazz is as wonderful as it is, or that Shorter is as brilliant as he is.

It is as if Shorter started a conversation on stage that night. An exchange that was exuberant and meditative, witty and introspective, joyous and melancholic. It was also full of laughter and support. It was inspiring, engaging, full of passion and ultimately profound.

It was Jazz of the highest order; and it breathed every fiber of life. And it reminded me of a quote I recently found by Miles Davis that best describes the authenticity of Wayne Shorter: “I am not what I do, I do what I am.”

We welcome your comments and feedback
Aline Badr
• • • • • •
The Live Music Report
• •

| Home | Archives | CD Reviews | Photo Galleries | Concert Listings | Contact |

Please contact us to secure permission for use of any material found on this website.
© The Live Music Report – 2008