Concert review: Wayne Shorter Quartet

The Barbican, London, England
Reviewed by JJ Wheeler

Three standing ovations and two encores probably says it all, especially when a large percentage of the sold-out Barbican audience consisted of a who’s who not only of British jazz, but in fact the European scene. Looking around I was catching sight of musicians from all generations; Mark Lockheart, Marius Neset, Jim Hart, Calum Gourlay, Josh Blackmore all included. Add to this, scores of adoring jazz fans and students from the various London college jazz programmes, the atmosphere was ripe with expectation.

And boy, did Shorter et al deliver. Anyone who has experienced the current incarnation of Wayne Shorter’s music will know that it is truly never the same from night to night. An avid film buff, Shorter’s compositions must be like a script where only the lines of most significance appear, the page blank in-between, waiting for a new story to be dreamed up every time the performers enter the stage.

Brian Blade, like the hyperactive child, seems only too excited by the prospect of every twist and turn, exclaiming with glee and sucking in deep breaths at moments of tension that create the most extreme of dynamic ranges on the drum kit.

Meanwhile, John Patitucci (the middle child) enjoys provoking Blade, sending irresistible jabs and subtle hints of rhythmic ideas his way to play off. From a safe distance Danilo Perez (the eldest child) sets up the mood with his catchy Panamanic grooves at one point, then high pitched clusters of notes screaming rage the next, before gently winding down the tension with long, legato sweeps of notes.

Yet in all of this dramatic build-up of tension and release there seems to be one constant that possibly explains the superhuman level of interaction on display: space.

Each musician knows how, when and where to leave space for another to play, allowing each other to have their say, to make their input into the music.

None typifies this more than the father himself, Wayne Shorter. More often seen leaning back into the piano than with the horn at his mouth, he listens, contemplates, listens some more, then steps in at the opportune moment, gently guiding the music into the next area. He seems to enjoy watching his children at play more than dominating proceedings, only intervening to enhance their experience (and, of course, the audience’s).

By the end, the concert hall was buzzing. The band were obviously enjoying themselves as Blade misses a hit and Patitucci cracks up at Shorter’s whistling, but it all seems part of the harmony of the group that entices the observer into the action. There’s something special about this band, something unique. And yet, everyone’s invited.

Categories: Live review

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