Home > Events, Reviews > Jazzfest Reviewed #4: The Wayne Shorter Quartet at The Royal

Jazzfest Reviewed #4: The Wayne Shorter Quartet at The Royal

June 28, 2012

There were times last night when I thought the Wayne Shorter Quartet, triggered by Brian Blade on drums, would levitate right through the roof of the Royal and soar into the evening sky.

Blade was that astonishing and they were that good.

Before I say more, a caveat: they weren’t for everybody. The guy beside me, who left early with his partner, held his head sometimes as if in pain.

The dude who thought he was at a rock concert and shouted, “Play Birdland!” was probably disappointed.

One avid jazz fan I know spent the concert making up funny show titles to cope. The one she shared with me was brilliant: “What Fresh Hell Is This?”

But I think it’s safe to say that most of the audience, once they abandoned all expectations of conventional harmonic structure and melody, were dumbstruck.  Evidence: the spontaneous standing ovation and shouts for more that erupted at the end of the 90-minute set.

(Note: this was not one of those obligatory standing O’s, where a few people get up, and others, self-consciously thinking they should join in, rise slowly from their seats. This was instant, explosive, and sustained enough to bring the group back on stage for an encore after a long delay).

I confess, I was one of the shouters.

What triggered my response?

It was the ability of these great musicians to create in the moment with pure abandon.

To play as if the pages of their charts were filled with questions.

To play as if they were blank.

To experiment and stumble only to rise on a wave of exalted improvisation.

To perform as if they were discovering music for the first time.

To know where they were going but not know.

To play with deep beauty.

To dare to play with chaos.

To be so fully attuned to each other that at times they were one musician not four.

To spin off into four separate worlds and then awake to each other and come together once again.

To play with humour.

To be deeply serious.

To answer the Birdland dude with the most hesitant and unpracticed of beginnings. (I love it that Shorter felt free enough to make the warming up and tuning of his sax part of the music).

To go crazy (witness Blade leaping off his stool and laughing as he drummed like a madman while John Patitucci’s right hand became a blurr on his upright bass).

To be still and silent and play little or nothing at all.

To love what they were doing so much that it didn’t matter what they were doing.

To play until they could play no more.

Watching these guys was like watching a painting come to life:

Danilo Perez on the grand piano stage right peering at the charts and then looking at the others intently as he sent single notes or extended chords their way and waited for a reaction.

Shorter, standing casually beside the piano in his Indian-style kurta, playing one phrase on his soprano sax and then, enough said, putting it down.

Patitucci swaying and twisting with his bass in the wind of Blade’s drumming.

Blade, stage left, exploding into the most impossible of drum riffs and then settling quietly into the tinkling of a few bells.

This was art, not entertainment.

In its own way the Wayne Shorter Quartet did rise into the night sky.

For those who missed it, here’s a taste from a concert in Vienna:

  1. Rick Gibbs
    June 28, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    Thanks for the comment, David. It was a pretty awesome show.

  2. David Lennam
    June 28, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    Nicely said about Shorter. I was there. Who was the dunce who shouted “Birdland”? Did he mean to say “Free Bird”? Loved how Perez then riffed on “Birdland” during the “warm up”. I think you captured it well here. Very well. I felt the same emotions. Brilliant. Hair-on-back-of-neck-standing-up brilliant. The whole thing was surreal.

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