Thursday, February 10, 2011
The Wayne Shorter Quartet: On the tightrope at Town Hall
Here is my review of the Wayne Shorter Quartet's show at Town Hall tonight. I can't stress how fresh this band sounded. The show was even more of a tightrope walk than I'd expected from the very-spontaneous records. The sidemen were virtuosic, yes, but their creations were non-slick, non–taken-for-granted. No coasting and with the seams showing. Very little meandering either, despite the fact that there wasn't much in the way of clear thematic material. (Each player had a lengthy score, but I'm pretty sure it was new material; I didn't positively I.D. any vintage compositions, though I could've sworn I heard a riff on "Directions." Anyone know if that tune is by Miles or Wayne?) As I noted in the review above, there really weren't any proper solos—it was all just playing, the musicians orbiting and swapping roles like parts of a mobile. It was all totally free yet not Free Jazz, not any definable subgenre or convention—just ultra-attuned improvisation, with a keen ear for pacing and subtlety and just enough form, though never sturdily locked in, always seeping, blurring, enigmatizing. And Wayne, a force of pure magnetic mystery, whether or not he was blowing. It's impossible to tell what he's thinking or what he's going to do, what tiny detail he's heard that's made him do a little shimmy or slash at the air or grimace mischievously. This was definitely one of the most vital, in-the-moment performances I've ever seen from a jazz elder.