I will confess that I wasn’t in much of a hurry to see Wayne Shorter really. In fact I was a little late. It was a bit of a sense of duty, and a bit of a sense of what if there isn’t another time, which is sad in itself as time is running out on the greats of jazz.
There were reasons for my reticence. First and foremost, I have never been so much of a fan. By that I mean I have been, but not as much as people say you ought to be. Yes, I think Speak No Evil is a great Blue Note album but it isn’t one of my favourites. I think I find it a little too “in” for the period he played in or something. There are others I cared for more. And yes, he's an amazing composer. Footprints (just for one) will live forever. He's just not my favourite composer. It’s a little academic, and a little precise for my ears.
Second, the combination of Vivid plus the Melbourne Jazz festival has been good for jazz but these days the names are names and what they play is a lesser attraction. Sonny Rollins and Pharoah Sanders were both great in their way. But it wasn’t The Bridge or Thembi. Gary Bartz played for Coltrane, not the NTU tribe I listen to more now. There’s no reason that it should be, except that’s what I would like to see but, having said that, back in 1973 really, not recreated now.
So I expected Wayne to be good but not great and I didn’t hurry. But what came was great, not good. 4 (I think) or 5 long pieces on which Wayne didn’t play so much, but what he played was superb. There’s a lot to be said for Miles’ idea “it's what you don’t play”, and probably Wayne was in a good place to learn that. A little soprano, a lot of tenor. That strangely sandy tone superbly appropriate. He nudged the band along, but they didn’t take much prompting. The explosive drums of Brian Blade told us over and again that the world’s best drummer was there, and Patitucci on stand up bass was a revelation. In one beautiful moment he bowed against Wayne’s blowing, and time stood still. Danilo Perez comped like a star, led beautifully, and used his piano as an instrument, reaching inside to pluck the strings. At the end they stood together – a group – clearly elated at the music they’d made. It seemed to me they saw it as a tribute to Wayne to play so well, it came across that way.
There is a difference between good music, and great music and you know it when you hear it. But this was astral travelling, the music of the Gods. And for a month you can hear it again HERE and every time you listen you'll hear something more. It’s as good a reason as any to pay your tax.
So I was glad I went to see Wayne Shorter. Even at 5 o’clock which is not a “jazz time”. I will remember it for a while, and maybe forever.
[on the off chance you might fancy a bit more Wayne, this is a good list and the same site offers a similar list on Weather Report. But this didn’t convince me half as much as the set above does]