Monday, June 20, 2005


Wayne Shorter Quartet and Dave Holland Quintet - Carnegie Hall, June 17. Easily the highlight of this year's NYC JVC Jazz Festival - and I don't feel the need to attend all the shows to make that pronouncement. Wayne Shorter's quartet of Danilo Perez, Brian Blades and John Pattitucci are easily the best working band in jazz today (apologies to David S. Ware Quartet) and they've only gotten better since the blistering set I saw at Columbia three years ago. They take the complex abstractions of the Miles band circa Nefretitti and push them even further out. They erase the boundary between heads, solos, riffs, melodies, and grooves. Everyone solos and accompanies simultaneously, fluidly working between adding textures, deepening the groove, pushing the dynamics, puncturing a riff, unfurling a melodic passage. Given the absurdly high quality of the musicanship, the group is surprisingly ego-free. Their playing was all in the service of the music, reacting to the others, finding nuances within each tune, skirting cliched responses. You could feel the band pushing each other. Nobody worried about looking good. The audience didn't applaud individual solos because they were impossible to extricate from the overall musical web. But the tunes still brimmed with drama, building to unexpected climaxes, partially because you never knew where they were going next. Delicate and diffuse one moment, explosive and jagged the next. Wayne's playing was particularly striking - filled with piercing runs, eliptical pauses and odd phrasings that made your short hairs stand on end. And I had forgotten that he's simply one of the best soprano sax players ever. At 72, his playing is more fiery than ever without losing any of his abstract intellect. The spirit of both Miles and Coltrane hangs over this band, but they are blazing their own deeply challenging and quietly radical path. Catch them while you can.


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