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Published: 2003/04/09
by Dave Pernal

Wayne Shorter Quartet, Berklee Performance Center- 4/6

I was particularly excited to be going to this show as it was to be my first time seeing Danilo Perez play. Shorter, Pattitucci, and Blade I had seen before. I went into the Berklee Performance Center with very high expectations, and was not disappointed.

I'll go out on a limb here, and state outright that the Wayne Shorter Quartet is one of the best jazz ensembles out there today. The cohesion between the musicians is unbelievable; it's as if they have been playing together for their entire lives. Shorter, Perez, Pattitucci and Blade are four world-class musicians, and last night's concert was de facto proof.

Last night's show consisted of 4 long jams and one encore. The first song started with some atonal playing, with Shorter blowing some arpeggio-type scales, Perez hammering away on the ivories, and Pattitucci and Blade providing a rock-solid rhythm. To the delight of the audience, Wayne briefly teased the Imperial March from Star Wars, and Brian Blade (who was kept in the dark all night… literally) waved to the crowd from his darkened side of the stage. After a few minutes, the band came into their own, and settled into the melody of the tune. I really wish I could comment more on which songs were played, and how well they were done, but since I'm not all too familiar with the body of Wayne's work, I'll comment more on the music itself, and the musicians who were making it.

Just watching them play together was an experience in itself. There was almost no eye contact made between the musicians, but yet they were as locked into one another as if they were closely following each others' moves. The four would branch out at times, and be playing completely disparate parts, and then on a downbeat, suddenly snap right back into the original melody.

Brian Blade was playing drums like a man possessed. I have never seen someone who is more physically expressive when playing an instrument than he. As he was providing the snappy fills and staccato beats, his body was rocking and swaying to each and every downbeat. Sometimes he'd convulse as he laid down an impossibly arrhythmic drum line, while at other times he'd resemble Ganesha, as his arms would blur and you'd swear he had more than two of them based on the beats he was hammering out.

John Pattitucci still remains one of my favorite bassists. While he is better known for his electric bass playing, he is just as competent on the upright. Whether plucking and strumming, or bowing the notes, his sheer mastery over the instrument is evident. As the backbone of any rhythm section, he's unbelievable, but pair him with a drummer of the caliber of Blade, and you get something that's almost indescribable. He and Blade would lock in on one another, and provide the rhythmic landscape for Perez and Shorter to play over. And Pattitucci is another extremely expressive player, bobbing his head, and almost tangoing with the bass as he rocked and swayed to the rhythm, all the while smiling from ear to ear.

The driving force of the band was definitely the Shorter-Perez contingent. Providing the melodies and the main body of the improvisation, these two stole the show. Listening to perfectly interlaced melodies and themes, and hearing the tones coming out of both of their instruments brought cosmic delight to the sold-out auditorium. I have always been a fan of Shorter, dating back to his days of Weather Report. His chops on the saxophone are almost unequalled by his contemporaries. And as this was my first time seeing Danilo Perez, I was even more taken aback by his playing. Unbelievable.

This show was possibly one of the finest showcases of contemporary jazz artists I have seen. And I seriously hope that these four continue making the wonderful music they they did last night. They are changing the face of jazz. And I like where it's going.

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