Friday, April 9, 2010

Wayne SHORTER - Beyond the Sound Barrier 2005

Wayne SHORTER - Beyond the Sound Barrier 2005


Recorded live on three different continents (Europe, America, and Asia) from 2002-2004, Beyond the Sound Barrier finds Wayne Shorter leading the same acoustic-oriented post-bop quartet he led on his 2001 recording, Footprints Live!; the veteran tenor and soprano saxophonist is joined by pianist Danilo Pérez, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Brian Blade. But if Beyond the Sound Barrier should be considered a sequel to Footprints Live!, it is far from a carbon copy. While Footprints Live! contained several Shorter pieces that have become jazz standards (including "Atlantis," "Footprints," and "Juju"), Beyond the Sound Barrier places more emphasis on new material. Half of the eight selections are new, and the rest of the CD ranges from Arthur Penn's "Smilin' Through" (the theme from the 1941 movie) to two pieces from Shorter's Joy Ryder album of 1988: "Over Shadow Hill Way" and that album's title track. No one will accuse Beyond the Sound Barrier of being standards-oriented, and the quartet doesn't go out of its way to be accessible; this is definitely one of Shorter's more cerebral releases. But the material is rewarding if one is broad-minded enough to appreciate Shorter and his younger colleagues at their most intellectual, and the audiences' enthusiastic applause -- not just polite applause, but enthusiastic applause -- indicates that they have no problem comprehending all the abstraction and angularity that is taking place. Beyond the Sound Barrier falls short of essential, but it's a solid demonstration of the fact that Shorter -- who was in his late sixties and early seventies when these performances were recorded -- wasn't afraid to be challenging and keep taking chances in the early 2000s.
By Alex Henderson, All Music Guide.
The Wayne Shorter recordings I know the best are from the 1960s: his sessions as leader or as sideman with Art Blakey and Miles Davis. From the 1970s I know a certain amount of his Weather Report stuff, but then there is a gap - in fact, two and a half decades from which I've heard lots of bits and pieces but don't know any of his albums that well. This album is a series of live recordings made between late 2002 and early 2004 - but always with the same band. Comparing it to Shorter's earlier work I find it fascinating for two reasons. i) As a tenor playing Shorter used to be in thrall to John Coltrane - the Coltrane of the early 1960s; as Coltrane developed Shorter continued to be influenced by him without following his direction - he was able to mold the different Coltrane phases into his own style. Then when he took up the soprano sax in the late 1960s he played with a very different sensibility. Now the soprano is his dominant instrument and even when he plays tenor it sounds as though he has adapted his soprano playing to the bigger instrument. It is light, melodic, skipping - Shorter now sounds closer to Stan Getz (I'm not claiming Shorter has become a Getzian, just that there is a certain shared temperament). ii) When he began jazz was played in clubs where listening to the music went along side eating, drinking, talking, making out, getting high – now Shorter plays at the Royal Festival Hall or the Barbican Centre (at least when he performs in London): jazz is now much, much more respectable. And to suit this new seriousness Shorter’s compositions are much more complex: there is no longer the theme followed by a series of improvisations, the musicians taking their turn: everything is integrated into a much more complex whole. This is even true of Smilin’ Through, a simple song that dates from just after World War I. As I take complexity to be a good thing this should be a positive – and it is, but I have some reservations. If a piece of music is like a story, then Shorter is now using more intricate ways of telling his stories: but in itself that doesn’t mean that the stories are necessarily more interesting. I recently saw the film La Vie du Rose: it told its story, the life of Edith Piaf, in a formally complex way, constantly moving through time, cutting between Piaf’s late years and earlier years – and yet the film was a bit dull, while its narrative might have been complex everything else about it was predictable and the juggling with time seemed to be a way of disguising its fundamental dullness. One form of complexity can’t make up for the loss of other sorts. The Shorter compositions on this album aren’t dull, but with the greater control of the music, with the formal cleverness, there are losses – and the question is whether the losses are greater than the gains. Because everything is much more integrated into a whole, one of the main losses is the tension between the individual improvisers and the unit/the song/the arrangement, which has always been one of the major fascinations of jazz. The three other musicians on this album – Danilo Perez, John Pattucci and Brain Blade – are all very good (and I will emphasize how good Blade is because I have been down on him in some other reviews), but I find it difficult to pin down who they are: they skip from style to style with superb professionalism, but the more I hear the less I am able to distinguish a real core to their music. Does this matter? Am I just presuming that jazz should be one sort of music and therefore I am suspicious of anything new or innovative? Possibly. But while admiring this music I finally find it very tame, it lacks a certain dynamism: it’s all a bit too knowing, too self-conscious: everything seems to have been planned out and the performances just follow the blueprints.
Beyond the Sound Barrier is yet another conspicuous step forward in Shorter's long and fruitful career. Like its predecessor, it's a live album. It's the same band, but this time, the emphasis is on new compositions, with the exception of Over Shadow Hill Way and Joy Ryder, which first appeared on the album Joy Ryder. The newest adaptation of classical music is On The Wings Of Song ("Auf den Flügeln des Gesanges") by Felix Mendelsohn-Bartholdy, which is completely deconstructed of course.
Danilo Pérez, John Patitucci, Brian Blade and Shorter are a well-balanced and courageous ensemble. No one eclipses the other. They listen well to each other, they avoid redundancy. They dare and they win. They are now one of the best Jazz ensembles working today.
John Patitucci- (Bass),
Wayne Shorter- (Tenor, Saprano Sax),
Danilo Perez- (Piano),
Brian Blade- (Drums).
01. Smilin' Through  11:53
02. As Far as the Eye Can See  6:29
03. On Wings of Song  4:35
04. Tinker Bell  1:59
05. Joy Rider  11:20
06. Over Shadow Hill Way  12:34
07. Adventures Aboard the Golden Mean  6:04
08. Beyond the Sound Barrier  6:25


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