WAYNE SHORTER | London, Barbican

Wayne Shorter has seen and played it all. Fellow jazz superstars and friends have come and gone, but he has remained a constant in world-class jazz for over 50 years. When you combine this pedigree with that of John Patitucci (double bass), Danilo Perez (piano) and Brian Blade (drums), the result is a true blessing that jazz aficionados simply cannot afford to miss. This calibre can sometimes result in indulgent performances from other musicians, but Wayne is not one to rest on his laurels. Every concert is a new adventure – an opportunity to explore and experiment. The music had humour in all the right places and old friends shared looks and smiles, enjoying each other’s musical celebrations.

The first through-composition was adventurous and symphonic, seamlessly blending between movements. It’s a wonder how the performers were so perfectly in sync and yet were each afforded an absolute freedom to go in whichever direction they desired. Not a word was spoken, but all were in conversation, providing space for each to say their piece and then coming together to mark the start of each new idea. Danilo Perez played the unsung hero, using some form of black magic to glue everything together and keeping everything moving.

This quartet don’t need to go a million mph or overplay to impress. Each note has decades of experience behind it and Wayne’s sound is still as distinctive as ever. Things certainly sped up towards the later half, however, proving that age has done nothing to diminish the dexterity and technique of these players. As the tempo increased, Brian Blade was given the opportunity to shine, having previously chosen a lighter more decorative style of playing. The only visual cues that a few years have past were Wayne’s annoyed glances at his hand, implying it may have been causing some issues. It was impossible to hear any impact of this on his playing, however.

To finish the evening, the 10-piece wind orchestra LutosAir Quintet+ joined the stage to perform a newly-commissioned original composition. The result was rich and cinematic textures that sounded like a natural extension of Wayne’s own playing. The piece is a triumph and provided huge amounts of depth and substance in its orchestration. Any fan of Wayne’s recent work would not be disappointed. Overall, the performance was the perfect end to the 10-day EFG London Jazz Festival.

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