Wayne Shorter Quartet – 8:30 pm – Arena
Restless, shifting, falling in and out of melody or recognizable structure, the Wayne Shorter Quartet is at once intellectually demanding and effortlessly engaging. Listening requires a level of concentration rare for a festival setting, but it is impossible to not listen. So while a handful of befuddled souls leave their seats a few minutes into the group’s set, most sit in rapt, almost breathless attention.
There is little to say about Shorter that has not already been said. Suffice to say that on this night he is a man on a mission, making pointed statements on tenor and soprano saxophones, switching between the two repeatedly, combining a stern urgency with a plaintive cry. But he is neither grand nor heated. Rather, he is introspective, thoughtful — searching for something within himself rather than screaming into the night.
Around him, the music melts and rustles in a continuous flow, a single piece lasting — 45 minutes? 50? Danilo Perez is in exceptional form as he navigates an ocean of written charts draped across the top of his piano, stringing together elaborate two-handed clusters of notes, stabbing single-cord interjections and soft rhapsodic interludes. Bassist John Patitucci alternately works with and without his bow, serving as a guiding bridge between the soloists and Brian Blade’s mercurial, cross-hatched webs of shape-shifting rhythm.
It is half an hour before the band settles into anything that feels like a song rather than a movement, and it is gorgeous — a slow, lumbering tune juxtaposing Shorter’s almost-bluesy tenor against mad, ceaseless runs from Perez.
It is a sketch of simple humanity, tossed by a stormy sea.
It is genius.
And in a festival already loaded with outstanding performances, this is the greatest triumph.