Sunday, November 3, 2013

THE WAYNE SHORTER QUARTET FEATURING ESPERANZA SPALDING CONCERT LACKED EXCITEMENT

Saxophonist Wayne Shorter
Saxophonist Wayne Shorter’s Quartet is one of the most significant bands in the history of jazz said Chris Collins Saturday night at Orchestra Hall. Collins, the Artistic Director of the Detroit Jazz Festival, remark was a build up to Shorter’s quartet two hour concert featuring jazz bassist and vocalist Esperanza Spalding with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra conducted by Vince Mendoza. 

Collins is not afraid to put on lavish projects. He deserves credit for dreaming big though some of his projects have been too ambitious. Shorter's concert was not exciting.

It opened with Shorter’s quartet—pianist Danilo Perez, drummer Brian Blade, and bassist John Patitucci—digging in on a number titled “Gaia” that had more movements than a Swiss Army wristwatch. It took the quartet almost 40 minutes to complete. Yes, the quartet is one of the best ever. It is also one of the most self-indulgent. At times, you wonder if the quartet makes music for the populace.

For most of the opening set Perez and Blade shouldered the workload. Blade was the quartet’s workhorse. He was so charged near the end of the “Gaia,” banging away like a lunatic, he nearly fell off his drum stool. Somehow he managed to recover without missing a lick. 

After a 20 minute break, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Esperanza Spalding joined the quartet. Shorter did not give the DSO anything interesting to do. They were like props. 

Spalding  was uninteresting, too. She is a Grammy winner and has been extolled as a game-changer. She is a wizard on the bass. But she did not play it last night. She only sang, and it was hard making out the lyrics. You wonder if it would have been a better concert if the DSO had sat this one out, and if Spalding was not limited to just singing.
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