|Brian Blade, Wayne Shorter, Danilo Perez, John Patitucci|
Several things are apparent when you catch the Wayne Shorter Quartet live. One, the quartet never announces the title of tunes they play, nor in any way do they engage their audience. I’ve caught four of the quartet’s shows in recent years and neither member spoke more than a handful of words to the audience. OK, so Shorter is not a talker nor it seems is drummer Brian Blade, pianist Danilo Perez, and bassist John Patitucci.
One other thing worth noting is some of the music the quartet presents is rather heavily abstract, leaving you wondering if the quartet has a target demographic in mind when they composed their music.
Though the quartet has been together now approaching two decades and has made three excellent albums “Algeria,” “Beyond the Sound Barrier,” and “Without a Net,” the quartet isn’t a swing conscious group as other longstanding groups are, for example, the Branford Marsalis Quartet. Shorter’s music is heady and abstract.
The quartet presented much of that sort of music Friday evening at the Paradise Jazz Series at Detroit’s Orchestra Hall. The first half of the hour-plus set was heavy on abstract music the quartet specializes in. If you had a big meal prior to the concert, you could’ve dozed off during the first half of the show.
The quartet came off during that stretch as a tad self-indulgent. The music was wondrous in spots and melancholic in others. Each member virtuosity was on point. The quartet has a knack for giving the impression of creating precious works of arts on the bandstand right before your eyes.
At 81, Shorter still has an abundance of pep in his playing. He showed that during the second half of the set where the quartet deconstructed a Thelonious Monk number and the quartet surprised the audience by horsing around with a handful of Shorter’s classics.
Shorter let the fellows open up and have a little fun in the second half, particularly Blade, the most animated member of the quartet. Shorter still has one of the greatest minds in jazz. He doesn’t squander notes or grandstand. The quartet is tighter than banjo strings. Surely, some members of the near capacity crowd were disappointed because the quartet didn’t play music from its albums.
You can never bank on anything remotely conventional from the quartet. The Shorter fans and supporters in attendance understand his nature and musical idiosyncrasies and they seem to relish in them.