Veteran saxophonist Shorter goes back to his acoustic roots in this freewheeling live...
John Eyles 2002
Despite his exalted status and guaranteed place in jazz history, when Wayne Shorter put this quartet together and embarked on a tour last year, the jazz community held its collective breath.
For the first time since the late 60s, since before In a Silent Way, before Weather Report - Shorter seemed interested in acoustic jazz again. The personnel was first rate; Danilo Perez on piano, John Patitucci on bass and Brian Blade on drums are young but very experienced, each a leader in his own right. But could the quartet live up to the sky-high expectations of it? Lets face it; over the years there have been too many false dawns with Shorter, too many disappointingly lacklustre albums.
Thankfully, this is where Shorter finally delivers. It is his first live album, and it captures the intense creativity of a band on tour, that's played-in and enjoying each others company. This is a real quartet album, with each of the four playing at his best, and vital to its success.
The three younger men are a powerhouse, and their energy brings out the best in Shorter. (From the quartets London date last autumn, I vividly remember Blade's intense focus on the leader, seemingly willing him to perform).
Shorter plays tenor far more than soprano, and reels off solo after solo that re-emphasise why he is special. His rather dry tone is instantly recognisable; his phrasing is uniquely his own, often unpredictable or quirky but with its own irrefutable logic when taken in context. Most importantly, Shorter is not just going through the motions; he is engaged, focussed and at his most creative.
Material spans Shorter's career; "JuJu", "Footprints", "Sanctuary" from Bitches Brew, "Masquelero" from Sorcerer, "Aung San Suu Kyi" from his duo album with Herbie Hancock reinforcing what a major jazz composer he is.
Footprints Live! is so good that it might even be time for us to forgive Shorter for the Atlantis album. Highly recommended (and its a long time since I said that about a Shorter album!).