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Wayne Shorter Quartet: Beyond the Sound Barrier

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Beyond the Sound Barrier picks up where its predecessor left off: It’s another compilation of concert recordings from the band’s extensive travels. But where the epochal Footprints-Live! raided the classic Shorter catalog for material, this album sprinkles in several new tunes. They tend toward a mysterious rippling quality that justifies long and cosmic titles. The best of the bunch is the title track, which spins a seductive ostinato into a vast and mysterious koan.

It’s impossible to talk about these songs without mentioning the interpretive actions of the band. Shorter’s soprano and tenor saxophones are bright and bracing as always, whether they’re serving as the focal point or as ornamental filigree. Bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade manage the tricky task of abstracting tonality and rhythm without forsaking earthly roots. And pianist Danilo Perez provides both gossamer harmonics and punchy accents. But the musicians’ individual contributions are inextricable from the ensemble whole. There’s a magic moment on “Over Shadow Hill Way” where Perez and Blade hit an unlikely accent in unison, and react with audible surprise. Similarly, near the end of “Joy Ryder,” a rhythmic peek-a-boo actually causes a slip-up-which serves as a humanizing gesture.

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