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Wayne Shorter at Jazz at Lincoln Center

The enigmatic saxman and his virtuosic quartet flow free at Rose Theater

Danilo Pérez (left) and Wayne Shorter at Jazz at Lincoln Center, April 2012
Danilo Pérez, Wayne Shorter and John Patitucci (from left) at Jazz at Lincoln Center, April 2012
The Wayne Shorter Quartet at Jazz at Lincoln Center, April 2012: Danilo Pérez, Shorter, John Patitucci and Brian Blade (from left)

Wayne Shorter’s April 28 appearance at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s spacious, 1,200-seat Rose Theater was greeted by an air of anticipation. For neophytes and members of the subscription audience, it was a chance to lay eyes on a living legend: a former member of the Jazz Messengers during what was arguably its most potent phase, an alumnus of the second great Miles Davis Quintet, and a co-founder of Weather Report, the preeminent fusion band of the ’70s. Truly, there aren’t but a few as iconic as he still walking the earth.

But for the vast majority of this sold-out crowd, which included an inordinate number of working musicians on the New York scene, it was more a thing of, “What’s Wayne up to now?” Given his capacity for change and his mercurial nature-his embrace of static drum programming and slick pop production values on 1986’s Phantom Navigator was as surprising as his return to acoustic jazz on 2002’s Footprints Live!-you never know with “Weird Wayne,” as he was known as a young musician making his way in Newark, N.J. Considering, though, that it had already been announced well in advance that Shorter would be performing with his longstanding quartet of pianist Danilo Pérez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade, the expectation among the cognoscenti was that things would probably flow organically and abstractly, as has been the modus operandi of this remarkably flexible, near-telepathic band for the past 12 years.

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