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DVD Review: The Language of the Unknown

Wayne Shorter concert and documentary

Wayne Shorter

About half an hour into this roughly 90-minute concert by the Wayne Shorter Quartet, filmed in Paris in 2012, the bandleader suddenly glances over at drummer Brian Blade, who appears to be having the time of his life. Shorter stops playing his soprano saxophone, closes his eyes, takes a breath that’s more meditation than exhaustion, then rolls up his sleeves. He’s ready for more. With bassist John Patitucci playing alternately fierce and placid arco, Blade skipping merrily through a rack of shimmery percussion and pianist Danilo Pérez mechanically repeating a theme, Shorter shakes his left hand as if eliminating excess sweat, places his fingers back on his instrument and blows the sweetest, most pastoral soprano sax solo you’ve ever heard.

This all occurs as the quartet, filmed largely in closeup shots at Salle Pleyel, is transitioning from an epic “Zero Gravity/Lotus” into “Prometheus Unbound,” a piece that Shorter has, in recent years, been performing with orchestras. They don’t need the ancillary instrumentation: The composition’s grandeur comes through just as convincingly without it, and remains in place throughout the rest of the performance-in “Starry Night,” another near-half-hour specimen of exploration at its most golden, and “Joy Ryder,” the all-too-brief show-closing bit that allows each musician to get as batty as he wants to get.

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Originally Published

Jeff Tamarkin

Jeff Tamarkin on social media

Jeff Tamarkin is the former editor of Goldmine, CMJ, Relix, and Global Rhythm. As a writer he has contributed to the New York Daily News, JazzTimes, Boston Phoenix, Harp, Mojo, Newsday, Billboard, and many other publications. He is the author of the book Got a Revolution: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane and has contributed to The Guinness Companion to Popular Music, All Music Guide, and several other encyclopedias. He has also served as a consultant to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, NARAS, National Geographic Online, and Music Club Records.