This is the best band in the world. That just one man's opinion, but I'm willing to bet that almost every one of the 2.500 people who heard Wayne Shorter, Danilo Perez, John Patitucci, and Brian Blade's concert last night at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival will agree with me. Some of the finest musicians and writers that I know walked out of the auditorium speechless.
Wayne Shorter, Cape Town, 25 March 2011. (All photos copyright John Edwin Mason, 2011. Click on any image to see a larger version.)
It's no surprise, really. Shorter is an acknowledged master. He's been a major force in jazz -- as a composer, as well as a saxophonist -- since the early 1960s, when he joined Miles Davis' band. From that time until today, he's been constantly exploring musical possibilities. He co-founded the seminal jazz-rock fusion group Weather Report, and about ten years ago, formed the quartet that we heard last night. It has him playing with fabulous musicians who just happen to be half his age. Don't worry about the old man. Last night, we heard burst after burst of volcanic creative energy.
John Patitucci, Cape Town, 25 March 2011.
During a press conference on Friday, I asked Patitucci, Perez, and Blade how it felt to play sidemen to a true legend of jazz. Patitucci said, "We're not sidemen, we're family."
After hearing the band, I think I know what he means, at least in part. This band is very much a collaborative enterprise. In this band, there are no cliches -- no playing the head, trading fours, and tinky-tink from the drummer. What we have instead is collective, structured improvization. I'd call it chamber jazz, but there's way to much furious energy coming from the stage for that.
The band, Cape Town, 25 March 2011.
It's worth mentioning that the bass that Patitucci is playing belongs to Basil Moses, one of the finest bassists (and nicest guys) that South Africa has ever produced. The festival has rented his instrument for the last ten years (bassists usually expect to use a borrowed instrument, when they travel overseas). Last year, Basil suffered a terrible stroke and hasn't played since. I saw him the other day, and he's happy to know that his bass is in good -- make that great -- hands.
Danilo Perez, Cape Town, 25 March 2011.
If Shorter was playing with fiery energy, Perez was intense, but relaxed. If he had been painting, he would have been using pastels.
Brian Blade, Cape Town, 25 March 2011.
I last heard Blade play live five or six years ago. He was with Joshua Redman, and it was a terrific concert. For the next few days, I was telling everyone who would listen about the light, melodic textures that Blade was laying down. Last night was different -- very. It was an evening of thunderous explosions. You'd have thought that he was driving the beat in anger, if it hadn't been so beautiful.
The band plays, again, tonight. You can find out more on the festival's website, here.