Montreal Jazz Festival: Day 2, Friday, June 29th, 2007
Waking up this morning, it was hard to believe that Day 2 could match the brilliance of the festival opener. But glancing over the schedule, it certainly had a fighting chance. With the Wayne Shorter Quartet first up to the plate, momentum would no doubt be gathered in bunches. From there, however, it was anybody's guess. Argentinean-born local guitarist Jorge Martinez seemed like a good bet, what with all the attention he's garnered from both jazzfest organizers and the Montreal media. Then, to end the evening, was trumpeter Erik Truffaza known commodity on the international jazz scene, but as yet unproven to the ears of this particular music lover.
It could go either way.
The atmosphere surrounding the Wayne Shorter Quartet's appearance at Théâtre Maisonneuve this evening was positively electric. One of the hottest tickets on the grid, those lucky few who pinned down a seat were certain they had scored a can't-miss. And with the addition of a special guest, the classical quintet Imani Winds, it seemed entirely possible that something more-than-memorable could unfold.
L-R: Danilo Perez, John Patitucci, Wayne Shorter
For the first part of the program, the Imani Winds took the stage alone. They opened with an impressively orchestrated take on Mongo Santamaria's "Afro Blue the melody jockeying from flute to oboe to clarinet, bassoon and french horn: lilting and ambling to the crowd's delight. With butterflies out of the way, the ensemble then went on to perform "Terra Incognita , a composition commissioned for them by Shorter in 2006- his first ever for classical artists. Long and robust, the piece evoked images and scenes as a film score or symphony would. It ebbed and flowed, laid back and bounced, and finally it ended with a gentle petering of notes. Shorter joined them as the artists took their bows, to huge applause and sighs of wonder.
Then the Quartet took the stage. As usual, Shorter was backed by Danilo Perez on piano, John Patitucci on bass, and the incomparable Brian Blade on drums. As the band made its last few adjustments, the audience shuffling with bated breath, Shorter leaned into the center mic and announced, "This is called 'Zero Gravity'.
And zero gravity it was... For the next 30 minutes, the band made its way through a composition that seemed more like a series of interspersed rhythms and loosely woven melodies than a song. At points along the way, Shorter would lay his sax aside and gently whistle like wind into the mic. As in outer space, the ground beneath them seemed a distant memory. Drums went one way, bass another, while Perez and Shorter strung licks and lines in compliment. Occasionally, the four pieces would float back together for a short time, only to then glide into the ether once more.
The audience was puzzled. Those willing to open themselves to the journey found the experience nothing short of exhilarating, while the more rigid were left with furrowed brows and discomfort. To be sure, the music fell squarely in the realm of the unforeseen.
Finally, as the piece found its end, the crowd began to applaud, cautiously at first, unsure that it was over. Sensing the uncertainty, Shorter leaned back into the mic and said, "I think eventually people are going to evolve to the point where they won't have to take 'The Unexpected 101' in college. Scattered laughter filled the room. "They'll just deal with it!
"Amen", went the cries of his loudest supporters. Shorter had done it again. As he has throughout his illustrious carrer, he'd taken the expectations of an admiring crowd, torn them to bits, and fashioned something completely unanticipated with the remains.
As the Imani Winds were called back out to join the band, those less inclined to the 'zero gravity' experience shuffled to the doors. For a few briefs moments, discomfort returned. But as the musicians struck into their next number, it was clear that there much more excitement ahead. Now that the fat had been cut- the bad energy of those unwilling to part with rigid expectationShorter and company could get back down to business.
And a fine business it was. By the end of the concert, the audience that remained had been treated to an unforgettable show. Classic Wayne Shorter, from start to finish...
With nearly two hours before the next ticketed show, there was time at last to take in some of the music on the free stages. As the day's sun turned to cloud, it seemed all the more appropriate to poke one's head into the SIMMM guitar tent at the eastern edge of the festival village. There, scheduled between 8 and 9pm, were the flamenco strums of Jorge Martineza guitar whiz who'd relocated from Argentina to Montreal some nine years ago.