2008 Copenhagen Jazz Festival
However, when Shorter's group took to the stage and Imani Winds (temporarily) departed, what ensued was an improv-heavy set (featuring the extensive "Zero Gravity" that took up the bulk of the quartet's performance and the Celtic ballad "She Moves Through the Fair" from his Alegria) that left most listeners silent in absolute astonishment, save for the ending uproar of applause and shouts for more. Shorter, so much caught up in the moment during his quartet's set, would noticeably and momentarily pick up either his tenor or soprano, then switch back as if the moment had passed. Now if that isn't being and playing in the moment, I'm not sure what is! There seemed to be no specific direction but every direction the band could and did go. The group was and continues to be so in tune with one another, it's on par with what is commonly associatedif I may make a perhaps not so outlandish comparisonwith the classic John Coltrane Quartet. Perez in particular continues to prove an ideal foil for Shorter (as such was Tyner for Coltrane), providing rhythmic sparks at every given corner and Patitucci and Blade additionally never rested on their laurels. It was musical creation of the highest order.
What makes Shorter's group and its concept so unique, though, is the function and significance of how they individuallyand more importantly as a unitmanipulate space, which became ever more the precious commodity in the collaborative context with Imani Winds. The aspect of spontaneity, another key element to Shorter's quartet, needed a shot in the arm with Imani, as composition overtook and to a large extent replaced improvisation. Shorter actually had a seat as if a sixth member of the Imani Winds and read sheet music of the pieces which included his own "Pegasus" and "Prometheus Unbound," playing rather tamely in comparison to his performance at the helm of his own small ensemble.
Valerie Coleman (flute), who sat directly next to Shorter in the collaborative context, perhaps was the most adept (and certainly most excited) at playing jazz with one of the music's living legends. However Imani left listeners with questions aboundWere they really an appropriate opening band? And of the collaboration, didn't it sound rather forced? Most listeners at concert's end were in agreement that the odd pairing was unsuccessful. The Imani Winds opened the second set by themselves and then again remained onstage in collaboration with Shorter &amp;amp;amp; Co., but in retrospect, a better programming concept may have been for Shorter's group to follow Imani Winds who, if anything, should have been the concert opener with or without the collaborative pieces. As it was, plenty of momentum was lost or, rather, displaced; the Imani Winds seemed to reign in any raw excitement. One problem seemed to be the fact that the voicings weren't textured or layered enough, possibly due to a poor housemix, the group coming off as a new unwieldy, unfocused conglomerate instrument.
Another issue was that they inevitably drowned out Perez' piano contributions, who plays an essential element that Shorter has come to rely on. Perez suddenly took a back seat when the wind quintet performed, as if he were even off-mic. Unlike with the Bley-Osgood concert, this one had some serious peaks but similarly had its fair share of some deep troublesome valleys as well.
A musician who certainly qualifies as a giant of jazz, though not publicized as such under the festival's "Giant Jazz" series banner, is legendary drummer Ed Thigpen. An American expatriate who has recorded over 300 sessionswith a vast array of names ranging from pianist Oscar Peterson (in whose trio he played from '59-'65) and vocalist Dinah Washington to such pioneers as multi-instrumentalist and composer Gil Melle and trombonist Albert MangelsdorffThigpen has resided in Copenhagen since the early '70s and has developed some very musical relationships since. Included would be violinist Svend Asmussen and the late bassist Niels Henning Orsted-Pedersen, not to mention fellow American expatriates like tenor saxophonists Johnny Griffin and Dexter Gordon, and pianists Horace Parlan and Duke Jordan. More recently, however, he has developed some close ties with younger Danish musicians like pianists Carsten Dahl and Kasper Villaume as well as with bassist Jesper Bodilsen, though perhaps none as special as with drummer and former student Osgood.