Could saxophonist Wayne Shorter have known that the songs he wrote and recorded back in the '60s would be fresher than ever over 30 years later? Of course not, but he cranks them out on his new disc Footprints Live!
with confident, fresh, Scope-tinged breath. Perhaps the jazz icon didn't realize how timeless his tunes would be, but he knew he'd never lose his cool.
Last year Shorter put together a group of fine musicians - pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Brian Blade - a group that resulted in Shorter's first-ever live recording. Give Footprints Live!a spin and get a taste of the juicy, ripe fruit of this acoustic quartet. Fearless leaps toward the next sonic apex keep the players in unconflicting paths to a metaphysical freedom. Blade can feel it and he's not afraid to express it with frequent whoops and "whoas," and percussive outbursts.
But Footprints Live!isn't all jubilance and joy. Shorter gets real solemn sometimes, in that soft, beau-tiful way he lets the notes linger like incense smoke in the sweet air. And the way Perez shimmers around the sax sounds, on moments like the end of "Footprints," is forlorn gorgeousness redefined. The creativity and spontaneous spirit of the group recalls the Miles Davis Quintet that Shorter played with in the late '60s. Polyphonic confluence on songs like "Masquelero" and "JuJu" level into sultry, gaze-inducing rhythms. These songs are sensual in ways that only the taste buds would know. Shorter and Perez’ interplay is like seltzer clear and effervescent. Patitucci's dynamite bass solos ascend into sheer exuberance. With a naked, flung into the wind way, these musicians express themselves completely, and their unrestrained nature creates constant inspiration. Each moment on Footprints Live! seems new, and the genre known as jazz rejuvenates itself once again.
This review first appeared in the June 2002 issue of All About Jazz: New York .
Personnel: Wayne Shorter, tenor and soprano saxophone; Danilo Perez, piano; John Patitucci, bass; Brian Blade, drums