Gent Jazz Festival 2008: Days 1-4
The final stretch is devoted to some of the globe's finest saxophonists. First, Saxophone Summit unites a front-line of Joe Lovano, Dave Liebman and Ravi Coltrane, the latter having the difficult job of replacing a departed Michael Brecker. Some folks might assume that this aggregation is a summer festival dollar- spinner, and I suppose that, realistically, there is some cash involved. Listening to the hornmen's rapport will confirm that this is also a convincing artistic endeavour, particularly with Liebman at the conceptual helm (it's he who appears to be the dominant onstage strategist). This band goes well beyond the saxophone: its tonal spread is widened by various permutations of flutes and bass clarinet, so that the palette is ever- shifting in its emphasis. The soloists are battling with each other, but in the themed sections harmony is paramount. The solos are extended, but filled with development. In the end, all three are nearly equal, but Liebman is off in the heavens, always striving for fleeter and more spiraled lines.
Wayne Shorter is more of an introvert, dedicated to the intuitive closeness of his regular quartet. This doesn't mean that he's any less involved. Shorter's tenor journey is the focus here, with less soprano flight than usual, but he's constantly working, interlacing betwixt his bandmates, with soloing roles never so fixed. Shorter has the blowing stamina of a much younger man, and indeed appears much younger than his seventy-four years. Pianist Danilo Perez is a strong foil, playing with a rabidly humorous hyperactivity. The foursome can wander interminably, never catching on to a groove of abstraction. Their methods sound completely unlike those of any other band. Theirs is a form of improvisation that sounds like it's growing out of a song form, but it also has a quality of an extended suite of complete spontaneity. Shorter, Perez, bassman John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade avoid the particular cliches of the improvising art. They've evolved a completely naturalistic language. It's structured, but its modules are independently shifting, based around percussive repeats and a slowly unwinding momentum, as if each member is dedicated to the whole, without having to relinquish their personality. This was surely one of the quartet's more triumphant gigs. Yes, the festival's headliners have mostly been found at the top of their form.
Lionel Loueke, Stefano Di Battista, Trio Grande/Matthew Bourne by Jos L. Knaepen
Flat Earth Society, Melody Gardot by Bruno Bollaert
Days 1-4 | Days 5-8