Gent Jazz Festival: Days 1-4: July 5-8, 2012
Indeed, the entire evening's performances seemed to act as a buildup to the appearance of the man himself. Several tunes in the Sound Prints book were actually penned in collaboration with Shorter, specially for this band. Lovano's "Sound Prints" was answered by Douglas's "Sprints," typifying the sharp, playful vibe between the two. Joey Baron was his usual scintillating self on drums, whilst the fast-rising Australian-in-New York bassist Linda Oh was still celebrating her Initial Here (2012) release on Douglas's own Greenleaf label. The only member who prevents this being a supergroup is the less familiar pianist Lawrence Fields. He was also the least remarkable player, his solos frequently representing a dip in the level of intensity. Oh regularly set up a fulsome pulse of emphatic walking, with the horns trading both long and short solos, always maintaining a keen sense of variety in their attack. Lovano and Douglas accumulated a successive amount of flash, bouncing back and forth with the even more energetic than usual Baron, who was almost like a one-man band in terms of his tonal vocabulary and his speed of skin-pattering. He was a dervish of detailed strikes, jousting ebulliently with the front line.
The Wayne Shorter Quartet seems to get better each time it performs, steadily refining its telepathic bond. A cosmic journey was underway. Shafts of spangled light set up a minimalist aura, as black-and-white images were projected on the stage-side screens, as if this was some strange rediscovered broadcast from the 1960s. This time, there was more evidence of music on music stands, as if the foursome was more rooted this time, occasionally referring to their notes. Usually, the group appears to fly off into completely abstract strata. A long opening piece eventually gave way to briefer, more pointed episodes.
Shorter frequently switched between tenor and soprano, as if never sonically satisfied, always seeking out a fresh pathway. His horn-swaps always seem genuinely spontaneous and sonically necessary choices. There was also a regular move from cautious spaciness to lusty, dense eruptions, with Shorter in particularly powerful shape. The presence of Jorge Rossy on the drum stool changed the quartet's dynamic nature (sitting in for Brian Blade), adding a shimmering subtlety and less inclined to break out with a crashing backbeat. Pianist Danilo Pérez often seems to be relegated as the prompter of significant changes, invariably being the first to suggest a fresh phase. The quartet has evolved so that it gathers in strength over the years. The relationship deepens. Shorter is a mystical wayfarer, a sage with faraway eyes.
July 8: Melody Gardot / The Bad Plus & Joshua Redman / The Robin Verheyen New York Quartet / Ninety Miles
Concealed behind the Ninety Miles band name, there was a posse of starry players making up a virtual supergroup. The lineup featured trumpeter Nicholas Payton, tenor saxophonist David Sánchez, vibraphonists Stefon Harris, pianist Edward Simon and drummer Terreon Gully. The lesser-known members are bassist Ricky Rodriguez and percussionist Mauricio Herrera. The band's name refers to the short-though-far distance between the USA and Cuba, and the group's repertoire is the result of a hard-won visit to Havana. Sánchez and Harris went there with Christian Scott, but the resulting album's trumpeter was replaced on tour by Payton. Ninety Miles suffered slightly for being onstage so early in the running order, its audience huddled up as it fled the drab downpour outside. Payton, in particular, looked removed from the proceedings, though he did warm up as the set progressed. Nevertheless, Harris was able to provide more than sufficient enthusiasm in his stead. The drum and percussion team was bonded with a strong Latin thrust, unsurprising given the nature of the compositions. Gully lashed around his kit with a notable fury, and Herrera was particularly impressive on the ringing batá drums.
Belgian soprano and tenor saxophonist Robin Verheyen works out of New York City, but his profile there isn't massively high. Here he was celebrating the release of a new album, Trinity (52Creations, 2012), partnered with three American band mates: Ralph Alessi (trumpet), Drew Gress (bass) and Jeff Davis (drums). All three have a much bigger international status, and Verheyen seamlessly worked into their company as bandleader and composer. Alessi mostly used his mute, scribing detailed phrases with poised attention to mood-crafting. The pieces were studied, refined, and well-honed, possessed by a contained passion. Verheyen stated that this set was very different to the previous day's performance, so it was presumably more introverted in nature.