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Panama Jazz Festival: Panama City, January 14-19, 2013

Josef Woodard By

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Shorter, alongside his now longstanding group with Pérez , bassist John Patitucci and artful livewire drummer Brian Blade, was especially inspired and rewarding to hear, considering that the leader had been in the hospital with a respiratory problem until several hours before the show. But the show did go on, and with the quartet in almost triumphant form, beautifully navigated the intersection of freedom and design, structure and surprise, a distinctive balancing act which Shorter has been honing with this group for a dozen years.

This comes at a time when Shorter, tilting towards his 80th birthday, is going stronger than usual with his quartet's first new album in seven years, Without a Net (Blue Note), the boldest record yet featuring this group and the source of some of the concert's material. Shorter is also branching out into orchestral projects, such as the L.A. Philharmonic collaboration "Gaia" (which premiered at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles on February 9), and a project with Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. But the anchor ensemble in Shorter's life is his quartet, and it's a project which has been a symbolic and actual pillar of the ongoing enterprise that is the Panama Jazz Festival.

As of 2013, the Panama Jazz Festival, Pérez' grand adventure in the jazz festival business, has passed the decade mark with flying colors and visions of expansion in the offing.

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