REVIEW: Wayne Shorter Quartet plus Eve Risser White Desert Orchestra at the Barbican (2016 EFG LJF)

L-R: Wayne Shorter, John Patitucci, Danilo Perez,
Brian Blade

These were two performances at the Barbican on the last day of this year’s EFG London Jazz Festival.

Wayne Shorter Quartet – main hall

The Wayne Shorter Quartet performance-in-two-parts, incorporated a set from the quartet on their own and then joined on stage by a Polish wind-and-brass dectet of classical players for a new commission. It was a fascinating juxtaposition.

There is no small band in the world with the played-in-ness, the ability to land as one, to find new avenues, to be suddenly inspired and break loose as this group. Every mood every tempo is established and set the moment it arrives, no doubts, no adumbrations, no preliminaries, it is about full and instant expression of a mood, an attitude, a vibe, a tempo which, once it is established, can lead straight to something else. Wayne Shorter’s utterances are increasingly epigrammatic, he is almost like the guest they all know who has freedom to do whatever he wants – whether it is to whistle, or indeed just to listen. That guiding spirit of complete freedom is something to be aspired to. The group – apart from Shorter – play with sheet music, but it is not a barrier in any way.

The arrival of the Polish wind players of the LutosAir wind ensemble for a newly-composed piece created a different vibe. The wind-writing reminded me of the slow build of sections of Berlioz’s Te Deum, repetitive figures but always with a clear sense of direction. There were written sections, with the quartet involved interspersed with sections for the quartet alone. There was no mistaking the passion and involvement of the young wind players, but the twists and turns and traffic signals in this hybrid form served as a reminder of the sheer joy and freedom and utter completeness of the unbeatable quartet.

Eve Risser’s White Desert Orchestra
Barbican Freestage

Eve Risser’s White Desert Orchestra

Eve Risser’s White Desert Orchestra were making their London debut on the Barbican freestage. Having attended – and been bowled over by, and reviewed  – the premiere of her large-scale work now called Les Deux Versants se regardent (the two sides – of a canyon – look at each other) in early 2015,  I was fascinated to hear how the ensemble, which has been granted much higher profile at several European festivals has progressed.

These are the top French players of Eve Risser’s generation, and they are totally and unmistakably committed to her as composer in the same way that a group of Brooklyn-ites of the band Secret Society has committed to Darcy James Argue. The last two years have brought that feel of a band with common purpose a lot further. They relish the range of textures and expression inherent in Risser’s writing that can be brought out in performance. The juxtapositions of sheer beauty and sheer power and /or anarchy she conjures up are one of a kind. In the challenging setting and tricky (ok pretty hopeless) acoustic of  the Barbican’s foyer, a lot went missing, and the group were more reliant than usual on sheer performance energy to draw in a crowd – which they did. An incredible intensity build à trois at the end from Julien Desprez on guitar, Fanny Lasfargues on bass and Sylvain Darrifourcq on drums will stay in the mind for a very long time. The White Desert orchestra will have made new friends on Sunday, and are bound to be back for some other festivals, hopefully where they belong – on the main stages.

Categories: miscellaneous

11 replies »

  1. Very disappointed with Wayne Shorter. I know he is no longer a young firebrand but the indulgent noodling that passes for music was awful. I usually find that over animated drummers combined with in joke glances between bassist and drummer indicates a rough ride as far as music or swing are concerned and this turned out to be the case. A friend of mine described Eve Risser's White Desert Orchestra as noise makers and I think that summed them up perfectly. While accepting that I might be an old fogey the story of the Emperor's New Clothes comes to mind when I read the above review.

  2. If you think the review of Shorter was frustrating the review of Garbarek by Fordham takes the biscuit:'Garbarek is as close to perfection as it’s humanly possible to achieve, showing himself to be a master of silence as well as sound, of striking rhythmic figures as much as achingly beautiful phrases'.

  3. I feel sorry for Unknown who seems to have lost their ability to connect with the music, but grateful to Anonymous for mistaking my words for those of the great John Fordham!

  4. Unknown here, hopefully showing my name. Please don't feel sorry for me. I am happy that there are people who like this type of music. Don't get me wrong, my tastes extend far beyond standards, obvious melody and infectious swing (although I love all of the above) but if in 1 1/2 hours I never feel like tapping my feet or have the hairs on the back of my neck stand up because of a well placed chord or delicious run then that is not a concert that I will have enjoyed. I have seen Wayne Shorter twice, on Sunday and a few years before. Both times I was disappointed so while I treasure his earlier recordings and his magnificent time as part of Weather Report there will be at least one extra ticket available next time he appears in London.

  5. 3rd Julian yes man, but in defence of Wayne Shorter he did 'take me to other places' but this was external to, rather than within the music. BTW Eve Risser I really enjoyed, great ensemble and individual playing and challenging compositions.

Leave a Reply