Wayne Shorter has finally found the right combination of musicians. In the three years since he left Weather Report, the saxophonist/composer has tried various sets of performers without ever quite arriving at the best blend for his singularly unusual musical recipes.
But the group he led into the Palace on Sunday night (with Bernard Wright and Renee Rosnes on synthesizers, Keith Jones on bass, and Terri Lyne Carrington on drums) brought everything together in a style that suggested that Shorter may be entering the most creative phase of an already highly productive career.
Debuting several pieces from his new "Joy Ryder" album, Shorter spent most of his solo time on soprano saxophone, shifting easily from long, passionately lyrical lines to hyperactive flurries of notes. Typically, however, even his most frenzied flights were supported by a solid sense of structure and logic. Shorter may be on the cutting edge of jazz exploration, but he never violates the musical laws of physics.
On "Causeways," "Anthem" and "Over Shadow Hill Way," his allocation of generous chunks of solo time to synthesizer players Wright and Rosnes produced improvisations that both matched and challenged his own work. Wright, in particular, delivered some startlingly effective clusters of sound and rhythm.
The final piece in Shorter's new musical aggregate was the solid, vibrant foundation laid down by the rhythmic team of Carrington and Jones--the perfect foil for the leader's wildly disjunct melodic lines.
Those hardy listeners who stuck around for the post-midnight conclusion of the show were given a rare treat when pianist Herbie Hancock and Brazilian singer/guitarist Milton Nascimento joined Shorter for a brief musical recollection of their collaborations of a decade ago.
The program opened with John Scofield's heavy metal jazz group performing a virtual nonstop stream of high decibel energy filled with enough free-floating aggressiveness to fuel the next five "Mad Max" movies.