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The Language Of The Unknown – (The Wayne Shorter Quartet), Blu-ray (2014)

The Language Of The Unknown – (The Wayne Shorter Quartet), Blu-ray (2014)

Cast: Wayne Shorter; Herbie Hancock; John Patitucci; Danilo Perez; Brian Blade and Carolina Shorter
TrackList: Zero Gravity/Lotus; Prometheus Unbound; She Moves Through The Fair; Plaza Real; Starry Night; Joy Ryder 
Studio: Arthaus Musik 108 114 (Distr. by Naxos)
Director: Guido Lukoschek
Video: 1.78:1 for 16:9 1080i HD color
Audio: PCM Stereo 
Chapters: The Lotus Flower Grows In A Swamp; The Realm Of Potential; Tragedy Of Life; Flying All The Time; The Unknown; Jazz Needs More Color; Let’s Surprise Each Other; You Open The Door And It’s Happening; Zero Gravity
Extras: The Wayne Shorter Quartet: Live Concert From Paris 2012 
Length: 150 minutes 
Rating:  Video ****1/2         Audio **** 

It is difficult to capture the esoteric, abstract expression that is jazz. Many of the artists are visionary and incorporate a spiritual element that underscores the compositions. Eighty-one year old Wayne Shorter has been an iconic jazz artist for over fifty years. His stints with Miles Davis, Art Blakey and Weather Report demonstrate his creative approach toward jazz. He is respected by his fellow artists as a committed band leader and composer. Modal, fusion, post-bop, even a guest shot on Steely Dan’s Aja, are just some of the projects that define his music. In 2000, he formed a quartet with Danilo Perez (piano), Brian Blade (drums) and John Patitucci (double bass). Shorter plays soprano and tenor saxophone. The group has been received enthusiastically by critics and fans. Three live recordings have been cut, including the Grammy winning Beyond The Sound Barrier.

Director Guido Lukoschek and Arthaus Musik have released this Blu-ray documentary, The Language Of The UnknownA Film About The Wayne Shorter Quartet. The film gets to the essence of Shorter, combining his Buddhist orientation with his quasi-mystical approach to music. As the documentary opens, Shorter is chanting, and looking at the band on a laptop. He attempts to explain some of the conceptual elements of his compositions. There are incisive observations (“….the mystery is better than explaining it…”/”…the effort of being original is like… thank you”) that illustrate the ethereal aesthetic. There is also a reference to what he does in relation to Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Charlie Parker. His band is devoted to him, and impressed with his instincts and spacey vibe. (Perez remarks…”that guy is out there”). Small moments encapsulate the 80-minute documentary half of the film. There is a scene of Shorter reacting to the quartet on the laptop that is heartwarming.

The second part of the documentary is the actual concert in 2012 at the Selle Pleyel in Paris that served as the backdrop to the story. The quartet is among the best in the world and they are impressive live. The five-song set (“Zero Gravity/Lotus”, “Prometheus Unbound”, “She Moves Through The Fair”, ”Plaza Real” and “Starry Night”)  showcases their chemistry and Shorter’s expertise on soprano. Perez adds many subtle shadings and rhythmic flourishes to the jams. Blade and Patitucci complement perfectly. The quartet shifts from intense cascades to ruminative segues with ease. To the delight of the audience, the group encores with “Joy Ryder”.

The overall HD video quality of the Blu-ray transfer is excellent. The images are crystalline and the colors natural. The PCM stereo audio is vibrant with excellent separation.

–Robbie Gerson

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