Live At Montreux 1996 (DVD)

Wayne Shorter

Eagle Rock Entertainment, 2009

REVIEW BY: Michael Broyles


Wayne Shorter is one of modern music’s most versatile players.  From the hard-bop of the Miles Davis Quintet to the to the fusion of Weather Report and the swing of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Wayne Shorter, playing both soprano and tenor saxophone, has always had the amazing ability to mix with any musician he plays with while simultaneously invoking his own unique voice.  So when Shorter leads his own group, as he does on the newly released Live At Montreux 1996 DVD, prepare to be surprised.

Filmed at the 1996 Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, Live At Montreux was certainly not what I expected.  The music is an explosive form of swing-fusion, tying the later development of rock-jazz with its toe-tapping musical precedents.  James Beard’s piano sings, Shorter’s saxophone rings and David Gilmore’s booming guitar rocks.  Although painstakingly arranged, Shorter and the crew’s music sounds uninhibited and abrasive, echoed by the rhythm section of Alphonso Johnson on bass and Rodney Holmes on drums.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Make no mistakes -- this music is dangerous.  When it works, it is magnificent.  When it does not, it is painful.  Shorter takes his audience to the edge and beyond, sometimes too far beyond.  The concert’s best performance, a violent powerhouse entitled “Over The Shadow Hill Way,” kicks and screams its way into the audience’s psyche.  Beginning with a subtly tense intro that builds into an aggressive, dense melody, the song soars throughout. David Gilborn’s face-melting guitar solo (yes, my face actually did melt) is met by an equally combative Rodney Holmes drum solo.  Shorter’s soprano saxophone solo is a sparse and melodic juxtaposition to the composition’s fierceness.  This song works!  The audience frequently screams, yelps, and whistles throughout the piece, exhibiting a collective emotional zeitgeist.  And after the song is finished, the crowd erupts, emanating the ferocity of the performance.

Contrast “Over The Shadow Hill Way” with the next song, “Children Of The Night,” and one is likely to be shocked that they were played at the same concert.  “Children Of The Night” is an ambitious but ultimately lackluster composition.  While exhibiting profound musical abilities, the performance fails to convey any thriving emotion.  What “Children Of The Night” contains in musicianship is eradicated by its lack of emotional appeal.  The melody is tiresome, the solos are unenthused, and its groove sounds forced.  While met with polite applause, the audience is not nearly as enthralled by this song as they were by the previous. 

Such is Live At Montreux 1996: a mixture of sublime and mundane.  Some parts are fantastic.  Others are despicable.  The DVD is certainly not for the unadventurous and might be too adventurous for those willing to join the ride.  But sublime or mundane, fantastic or despicable, Live At Montreux 1996 is a unique and worthy performance.

One a side note, while I decided to review the main performance on the DVD, I must report that the DVD’s bonus tracks, which show Shorter playing with a slew of other popular jazz musicians at earlier Montreux Jazz Festivals, are enjoyable and praiseworthy.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2009 Michael Broyles and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Eagle Rock Entertainment, and is used for informational purposes only.