Footprints Live!

Footprints Live!

By the late ’90s, a new Wayne Shorter project could have been a number of things: perhaps synths and beats in keeping with Atlantis onward, or large ensemble fusion in the mode of High Life from 1995. Instead, Shorter formed a mind-blowing, sparsely textured, infinitely flexible acoustic quartet with pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Brian Blade. Their first time together in a room was to record Alegría, although with that session on ice until 2003, Footprints Live! was able to serve as the quartet’s official debut in 2002. And what a debut. Here was the highest expression yet of Shorter’s “zero gravity” approach to group playing. The new quartet covered an extraordinary mix of vintage Shorter Blue Note (“JuJu,” “Footprints,” “Go,” the Sibelius-derived “Valse Triste”); Miles Davis’ second quintet and Bitches Brew periods (“Masquelero,” “Sanctuary”); and Shorter’s own more recent compositions (“Aung San Suu Kyi,” “Atlantis”). Shorter’s tenor and soprano saxes are solid, whimsical, wildly imaginative. Blade is a rhythmic painter, with a springing intensity put into every note, locking in with Patitucci to propel the music forward. Perez brings a masterful touch and an incredible set of ears to the gig: he can hear anything, react to it, color or elaborate it, right as it unfolds, with great technical flair. This band was Shorter’s primary focus until he could play no more, and in the wake of his passing in early 2023, it stands as one of his greatest achievements.

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