Wayne Shorter – Beyond the Sound Barrier

Wayne Shorter
Beyond the Sound Barrier
(Verve – 2005)
by S.H. Watkins, Sr.

I had the pleasure of seeing this same group of performers live at last year’s PDX Jazz festival 2004, where they put on a very moving and skilled performance. Listening to this CD filled with live recordings (some of whichh may even BE from that show) brought back the evening in all it’s richness and intensity. Beyond the Sound Barrier features pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade in a continuation of the journey we travelled that night, and on 2002’s Footprints Live! album.

Smilin’ Through, one of three 11+ minute songs on the CD, is a journey from solemnity to ecstatic frenzy and back as Shorter is pushed by Blade’s powerhouse mastry of the skins. Shorter says that this is “an old Irish song that was used in a movie with Jeanette MacDonald and Brian Ahearn. At some point in the movie she’s at the piano and she plays this song, ‘Smilin’ Through.’ The message of the tune is, whenever a tragedy comes, can you smile through it? And that stuck with me.”

As Far As The Eye Can See features Shorter dancing in and through some expansive piano runs by Perez, again reaching a crescendo and breaking apart joyfully with some interesting improv work.

Adventures Aboard the Golden Mean is one of my favorites for it’s sometime syncopation and steady bass influence from Patitucci. The title refers to that mysterious natural proportion used in art, architecture and music by the likes of Leonardo Da Vinci, Debussy, Bartok and Beethoven, but Shorter puts a sci-fi twist to it. “The golden mean is neither captive to the right, left, east, west, north, south or the middle,” says Shorter. “It is attached to no extreme.’ That’s the feel of this song, flowing strongly in many directions but attached to no extreme.

Joy Rider is the most reminiscent from the live show we saw last year. Starting out with a crash! bang!, the group suddenly drops to almost a whisper then rebuilds the ferver bit by bit, piano chord on horn lick; bass line on piano chord, all glued together by Blade’s rambling yet rhythmic drumming.

This is a good CD for Shorter afficianados and straight ahead jazz lovers. When I put it on, it stayed on all afternoon. Check this one out.