WAYNE SHORTER WITH JLCO | London, Barbican

I first saw the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in 2003. Wynton Marsalis and his colleagues changed the way I heard music and the centre of my musical universe. How could this concert compare?

Certainly all the elements are there. The band swing — man, how they swing — and the material showcases the multifarious talent within the ensemble. Not only the sorts of stellar solos you’d expect from such an acclaimed band, but also arranging credits scattered across the sections (Ted Nash, Ali Jackson, Carlos Henriquez and more). Yes, Wynton’s at the helm but he has the lightness of touch to distribute shining moments throughout the assembled maverick talent as they interpret highlights of Shorter’s magnificent cannon.

If I were to lay a single criticism at the door of JLCO, it’s that they’re too perfect. Seriously. Too good. Too well drilled. That’s what makes their concert with Wayne Shorter so special — there’s a mystery element, an unpredictable and brilliantly foreign factor. His chart, ‘Lost’ (arranged in this instance by tenor saxophonist Walter Blanding) is the best metaphor for this intrigue and in the second set it kicks into a whole new gear. The exchanges between the band in ‘Contemplation’ are sublime with drummer Ali Jackson taking MVP status. As Wynton said, it’s a great honour and a privilege to be in the presence of Mr Shorter and what he brings out of an already superlative band.

With Wayne, the mystery is alive. Everything is alive. The sax section position their chairs in his direction and hang on every note. One of the original Jazz Messengers continues to spread the word  about jazz, and the message is good.

This performance is the beginning of the Orchestra’s Barbican residency which continues until Saturday.

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