On June 30th, 2013 Wayne Shorter took me to church.
Well okay, my bicycle took me to church – in this case the wonderful Dominion-Chalmers – where the legendary saxophonist was holding court on the final day of the Ottawa Jazz Festival. It was very appropriate that this concert was booked into a house of the holy because I felt like I was in heaven the whole time.
A bodhisattva in his own right, Wayne Shorter is a living hinge connecting the animate world to the vanguard of 20th century jazz. Before founding the incredible Weather Report – where musicians as heavy as the late Jaco Pastorius were virtually lining up to be a part of Shorter’s compositions – Wayne was a pivotal member of Miles Davis’ quintet (that’s him on Bitches Brew), which put him in league with a full chapter of the Who’s Who of Jazz. Plus he’s recorded with Santana and Steely Dan and played the solo on Don Henley’s The End of the Innocence…the guy has gotten around. And here he was leading his acoustic quartet including bassist John Patitucci (who I had been turned on to since he was assigned as “required listening” when I studied jazz bass in university) and my favourite jazz drummer ever of all time all the way, the astounding Brian Blade. There was also a piano player on the gig who’s name escapes me, but that reflects on the deficiencies of my brain rather than those of his playing, I assure you.
The four of them got down on a string of Wayne Shorter’s original songs that was dazzling from the opening number to the final coda. Our eyes were closed to the glory and our hearts were open to the call, performer and audience alike. I didn’t recognize a single song but they could only have been hymns, for these musicians were angels speaking the language of the gods.
And if you think I am speaking in hyperbole then I will call you out on your blasphemy: Just as an atheist will never know the soul-enriching bliss that can occur when one takes a leap of faith towards their true personal god, the passive music listener will never know the elevating power of live music at the hands of experienced instrumental masters when it comes into physical, vibrating contact with the enharmonic mind of the sympathetic listener. It’s basically an orgy for your skandas.
Which is why I usually spring for a full-festival pass.
Humming from this bliss, I ventured to Confederation Park to watch Rob Frayne’s Dreamband. Essentially a collection of Ottawa’s jazz heroes (Petr Cancurra, Mike Essoudry, Roddy Elias, Megan Jerome, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera…) performing under the direction of a man who has been known to encapsulate the entirety of the known universe inside a single head-tilting saxophone phrase, the Dreamband provided a sublime sonic sunset to close out the festival for the season.
In the silence that followed their last note it was clear that there was nothing left but to go Om.