Carlos Santana & Wayne Shorter
Live at the 1988 Montreux Jazz Festival
First Appeared in The Music Box, April 2007, Volume 14, #4
Written by John Metzger
There’s little doubt that a lot of overlap exists between Wayne Shorter’s work with Weather Report and the territory explored by the various permutations of Carlos Santana’s band. Therefore, the union of Santana and Shorter for a 26-date tour in 1988 was — at least on paper — a match made in Heaven. Fronting a stellar outfit that was composed of keyboard players Chester Thompson and Patrice Rushen, percussionists Armando Peraza and Jose Chepito Areas, bass player Alphonso Johnson, and drummer Leon "Ndugu" Chancler, the duo ran through an eclectic mixture of instrumental material that ranged from the deep fusion of Sanctuary — which Shorter had lent to Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew — to the percolating R&B of Fireball 2000 to the crystalline beauty of Santana’s Europa.
Over the course of the 17-song set, which included a pair of percussion interludes and a snippet from John Coltrane’s Spiritual, each of the members of the all-star ensemble was given ample opportunity to be in the spotlight. The results frequently were quite moving. Surprisingly, though, it was neither Santana nor Shorter who stole the show. Instead, it was keyboard player Patrice Rushen who served as the collective’s secret weapon. Bursting with fresh ideas, her solos typically were born from a traditional framework, though she was equally adept at spiraling them outward to join the more abstract, avant-garde textures that Shorter and Thompson were exploring. Her freewheeling flights added to the intensity of Peraza’s rhythmic drive; they skipped gracefully across the laid-back, Latin-tinged swing of Ballroom in the Sky; and they fully answered the fiery aggression that Shorter brought to Elegant People. Likewise, on Once It’s Gotcha, she sported a keytar and engaged Santana in a fierce duel.
Still, one nagging problem lingered throughout the concert that is featured on Live at the 1988 Montreux Jazz Festival. Although their combined potential was on display throughout the two-hour performance, the brevity of the collaboration between Shorter and Santana also meant that they barely scratched the surface of the monumental music that they could have made, if only they had continued working together beyond a single set of tour dates. Their chemistry was apparent, but it never was consummated fully because the material largely was arranged to be a vehicle either for one artist or the other. Almost every tune that the ensemble delivered boasted little in the way of actual interaction, and despite their brilliance, the solos that Santana and Shorter unleashed were standalone moments. It wasn’t until the torrential romp through Deeper, Dig Deeper, which appeared near the end of the show, that the collective truly began to operate as a single-minded entity, and even here, its momentum was interrupted by an obligatory, round-robin of introductions. Make no mistake, Live at the 1988 Montreux Jazz Festival not only contains numerous examples of Shorter and Santana’s individual capabilities, but it also is a historically relevant document. As an improvisational sojourn, however, the dialogue between Shorter and Santana was left undeveloped and incomplete. ˝
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
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