Recorded live on three different continents (Europe, America, and Asia) from 2002-2004, Beyond the Sound Barrier finds Wayne Shorter leading the same acoustic-oriented post-bop quartet he led on his 2001 recording, Footprints Live!; the veteran tenor and soprano saxophonist is joined by pianist Danilo Pérez, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Brian Blade. But if Beyond the Sound Barrier should be considered a sequel to Footprints Live!, it is far from a carbon copy. While Footprints Live! contained several Shorter pieces that have become jazz standards (including "Atlantis," "Footprints," and "Juju"), Beyond the Sound Barrier places more emphasis on new material. Half of the eight selections are new, and the rest of the CD ranges from Arthur Penn's "Smilin' Through" (the theme from the 1941 movie) to two pieces from Shorter's Joy Ryder album of 1988: "Over Shadow Hill Way" and that album's title track. No one will accuse Beyond the Sound Barrier of being standards-oriented, and the quartet doesn't go out of its way to be accessible; this is definitely one of Shorter's more cerebral releases. But the material is rewarding if one is broad-minded enough to appreciate Shorter and his younger colleagues at their most intellectual, and the audiences' enthusiastic applause -- not just polite applause, but enthusiastic applause -- indicates that they have no problem comprehending all the abstraction and angularity that is taking place. Beyond the Sound Barrier falls short of essential, but it's a solid demonstration of the fact that Shorter -- who was in his late sixties and early seventies when these performances were recorded -- wasn't afraid to be challenging and keep taking chances in the early 2000s.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson