SFJAZZ Collective

Live 2008: 5th Annual Concert Tour

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A fifth recording for the touring SF Jazz Collective sees major changes in personnel, switching up vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson for Stefon Harris, trombonist Robin Eubanks for Andre Hayward, and marking the absence of founding member Joshua Redman. This unit plays original pieces by the bandmembers, and interpretations from the book of everyone's favored modern jazz composer, Wayne Shorter. A whopping triple-CD set, it features so much extrapolated music from various dates on their worldwide spring 2008 concert tours, that it will require more listening than usual, and it's all worthwhile. Nine tracks from the pen of Shorter primarily come from his pre-Weather Report period on Blue Note records, with SFJC members Joe Lovano, Renee Rosnes, and Dave Douglas providing the high points in their own right as performers, composers, or arrangers. Expectant virtuosity and energy levels are high, especially on the counterpoint-laden, at-times wild "Black Nile," the modal 7/8 take of "El Gaucho," or an Asian-flavored read of "Footprints." Lovano is particularly inspired, particularly during his poignant arrangement of "Infant Eyes," and Harris is more than able to charge up the group during his spiky, funky reinterpretation of "Go." While the originals require more patience in hearing the the unique voicings of these staunch individualists, it's worth the time invested, with a darker mode on "Secrets of the Code" provided by Douglas, "Aurora Borealis" in waltz tempo shaded by the pretty piano of Rosnes, and the vibes of Harris, and Miguel Zenón's spiky, armor-shielded "Frontline" providing contrast. The biggest surprise comes from the Collective during Shorter's "Aung San Suu Kyi," originally a hymn-like, meditative piece, stunningly done here in uproarious, passionate, powerhouse fashion. In the long line of triumphs for the SF Jazz Collective, this recording may tax one's patience simply because of the length, but it's all good, with many bright moments and extended passages to savor.

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