Wayne Shorter would be a jazz legend if he hadn't done anything more than play with Miles Davis from 1964-70. As a composer and saxophonist, Shorter contributed indelibly to one of the richest periods of Davis' career. Of course, then there was Weather Report — the great group that Shorter co-founded with Joe Zawinul — which took fusion to new levels throughout the '70s all the way into the mid-'80s.
Released on DVD earlier this year, Live At Montreux 1996 finds Wayne Shorter leading a quintet through a five-song set dominated by tunes from his then-current album High Life. That particular release won Shorter a Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Album, and lengthy work-outs on three of its cuts make this DVD well worth checking out. "At the Fair," especially, is notable for its hypnotic groove. Shorter begins the tune on tenor but switches to soprano for some incredible soloing. There's also some hot guitar work courtesy of David Gilmore (not to be confused with Pink Floyd's David Gilmour).
"Children of the Night" also features some mesmerizing work on both tenor and soprano. This is an old Shorter tune from the '60s, recorded during his time with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. The composition was re-worked for the High Life album, and the performance presented here contains a fantastic keyboard solo from James Beard. "Over Shadow Hill Way" comes from Shorter's 1988 Joy Ryder album and, on Live At Montreux 1996, drummer Rodney Holmes dominates the song with a frenetic solo.
Kudos to Eagle Rock Entertainment for including bonus selections from Wayne Shorter's Montreux performances in both 1991 and 1992. We are treated to two performances from each year, both introduced by Quincy Jones. The highlight of these bonus sets is the '92 performance of a classic Shorter composition from the Miles Davis era, "Pinocchio." These bonus tracks really bring significant value to Live At Montreux 1996. The '96 set only runs for about an hour, but the additional footage adds another forty or so minutes. Jazz fans — fusion aficionados, in particular — should seek this program out in order to witness Wayne Shorter in peak form.