MGF Reviews Carlos Santana & Wayne Shorter – Live at the 1988 Montreux Jazz Festival (DVD)


Carlos Santana & Wayne Shorter – Live at the 1988 Montreux Jazz Festival
Image Entertainment (2/27/07)
124 minutes (NR)
Jazz/Rock

On July 14, 1988 at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, two legends of music performed together. Guitarist Carlos Santana, who you are all familiar with due to his recent revival, and Saxophonist Wayne Shorter, many of you asking the question, “Who?”

Wayne Shorter is most notably known as being part of the Miles Davis Quintet, often composing many of the bands most famous songs. After leaving the Quintet he joined up with the Weather Report and soon went solo. This performance is at the tail end of the fame before he slipped into somewhat obscurity, with a resurrection in the early ’90s.

If you have read my previous articles you know my disdain for the state of live music in recent years. Everyone, audience and musicians, need to run out and buy this DVD. It is a perfect example of what a live show should be. Santana and Shorter love and live to perform and it explodes on this disc. And this isn’t just a love fest for the two stars either, the backing band steps front and center, playing their hearts out with deep sweat pouring down their faces, so consumed by the music they resemble voodoo practitioners deep in a trance.

This is in no way a John Mayer concert either. Carlos wanders around stage humbly plucking his guitar, feeling the music, but not pretending that he’s performing physics equations. His face scrunched, not in an exercise to show how hard it is to play this guitar, but in a sheer understanding and appreciation of exactly what this instrument can do. Shorter blows his sax with such ferocity and love that I, a man who bitches every time I hear sax on a non-jazz album, slid deep into my couch and just got lost. The two masters compliment one another without trying to show the other up.

The DVD is punctuated with short interviews with Santana, Shorter, and the festival’s creator, Claude Nobs—which, while interesting, should have been kept as an option to watch on the DVD. It interrupts the flow of the performance; they don’t really have anything that interesting to say that the music doesn’t say first, and one would think that jazz is the last thing one should try and talk about.

The highlight of this DVD is the backing band; Chester Thompson, Patrice Rushen, Alphonso Johnson, Armando Peraza, Jose Chepito Areas, and Leon “Ndugu” Chancler. Leon, on the drums, provides such a solid backbone for the others to feed off, that makes this performance the wonder that it is. Another highlight is Armando Perez on the congas, pounding his heart out with such a stone cold, cool look on his face he makes you want to just stand near him hoping that his jive will just rub off on you. While he beats away you can see Carlos Santana in the background, barely, bathed in a deep red stage light with his eyes closed spinning his head around to Perez’s hypnotic beat. The band slips comfortably from romantic ballads to bossanova to psychedelic breakdowns.

For a video shot in 1988, the production quality is amazing. Simple medium shots and close ups. No stupid camera tricks, strobe effect, or reaction shots of the audience. The angles and fades help to make sure the video doesn’t grow tedious, but unlike other live videos that rely on everything but the band to keep the view interested, the band keeps the viewer watching.

This is what a live show should be. What I suggest: buy this DVD when you have a hot date coming up and set up a picnic in front of your television, as though you have lawn seat for this concert. Dim the lights down and press play. Ladies dig the jazz and it will make look you much cooler than you actually are. Throw in some of the obscure band member names to make it sound like you are schooled in “The Jazz”. Try this, “Man, Ndugu can really pound. Dig?” On second thought, just sip your wine, bop your head, and try not to look too white.

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