Children of the Light Trio are three band-leading virtuosos who regularly convene as the rhythm section of Wayne Shorter’s quartet. The saxophonist formed his band in 2000, and the trio’s ability to second-guess Shorter’s oblique turns while delivering surprises of their own is legendary. Here, though, they performed without their leader, and it was pianist Danilo Peréz who set things in motion with his fragments of scales, scatterings of chords and rhythmic motifs.
As with Shorter’s band, the music unfolded at angles, smouldering grooves came with melodramatic thumps and the collective invention was intense. There were vague hints of the Shorter repertoire – a pulled-out-of-shape “Footprints” in the first set; a lovely mid-tempo lope led by bassist John Patitucci in the second.
But this wasn’t just the Wayne Shorter quartet playing without Wayne Shorter. Recent Peréz recordings have explored the evolution of Latin American musical traditions, and the trio referenced these concerns in both sets. The long first piece was a carousel of styles that opened with stark piano harmonies, the swoosh of drummer Brian Blade’s cymbals and counterpoint bass guitar. Peréz darted from classical fugue to African chant and from indigenous song to Latin pulse, while Blade and Patitucci added thoughts of their own. They settled on a slow burn and finally ended with three sharp chords and a roll of drums.
The set continued with whisper-quiet chamber jazz – Blade played drums with his hands – and concluded with a dark-toned construction of discordant piano fragments scattered over Patitucci’s trenchant bowed double bass. It turned this way and that before rampaging out over an impulsive Blade shuffle.
The extended second set continued the three-way conversation, was more upbeat and settled more easily. The first number implied swing and elliptically quoted Charlie Parker’s “Billie’s Bounce”, there was a lovely reverie, an oblique and funky samba and a sedate and moving memorial to bassist Charlie Haden, who died last Friday. Each piece shape-shifted, changed pulse and periodically locked into a groove. They ended with the cultural melting pot of “Chocolito”, a Peréz composition that takes in African blues and classical romance, retreats in volume and then roars into a Latin groove to end on a high.