R.I.P. Wayne Shorter


Jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter died on March 2nd at the age of 89. Shorter penned some of the most studied and performed jazz standards and created a foundational language for both tenor and soprano saxophones. Shorter started his career as a composer for Art Blakely’s Jazz Messengers in the 1950s. He produced several compositions for Blakey including tunes like “Hammer Head” and “One By One.” His prowess with the horn had critics praising him as one of the best young saxophonists of his generation as he soon became the musical director of Blakey’s band.

Shorter’s reputation grew after he joined Miles Davis’s Second Great Quintet where he was also an influential writer. It is his pen that crafted “Nefertiti” and “E.S.P.” and Herbie Hancock, who was in the band noted that Shorter was the only person to give Davis music that did not need to be changed.  He stayed with the quintet until it broke up in 1968 and he appeared on Davis’s In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew both recorded in 1969. Shorter had begun his own solo recording career in 1964 on the Blue Note label. This time period is when he recorded the classic Speak No Evil which is considered a foundational recording for that era. 

Shorter created a new lane for himself in the ’70s when he helped to pioneer fusion with his group Weather Report. The original lineup included keyboardist Joe Zawinul, percussionist Airto Moreira, drummer Alphonse Mouzon and bassist Miroslav Vitous. The members would change until they disbanded in 1985 but Zawinul was a permanent member and later the innovative bass player Jaco Pastorius. The rest of the decade included a tour with Carlos Santana, a hit record with Don Henley and three albums as a leader. In the ’90s, he played on the soundtrack to The Fugitive and released his first solo album in seven years titled High Life. He re-connected with Herbie Hancock from their days with Miles Davis for their highly praised 1997 duet album 1+1.  The instrumentalist and composer stayed busy and later formed his first acoustic group and they won a Best Instrumental Jazz Album for Beyond The Barrier. By 2002 he had appeared on 11 Joni Mitchell albums. The documentary Wayne Shorter: Zero Gravity was filmed in 2015 and in 2016 he performed his first show with the supergroup Mega Nova which included Herbie Hancock, Carlos Santana, Cindy Blackman Santana and Marcus Miller. Shorter retired from live performances in 2018 but still created music. He worked with Esperanza Spalding on  Iphigenia, an opera he started at age 19 that was inspired by the Euripides play.