Jazz Legend Wayne Shorter Dies at 89

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Visionary composer, saxophonist, visual artist, devout Buddhist, devoted husband, father, and grandfather Wayne Shorter has passed away at age 89, departing the earth as we know it and embarking on a new journey as part of his extraordinary life. Shorter was surrounded by his loving family in Los Angeles at the time of his transition and is survived by his devoted wife Carolina, daughters Miyako and Mariana, and newly-born grandson Max. Always inquisitive and constantly exploring – ever the fearless and passionate innovator – Shorter had just won his 13th GRAMMY Award in February. A gentle spirit, sci-fi and cartoon enthusiast, the last few prolific years of his life saw the realization of Shorter’s opera …Iphigenia, written in collaboration Esperanza Spalding, which played to widespread critical acclaim across the country in 2020, and the 2018 release of his GRAMMY-winning triple album and graphic novel EMANON.

Herbie Hancock, Shorter’s closest friend and collaborator for more than six decades, said “Wayne Shorter, my best friend, left us with courage in his heart, love and compassion for all, and a seeking spirit for the eternal future. He was ready for his rebirth. As it is with every human being, he is irreplaceable and was able to reach the pinnacle of excellence as a saxophonist, composer, orchestrator, and recently, composer of the masterful opera …Iphigenia. I miss being around him and his special Wayne-isms but I carry his spirit within my heart always.”

“Maestro Wayne Shorter was our hero, guru, and beautiful friend,” said Blue Note President Don Was. “His music possessed a spirit that came from somewhere way, way beyond and made this world a much better place. Likewise, his warmth and wisdom enriched the lives of everyone who knew him. Thankfully, the work he left behind will stay with us forever. Our hearts go out to Carolina and all who loved him.”

Born August 25, 1933 in Newark, New Jersey, Shorter has left an indelible mark on the development of music for more than 60 years. He first rose to prominence in 1959 when he joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, a precocious 26-year-old tenor saxophonist who transformed the group into a modern jazz juggernaut with his inventive improvisations and brilliant compositions such as “Lester Left Town,” “Children of the Night,” and “Free for All” which were heard on Blue Note albums including The Big Beat, Mosaic, and Indestructible. Alfred Lion eventually signed him to his own recording deal and Shorter went on to make a spectacular run of classic albums for Blue Note between 1964-1970 including Night Dreamer, Juju, Speak No Evil, Adam’s Apple, Schizophrenia, and Super Nova. These albums introduced some of Shorter’s most beloved compositions such as “Witch Hunt,” “Infant Eyes,” “Footprints,” and many more.

This time period also paralleled Shorter’s years with Miles Davis, first as a member of the trumpeter’s trailblazing quintet with Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams (Davis called him the “intellectual musical catalyst” of the band), and later as a part of Davis’ early fusion masterpieces. Shorter went on to co-found the pioneering group Weather Report in 1970 with keyboardist Joe Zawinul. Since 2001, he has led his own highly acclaimed quartet with Danilo Perez, John Pattitucci, and Brian Blade.

Shorter made a momentous return to Blue Note in 2013 with the release of Without a Net, a musical thrill ride that featured his quartet with special guests The Imani Winds. In 2018, Shorter returned with EMANON, an extraordinary musical and visual experience that presented a triple album of original music by Shorter performed by the quartet and Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. The music was accompanied by a graphic novel penned by Shorter with Monica Sly and illustrated by Randy DuBurke.

Shorter’s works have been performed by the Chicago Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Lyon Symphony, National Polish Radio Symphonic Orchestra, Prague Philharmonic, Royal Concertge-bouw Orchestra, and he has received commissions from the Los Angeles Philharmonic, National Symphony, and others. In all, Shorter has realized over 200 compositions, and dozens of these works have become modern standards. Shorter is an NEA Jazz Master and his many accolades include 13 GRAMMY Awards and a 2018 Kennedy Center Honor.

Blue Note Records

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