Convocation Hall, Toronto, Nov. 27, 1977. Photo courtesy of Jean-Luc Ourlin
August 25, 1933 |
Newark, New Jersey, United States
|Genres||Modal jazz, crossover jazz, post-bop, hard bop, jazz fusion, third stream|
|Instruments||Tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone|
|Labels||Blue Note, Columbia, Verve|
|Associated acts||Art Blakey, Miles Davis, Weather Report, Joni Mitchell, John Pattitucci|
|Tenor and soprano saxophones|
Jazz critic Ben Ratliff of the New York Times has described Shorter as "probably jazz's greatest living small-group composer and a contender for greatest living improviser." Many of Shorter's compositions have become jazz standards. His output has earned worldwide recognition, critical praise and various commendations, including multiple Grammy Awards. He has also received acclaim for his mastery of the soprano saxophone (after switching his focus from the tenor in the late 1960s), beginning an extended reign in 1970 as Down Beat's annual poll-winner on that instrument, winning the critics' poll for 10 consecutive years and the readers' for eighteen.
Shorter first came to wide prominence in the late 1950s as a member of, and eventually primary composer for, Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. In the 1960s, he went on to join Miles Davis's Second Great Quintet, and from there he co-founded the jazz fusion band Weather Report. He has recorded over 20 albums as a bandleader.
Early life and career
Shorter was born in Newark, New Jersey, and attended Newark Arts High School from which he graduated in 1952. He loved music, being encouraged by his father to take up the saxophone as a teenager (his brother Alan became a trumpeter). After graduating from New York University in 1956, Shorter spent two years in the U.S. Army, during which time he played briefly with Horace Silver. After his discharge, he played with Maynard Ferguson. In his youth Shorter had acquired the nickname "Mr. Gone", which later became an album title for Weather Report.
With Miles Davis (1964–1970)
When John Coltrane left Miles Davis' band in 1960 to pursue his own group (after previously trying to leave in 1959), Coltrane proposed Wayne Shorter as a replacement, but Shorter was unavailable. Davis went with Sonny Stitt on tenor, followed by a revolving door of Hank Mobley, George Coleman, and Sam Rivers. In 1964 Davis persuaded Shorter to leave Blakey and join his quintet alongside Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams. Miles's so-called Second Great Quintet (to distinguish it from the quintet with Coltrane) that included Hancock and Shorter has frequently been cited by musicians and critics as one of the most influential groups in the history of jazz, and Shorter's compositions are a primary reason. He composed extensively for Davis (e.g. "Prince of Darkness", "E.S.P.", "Footprints", "Sanctuary", "Nefertiti", and many others); on some albums, he provided half of the compositions, typically hard-bop workouts with long, spaced-out melody lines above the beat.
Herbie Hancock said of Shorter's tenure in the group: "The master writer to me, in that group, was Wayne Shorter. He still is a master. Wayne was one of the few people who brought music to Miles that didn't get changed." Davis said, "Wayne is a real composer. He writes scores, write the parts for everybody just as he wants them to sound. ... Wayne also brought in a kind of curiosity about working with musical rules. If they didn't work, then he broke them, but with musical sense; he understood that freedom in music was the ability to know the rules in order to bend them to your own satisfaction and taste."
Shorter remained in Davis's band after the breakup of the quintet in 1968, playing on early jazz fusion recordings including In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew (both 1969). His last live dates and studio recordings with Davis were in 1970.
Until 1968, he played tenor saxophone exclusively. The final album on which he played tenor in the regular sequence of Davis albums was Filles de Kilimanjaro. In 1969, he played the soprano saxophone on the Davis album In a Silent Way and on his own Super Nova (recorded with then-current Davis sidemen Chick Corea and John McLaughlin). When performing live with Miles Davis, and on recordings from summer 1969 to early spring 1970, he played both soprano and tenor saxophones; by the early 1970s, however, he chiefly played soprano.
Solo Blue Note recordings
Simultaneous with his time in the Miles Davis quintet, Shorter recorded several albums for Blue Note Records, featuring almost exclusively his own compositions, with a variety of line-ups, quartets and larger groups including Blue Note favourites such as Freddie Hubbard. His first Blue Note album (of nine in total) was Night Dreamer, recorded at Rudy Van Gelder's studio in 1964 with Lee Morgan, McCoy Tyner, Reggie Workman and Elvin Jones.
- pentatonic melodies harmonised with pedal points and complex harmonic relationships;
- structured solos that reflect the composition's melody as much as its harmony;
- long rests as an integral part of the music, in contrast with other, more effusive, players of the time such as John Coltrane.
The later album The All Seeing Eye was a free-jazz workout with a larger group, while Adam's Apple of 1966 was back to carefully constructed melodies by Shorter leading a quartet. Then a sextet again in the following year for Schizophrenia with his Miles Davis band mates Hancock and Carter plus trombonist Curtis Fuller, alto saxophonist/flautist James Spaulding and strong rhythms by drummer Joe Chambers.
Weather Report (1971–1985)
Following the release of Odyssey of Iska in 1970, Shorter formed the fusion group Weather Report with Miles Davis veteran keyboardist Joe Zawinul. The other original members were bassist Miroslav Vitous, percussionist Airto Moreira, and drummer Alphonse Mouzon. After Vitous' departure in 1973, Shorter and Zawinul co-led the group until the band's break-up in late 1985. A variety of excellent musicians that would make up Weather Report alumni over the years (most notably the revolutionary bassist Jaco Pastorius) helped the band produce many high quality recordings in diverse styles through the years, with funk, bebop, Latin jazz, ethnic music, and futurism being the most prevalent denominators.
Solo and side projects
Shorter also recorded critically acclaimed albums as a bandleader, notably 1974's Native Dancer, which featured his Miles Davis bandmate Herbie Hancock and Brazilian composer and vocalist Milton Nascimento.
In the late 1970s and the early 1980s, he toured in the V.S.O.P. quintet. This group was a revival of the 1960s Miles Davis quintet, except that Freddie Hubbard filled the trumpet chair instead of Miles. Shorter appeared with the same former Davis bandmates on the Carlos Santana double LP The Swing of Delight, for which he also composed a number of pieces.
After leaving Weather Report, Shorter continued to record and lead groups in jazz fusion styles, including touring in 1988 with guitarist Carlos Santana, who appeared on This is This!, the last Weather Report disc. There is a concert video recorded at the Lugano Jazz Festival in 1987, with Jim Beard, keyboards, Carl James, bass, Terri Lyne Carrington on drums and Marilyn Mazur, percussion. In 1989, he contributed to a hit on the rock charts, playing the sax solo on Don Henley's song "The End of the Innocence" and also produced the album Pilar by the Portuguese singer-songwriter Pilar Homem de Melo. He has also maintained an occasional working relationship with Herbie Hancock, including a tribute album recorded shortly after Miles Davis's death with Hancock, Carter, Williams and Wallace Roney. He continued to appear on Joni Mitchell's records in the 1990s. Shorter's distinctive sound is also apparent in the soundtrack for the Harrison Ford film The Fugitive, released in 1993.
In 1995, Shorter released the album High Life, his first solo recording for seven years. It was also his debut as a leader for Verve Records. Shorter composed all the compositions on the album and co-produced it with the bassist Marcus Miller. High Life received the Grammy Award for best Contemporary Jazz Album in 1997.
Shorter worked with Hancock once again in 1997, on the much acclaimed and heralded album 1+1. The song "Aung San Suu Kyi" (named for the Burmese pro-democracy activist) won both Hancock and Shorter a Grammy Award.
In 2009, he was announced as one of the headline acts at the Gnaoua World Music Festival in Essaouira, Morocco. His 2013 album Without a Net is his first with Blue Note Records since Odyssey of Iska.
In 2000, Shorter formed the first permanent acoustic group under his name, a quartet with pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Brian Blade, playing his own compositions, many of them reworkings of tunes going back to the 1960s. Three albums of live recordings have been released, Footprints Live! (2002), Beyond the Sound Barrier (2005) and Without A Net (2013). The quartet has received great acclaim from fans and critics, especially for the strength of Shorter's tenor saxophone playing. The biography Footprints: The Life and Work of Wayne Shorter by journalist Michelle Mercer examines the working life of the musicians as well as Shorter's thoughts and Buddhist beliefs. Beyond the Sound Barrier received the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Jazz Album.
Shorter's 2003 album Alegría (his first studio album for ten years, since High Life) received the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Jazz Album; it features the quartet with a host of other musicians, including pianist Brad Mehldau, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and former Weather Report percussionist Alex Acuña. Shorter's compositions, some new, some reworked from his Miles Davis period, feature the complex Latin rhythms that Shorter specialised in during his Weather Report days.
Shorter met Teruka (Irene) Nakagami in 1961. They were later married and had a daughter, Miyako. Some of his compositions are copyrighted as "Miyako Music". Shorter dedicated some pieces to his daughter: "Miyako" and "Infant Eyes". The couple separated in 1964.
Shorter met Ana Maria in 1964 and they were married in 1970. In 1986, their daughter Iska died of a grand mal seizure at age 14. Ana Maria and the couple's niece Dalila were both killed on July 17, 1996, on TWA Flight 800, while en route to see him in Italy. Dalila was the daughter of Ana Maria Shorter's sister and her husband, jazz vocalist Jon Lucien. In 1999, Shorter married Carolina Dos Santos, a close friend of Ana Maria. He is a Nichiren Buddhist and a member of Sōka Gakkai.
|Introducing Wayne Shorter||1959||Vee-Jay|
|Night Dreamer||1964||Blue Note|
|Speak No Evil||1965||Blue Note|
|The Soothsayer||1965||Blue Note|
|Et Cetera||1965||Blue Note|
|The All Seeing Eye||1965||Blue Note|
|Adam's Apple||1966||Blue Note|
|Super Nova||1969||Blue Note|
|Moto Grosso Feio||1970||Blue Note|
|Odyssey of Iska||1970||Blue Note|
|Native Dancer with Milton Nascimento||1974||Columbia|
|Carlos Santana and Wayne Shorter - Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival 1988 with Carlos Santana||1988||Image Entertainment|
|1 + 1 with Herbie Hancock||1997||Verve|
|Beyond the Sound Barrier||2005||Verve|
|Without a Net||2013||Blue Note|
- Down Beat Poll Winner New Star Saxophonist (1962)
- Grammy Award for Best Jazz Fusion Performance for Weather Report's 8:30 (1979)
- Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition for Dexter Gordon's Call Sheet Blues (1987)
- Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Individual or Group for A Tribute to Miles (1994)
- Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album for High Life (1996)
- Miles Davis Award Wayne Shorter was granted the Miles Davis Award by the Montreal International Jazz Festival. (1996)
- Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition for Aung San Suu Kyi (1997)
- NEA Jazz Masters (1998)
- Honorary Doctorate of Music (1999; Berklee College of Music)
- Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo for In Walked Wayne (1999)
- Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition for Sacajawea (2003)
- Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Individual or Group for Alegría (2003)
- Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Individual or Group for Beyond The Sound Barrier (2005)
- Jazz Journalists Association Jazz Award Small Ensemble Group of the Year to Wayne Shorter Quartet (2006)
- Ratliff, Ben. "Music Review: A Birthday Bash With a Harmonious Mix of Guests". The New York Times. December 3, 2008. Retrieved 2013-06-04.
- Past Winners Search for Wayne Shorter. GRAMMY.com. Retrieved 2013-06-04.
- Down Beat Poll Archive. DownBeat.com. Retrieved 2013-06-02
- A Brief History, Newark Arts High School. Accessed August 10, 2008.
- The Big Takeover: Weather Report – Forecast: Tomorrow (Columbia Legacy) :
- Len Lyons (1989). "Herbie Hancock". The Great Jazz Pianists: Speaking Of Their Lives And Music. Da Capo Press. p. 274. ISBN 978-0306803437.
- Davis, Miles; Troupe, Quincy (1990). "Chapter 13". Miles: The Autobiography. Simon and Schuster. p. 274. ISBN 0-671-72582-3.
- "Footprints: The Life and Work of Wayne Shorter". allaboutjazz.com. Retrieved November 19, 2010.
- "Wayne Shorter - Speak No Evil". 100greatestjazzalbums.blogspot.com. 1964-12-24. Retrieved 2012-04-04.
- "A Separate Peace". People. Retrieved February 21, 2010.
- "Times Topics" The New York Times. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Wayne Shorter|
- Essay on Wayne Shorter (Internet archive copy from February 2008)
- "An Interview with Wayne Shorter" by Bob Blumenthal, (Jazz.com).
- The Complete Wayne Shorter
- Wayne Shorter's letter read during Joe Zawinul's funeral
- Wayne Shorter discography
- Wayne Shorter Quartet with NEC Philharmonia, Boston on AllAboutJazz.com
- Wayne Shorter's artist file on Montreal Jazz Festival's website