Wayne Shorter, a 12-time Grammy-winning saxophonist and composer, who was a key architect of modern jazz, has passed away, reports NPR. He was 89 years old.
Shorter’s passing was confirmed by Cem Kurosman, a publicist at Blue Note Records.
Regarded as one of the greatest saxophonists in the history of music, Shorter’s illustrious career spans numerous incarnations of the genre including Modal jazz, bebop, post-bop, jazz fusion and several others.
Born on Aug. 25, 1933, in Newark, N.J., Shorter began playing the alto saxophone and the trumpet before settling on the soprano and tenor saxophone. After graduating from New York University with a degree in music education in 1956, he would spend two years in the U.S. Army, where he played briefly with Horace Silver. He would make a name for himself as a composer and saxophonist of the renowned Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers as musical director of the band.
In 1964, Shorter left the Messengers to join the Miles Davis band, which was known as the famed trumpeter’s Second Great Quintet. He played along with Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on bass, and Tony Williams on drums. The Quintet featured each musician who was a virtuoso in their own right, pushing the art form of jazz to heights that it never experienced before. They recorded a slew of classic albums including E.S.P., Miles Smiles, Sorcerer, Nefertiti, Miles in the Sky, Filles de Kilimanjaro and the live set The Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel 1965. Years later, Shorter reflected on the influence of Davis.
"The six years I was with Miles, we never talked about music," Shorter recalled. "Miles, on his table, he had scores of Koussevitzky, the conductor ... and then he had another book on architecture and another book on law. Just sitting on the table. And then he'd talk about clothes and fashion."
While with Davis’ quintet, Shorter began recording 11 solo albums from 1964 to 1970. As a sideman, he performed with Donald Byrd, McCoy Tyner, Grachan Moncur III, Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan and his bandmates Hancock and Williams.
One of his greatest accomplishments was the creation of Weather Report, a critically acclaimed jazz-fusion band he co-founded with Joe Zawinul, and Miroslav Vitouš. With Airto Moreira, Alphonse Mouzon, and Jaco Pastorius playing with the collective at different times, the band merged R&B, funk, Latin music and bebop to create a unique sound that earned them a reputation as one of the premiere jazz bands until they disbanded in 1985.
After Weather Report broke up, Shorter started the Wayne Shorter Quartet featuring up-and-coming musicians. His final album, Emanon was released in 2018.
On Twitter, Hancock paid tribute to his best friend and frequent collaborator marking his passing.
“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,” Hancock’s tweet read.
We at EBONY extend our prayers and deepest condolences to the family and friends of Wayne Shorter.