Legendary Jazz Saxophonist Wayne Shorter Dead at 89

    Wayne Shorter, one of the most innovative and influential saxophonists in jazz history, has died. Shorter passed away at a hospital in Los Angeles this morning (March 2), The New York Times reports. He was 89.

    Born in 1933 in Newark, New Jersey, Shorter started playing the clarinet at an early age before switching to the saxophone. In 1956, he graduated from New York University with a degree in music education, and following a stint in the US Army, played with bandleader Maynard Ferguson before rising to prominence as a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.

    In 1964, Shorter was recruited to join Miles Davis’ Second Great Quintet alongside Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on bass, and Tony Williams on drums. In Len Lyons’ book The Great Jazz Pianists, Hancock described Shorter as “the master writer to me, in that group” and “one of the few people who brought music to Miles that didn’t get changed.” In his autobiography, Davis wrote, “Wayne also brought in a kind of curiosity about working with musical rules. If they didn’t work, then he broke them, but with a musical sense; he understood that freedom in music was the ability to know the rules in order to bend them to your satisfaction and taste.”

    The Second Great Quintet fell apart as Davis shifted toward jazz fusion and jazz-rock sounds, but Shorter remained a part of his band on landmark albums including 1969’s In a Silent Way and 1970’s Bitches Brew. During his tenure with Davis, Shorter also released influential records for Blue Note Records as a bandleader.

    In 1971, Shorter formed Weather Report with keyboardist Joe Zawinul. Following the recruitment of bass player Jaco Pastorius in 1976, the group enjoyed commercial success with albums like 1977’s Heavy Weather, which reached the US Top 30. Shorter also had a fruitful collaboration with Joni Mitchell, who recruited him for all 10 studio albums she released between 1977 and 2002. He also contributed the saxophone solo to Steely Dan’s ‘Aja’ and Don Henley’s ‘The End of Innocence’.

    An 11-time Grammy award winner, Shorter received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015. He was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master in 1998, won the Polar Music Prize in 2017, and received the Kennedy Center Honors Award in 2018.

    Konstantinos Pappis
    Konstantinos Pappis
    Konstantinos Pappis is a writer, journalist, and music editor at Our Culture. His work has also appeared in Pitchfork, GIGsoup, and other publications. He currently lives in Athens, Greece.

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