Los Angeles Times

He composed his own legacy

The influentia­l saxophonis­t and composer worked closely with Art Blakey, Miles Davis.

- By Don Heckman

Wayne Shorter, a saxophonis­t and composer who was universall­y acknowledg­ed as one of the most original and influentia­l jazz artists of the last six decades, died Thursday at 89.

Shorter, who worked closely with Art Blakey and Miles Davis and co-founded the influentia­l Weather Report jazz fusion ensemble, died at an L.A. hospital, “surrounded by his loving family at the time of his transition,” his publicist, Alisse Kingsley, confirmed to The Times. No cause of death was given.

“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,” Herbie Hancock, Shorter’s closest friend for more than six decades, said in a statement Thursday.

“Maestro Wayne Shorter was our hero, guru and

beautiful friend,” Don Was, president of Blue Note Records, said in a statement Thursday. “His music possessed a spirit that came from somewhere way, way beyond and made this world a much better place.”

In early February, Shorter won his 12th Grammy — he was nominated 23 times — for improvised jazz solo on “Endangered Species” and most recently had been contemplat­ing his next project, a jazz ballet. In all, he had more than 200 compositio­ns, many of which became modern standards.

His achievemen­ts as a saxophonis­t — playing tenor

‘When you go onstage, you have to put away all your Grammys . ... Go out there in your pajamas and tell a story.’

— Wayne Shorter

and soprano saxophones — were equally impressive. Moving freely across an expressive horizon — from bebop to free improvisat­ion — Shorter enhanced his imaginativ­e soloing with a rich palette of saxophone sounds and textures.

His influence, which followed the impact of John Coltrane’s playing, can be heard in the work of a wide range of contempora­ry tenor saxophonis­ts, including Joe Lovano, Branford Marsalis, Chris Potter, Ravi Coltrane and numerous others.

Born Aug. 25, 1933, in Newark, N.J., Shorter and his brother Alan, a trumpeter, were encouraged by their father to pursue careers in music. But Shorter’s early artistic interests as a young teenager were in the visual arts, especially film, painting and sculpture.

It wasn’t until 1948, when he discovered the emergence of bebop and the playing of such breakthrou­gh jazz icons as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Lester Young, that he took up the saxophone, forming his own first band in 1952.

“I loved the energy and life of the music,” he told DownBeat magazine. “I couldn’t wait to go to New York to see Bop City, the Bandbox, the Latin bands and the Palladium and Birdland.”

After graduating from New York University in 1956 with a bachelor’s degree in music, he was drafted into the Army, serving for two years.

Shorter was already building a reputation as a highly regarded young talent while he was still in the service, playing with Horace Silver. On his discharge, he joined the Maynard Ferguson Big Band.

But his initial high-visibility jazz associatio­ns began in 1959, when he joined Blakey’s Jazz Messengers as an instrument­alist and the band’s music director.

His first recording as a band leader, “Introducin­g Wayne Shorter,” was released in 1959. It would be followed by two dozen highly praised albums, including such classics as “Speak No Evil,” “JuJu,” “Adam’s Apple,” “Native Dancer,” “Alegria” and “Without a Net.”

After leaving the Jazz Messengers in 1964, Shorter took over the saxophone role in the Miles Davis Quintet, replacing John Coltrane and becoming a significan­t contributo­r to a band still recognized as one of jazz history’s most influentia­l ensembles.*

In 1970 he founded Weather Report with keyboardis­t Joe Zawinul. For the next decade and a half, the group was a pathfinder in the developmen­t of jazz fusion, with Shorter’s works often leading the way in blending funk, rock and world music elements into Weather Report’s colorful musical mix.

For the balance of his career, Shorter’s creative versatilit­y was on full display. He was a principal member of the band V.S.O.P., an ambitious remake — with trumpeter Freddie Hubbard — of the Miles Davis Quintet.

In the ’90s, Shorter and Hancock, always eager to work together, played a series of critically praised programs as a completely improvisat­ional duo. Shorter also recorded with pop stars Don Henley, Carlos Santana and Joni Mitchell.

Beginning in 2000, Shorter led a stellar ensemble that included pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade. Describing his enthusiasm about the band, Shorter told The Times in 2013: “No one knows what’s going to happen each night. I always say, we don’t really rehearse. How do you rehearse the unknown?”

Shorter married Teruko Nakagami in the early ’60s. Several of his compositio­ns — including “Infant Eyes” and “Miyako” — were dedicated to their daughter, Miyako. After that marriage ended in 1964, he married Ana Maria Patricio in 1970. Their daughter, Iska Maria, was born the following year.

Shorter’s successes as a creative jazz artist were countered by several major personal tragedies. His daughter Iska Maria, then 14, died unexpected­ly of a seizure in 1986. A decade later, his wife Ana Maria and his niece Dalila died in the Boeing 747 crash of TWA’s Flight 800 off the coast of Long Island. Shorter often acknowledg­ed his faith as a Nichiren Buddhist helped him deal with his grief.

After the death of Ana Maria in 1996, he married her close friend Carolina Dos Santos in 1999.

Between 1979 and 2005, Shorter received nine Grammy Awards. He was appointed a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1998. He was a Kennedy Center Honors recipient in 2018, along with composer-pianist Philip Glass, singer Reba McEntire, singer-actor Cher and the four co-creators of the Broadway show “Hamilton.”

But Shorter was not one to be impressed by awards.

“When you go onstage,” he told the Washington Post in 2013, “you have to put away all your Grammys, your accolades, put away all your newspaper articles. Go out there in your pajamas and tell a story.”

The musician is survived by his wife, Carolina, daughters Miyako and Mariana and grandson Max.

 ?? Invision / AP ?? Greg Allen
“A SEEKING SPIRIT” Wayne Shorter was a jazz fusion pioneer.
Invision / AP Greg Allen “A SEEKING SPIRIT” Wayne Shorter was a jazz fusion pioneer.
 ?? Boris Grdanoski Associated Press ??
Boris Grdanoski Associated Press
 ?? Lester Cohen CREATIVE COLLABORAT­IONS WireImage ?? Shorter recorded with many pop stars, including Joni Mitchell, right.
Lester Cohen CREATIVE COLLABORAT­IONS WireImage Shorter recorded with many pop stars, including Joni Mitchell, right.

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