Wayne Shorter, the iconic saxophonist and composer who helped shape the landscape of modern jazz, has died. He was 89.
One of the most highly admired musicians of his era, Shorter rose to prominence as a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Miles Davis’s Second Great Quintet in the 1960s, and the renowned fusion group Weather Report.
Shorter also recorded more than 20 albums as a bandleader, with many of his original compositions becoming jazz standards.
Shorter died Thursday at a hospital in Los Angeles, his publicist confirmed to The New York Times.
Shorter won 12 Grammy Awards, including one this year for best improvised jazz solo for his work with Leo Genovese on “Endangered Species.” In 2014, the Recording Academy awarded him a Lifetime Achievement Award in honour of his “prolific contributions to our culture and history.”
Shorter was born in Newark, N.J., on Aug. 25, 1933. He began playing the clarinet in his youth before switching to the saxophone. He graduated from New York University with a degree in music education in 1956 and then spent two years in the U.S. Army, where he played briefly with Horace Silver. Shorter’s early influences included Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane and Coleman Hawkins.
In 1959, Shorter joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and played with them for four years, eventually becoming the band’s musical director and composing original material for the group. In 1964, he joined Miles Davis’s quintet during the famed trumpeter’s acclaimed electric period, appearing on several landmark albums including the genre-defining fusion recordings In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew.
Shorter left Davis’s quintet in 1970 and formed Weather Report with keyboardist Joe Zawinul, bassist Miroslav Vitouš and drummer Alphonse Mouzon. Going through a variety of member lineups between its inception and eventual breakup in 1986, the band became renowned for its funky sound that incorporated elements of rock, R&B, bebop, world music and futurism.
Shorter also recorded 26 albums as a solo bandleader, collaborating with other legendary musicians including Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Curtis Fuller, Joe Chambers, Lee Morgan, McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones, Freddie Hubbard, Reggie Workman, Chick Corea, John McLaughlin and Jack DeJohnette.
As a sideman and revered soloist, Shorter recorded albums with Jaco Pastorius, Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock, Norah Jones, John Scofield, the Rolling Stones, Steely Dan, Esperanza Spalding and many more. He performed prominently on 10 of Joni Mitchell’s albums between 1977 and 2002.
Shorter won a Doris Duke Performing Artist Award in 2021, the Kennedy Center Honors Award in 2018, a Guggenheim Fellowship in the field of music composition in 2016, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz in 2013, and an honorary doctorate from the Berklee College of Music in 1999. He was named an NEA Jazz Master in 1998.