Saxophonist Wayne Shorter, who worked with both jazz and rock legends during his six-decade career, died Thursday morning at age 89. No cause of death was given.
Shorter’s career included collaborations with the likes of Steely Dan, Carlos Santana, Joni Mitchell, Don Henley and Herbie Hancock, among others.
Born in Newark, N.J., in 1933, Shorter graduated from New York University in 1956 with a degree in music education. He spent two years in the U.S. Army before joining Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in 1959. In 1964, he joined Miles Davis’ second great quintet, appearing on influential early jazz fusion albums like In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew. He also enjoyed a fruitful solo career around this time, recording albums for Blue Note Records.
In 1970, Shorter co-founded the jazz fusion group Weather Report, which released more than a dozen albums, many of which were co-produced by Shorter.
Listen to Weather Report’s ‘Tears’
In 1977, Shorter performed the solo on the title track of Steely Dan’s Grammy-winning album Aja. That same year, he contributed to Joni Mitchell’s Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter; Shorter would go on to play on nine more Mitchell albums, up until 2002.
“I would give her the entrances and exits and all that stuff. She said, ‘Wow!'” Shorter told CBS Music [via jonimitchell.com] in 2013. “And then she would have a number of takes and she would choose from different takes to edit in as if using a paintbrush again because, of course, every take was different. She said she wished she could use all of them, but she would highlight the ones that would become the record with what she thought was a large, big, fat, rainbow of a palette that she could use.”
In 1988, Shorter toured with Carlos Santana, who contributed guitar to the 1986 Weather Report album, This Is This! In 1989, Shorter played the sax solo on Don Henley’s Top 10 hit “The End of the Innocence.”
Listen to Wayne Shorter Play on Joni Mitchell’s ‘Jericho’
In 2015, Santana stated that he planned to create a supergroup called Supernova with Shorter, Hancock and guitarist John McLaughlin. “It’s kind of like playing with, sharing music with Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking,” he told Billboard at the time. “Because Wayne and Herbie, they’re at that level of genius, genius, genius, genius.” The group was called Mega Nova instead, and also included bassist Marcus Miller and drummer Cindy Blackman Santana. They played their first show in August 2016.
Shorter won 12 Grammys, including a Lifetime Achievement Award, during his career. Throughout, he refused to be boxed into any one genre. “If you come from a classical background, a jazz background, it’s just about having a voice and not being forced to change your way of doing things,” he said in a 2022 interview with Jazzwise. “You can stay as you are and delve into another medium.”
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