An Interview with Wayne Shorter

Apr 1, 2014

Legendary saxophonist Wayne Shorter will visit Omaha in April. He will perform at 7:30pm on April 2 at the Holland Performing Arts Center. 

The celebrated saxophonist, composer, bandleader and sideman in the Miles Davis 1960s quintet will bring his own quartet of pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade to Omaha.

Wayne Shorter is one of the most significant jazz saxophonists in history.  Shorter has received six Grammy Awards® and 13 other Grammy® nominations. In addition to Shorter’s Grammy Awards®, he has been awarded Honorary Doctorates from New York University, the New England Conservatory and the Berklee College of Music. In 1997, the National Endowment for the Arts presented Shorter with the prestigious Jazz Master Award. Shorter's compositions have entered into the jazz standard book. Some of these include "Footprints",  "Witch Hunt",  "Nefertiti", "Sanctuary"  and "Night Dreamer", among many others.

Wayne Shorter was born in Newark, New Jersey on August 25, 1933.  In a legendary career in jazz music which has coincided with some of the most important performers and bands in history, Shorter has performed with a "who's who" of jazz music in the last several decades. As a composer for Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, and saxophonist, Shorter began to earn a reputation as a rising star on the jazz scene. Shorter also released a number of adventuresome Blue Note sessions in the 1960s which explored the frontiers of jazz music. Most notably Wayne Shorter was a member of the second Miles Davis quintet, contributing significant compositions to the band's stellar recordings and performances. He also participated in Miles Davis’ In a Silent Way/Bitches Brew recording sessions that launched fusion Jazz, and was a member of the 1969 Miles Davis touring band. These accomplishments could have easily secured Shorter's reputation for the jazz history books.

However, Wayne Shorter is not a man to rest on his laurels. With keyboard wizard Joe Zawinul Shorter co-founded Weather Report in 1971. Weather Report band personnel often changed, and there were five different editions of the band led by Zawinul and Shorter. Weather Report’s acquisition of legendary bassist and composer Jaco Pastorius took the music to new heights in the late 1970s. The group maintained a delicate balance between improvisation and structure, electric and acoustic textures, and melodic and atmospheric compositions. Weather Report enjoyed extraordinary critical and commercial success for 15 years until it disbanded in 1985. 

Following the conclusion of Weather Report's trajectory Shorter formed his own group, releasing a series of electric jazz albums with a new generation of rising jazz stars. Shorter's wife, Ana Maria, died in the crash of TWA flight 800  in 1996. Following this tragic event, Wayne Shorter returned to the scene with 1997’s 1+1, an intimate duet recording with Herbie Hancock.

Since that time Wayne Shorter has continued to make an important contribution to jazz.  In 2001 Wayne began touring as the leader of a lineup featuring pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade.  The group has recorded several very impressive albums, starting with 2002's stellar Footprints Live, then following with the live date Beyond the Sound Barrier. His most recent effort, 2013's Without A Net,  is another artistic triumph. 

An illuminating book about Wayne Shorter,  Footprints: The Life and Music of Wayne Shorter, was written by Michelle Mercer and published in 2004.

Last Call host Chris Cooke recently caught up with Wayne Shorter on the phone. Click on the link below to hear that interview. Recording engineer: Mike Hansen.

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