Wayne Shorter (born August 25, 1933) is an American jazz saxophonist and composer, commonly regarded as one of the most important American jazz musicians of his generation. He is generally acknowledged to be jazz's greatest living composer. Shorter's output within the field has earned worldwide recognition, critical praise and various commendations, including multiple Grammy Awards. The virtuoso has recorded over 20 albums as a leader, and appeared on dozens more with others including Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers in the late 1950s, Miles Davis's second great quintet in the 1960s and the jazz fusion band Weather Report, which Shorter co-led in the 1970s. Many of his compositions have become standards
Shorter was born in Newark, New Jersey, and attended Newark Arts High School. He loved music, being encouraged by his father to take up the saxophone as a teenager (his brother Alan became a trumpeter). After graduating from New York University in 1956, Shorter spent two years in the U.S. Army, during which time he played briefly with Horace Silver. After his discharge from the army, he played with Maynard Ferguson. It was in his youth that Shorter was given the nickname Mr. Gone, which would later become an album title for Weather Report.
In 1959, Shorter joined Art Blakey. He stayed with Blakey for five years, and eventually became musical director for the group.
When John Coltrane finally left Miles Davis' band in 1960 to pursue his own group (after previously trying to leave in 1959), Coltrane proposed Wayne Shorter as a replacement but Shorter was unavailable and Davis went with Sonny Stitt on tenor followed by a revolving door of Hank Mobley, George Coleman, and Sam Rivers. In 1964, Miles Davis persuaded Shorter to leave Blakey and join his quintet alongside Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams.
Miles' so-called "second great quintet" (to distinguish it from the quintet with Coltrane) that included Hancock and Shorter has frequently been cited by musicians and critics as one of the most influential groups in the history of jazz, and Shorter's compositions are a primary reason for the group's unique sound. Shorter composed extensively for Miles Davis (e.g. "Prince of Darkness", "E.S.P.", "Footprints", "Sanctuary", "Nefertiti", and many others); on some albums, he provided half of the compositions, typically hard-bop workouts with spaced-out long melody lines above the beat.
Herbie Hancock said of Shorter's tenure in the group, "The master writer to me, in that group, was Wayne Shorter. He still is a master. Wayne was one of the few people who brought music to Miles that didn't get changed." Davis said, "Wayne is a real composer. He writes scores, write the parts for everybody just as he wants them to sound... Wayne also brought in a kind of curiosity about working with musical rules. If they didn't work, then he broke them, but with musical sense; he understood that freedom in music was the ability to know the rules in order to bend them to your own satisfaction and taste."
Shorter remained in Davis's band after the breakup of the quintet in 1968, playing on early jazz fusion recordings including In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew (both 1969). His last live dates and studio recordings with Davis were in 1970.
Until 1968, he played tenor saxophone exclusively. The final album on which he played tenor in the regular sequence of Davis albums was Filles de Kilimanjaro. In 1969, he played the soprano saxophone on the Davis album In a Silent Way and on his own Super Nova (recorded with then-current Davis sidemen Chick Corea and John McLaughlin). When performing live with Miles Davis, recordings from summer 1969 to early spring 1970 he played both soprano and tenor saxophones. By the early 1970s, however, he chiefly played soprano saxophone.
Following the release of Odyssey of Iska in 1970, Shorter formed the fusion group Weather Report with Miles Davis veteran keyboardist Joe Zawinul. The other original members were bassist Miroslav Vitous, percussionist Airto Moreira, and drummer Alphonse Mouzon. After Vitous' departure in 1973, Shorter and Zawinul co-led the group until the band's break-up in late 1985. A variety of excellent musicians that would make up Weather Report alumni over the years (most notably the revolutionary bassist Jaco Pastorius) helped the band produce many high quality recordings in diverse styles through the years, with funk, bebop, Latin jazz, ethnic music, and futurism being the most prevalent denominators.
Shorter also recorded critically acclaimed albums as a bandleader, notably Native Dancer, which featured his Miles Davis band-mate Herbie Hancock and Brazilian composer and vocalist Milton Nascimento. Shorter was to work with both of these musicians again later.
On the title track of Steely Dan's 1977 album Aja, he played a solo that moved the critic writing the album's liner notes to the point that he called it "suitable for framing" (meaning 'beautiful' rather than 'wooden').
Concurrently, in the late 1970s and the early 1980s, he toured in the V.S.O.P. quintet. This group was a revival of the 1960s Miles Davis quintet, except that Freddie Hubbard filled the trumpet chair instead of Miles. Shorter appeared with the same former Davis bandmates on the Carlos Santana double LP The Swing of Delight, for which he also composed a number of pieces.
From 1977 through 2002, he appeared on ten Joni Mitchell studio albums, gaining him a wider audience.
After leaving Weather Report, Shorter continued to record and lead groups in jazz fusion styles, including touring in 1988 with guitarist Carlos Santana, who appeared on the last Weather Report disc This is This! In 1989, he contributed to a hit on the rock charts, playing the sax solo on Don Henley's song "The End of the Innocence" and also produced the album "Pilar" by the Portuguese singer-songwriter Pilar Homem de Melo. He has also maintained an occasional working relationship with Herbie Hancock, including a tribute album recorded shortly after Davis's death with Hancock, Carter, Williams and Wallace Roney. He continued to appear on Joni Mitchell's records in the 1990s. Shorter's distinctive sound is also apparent in the soundtrack for the Harrison Ford film The Fugitive released in 1993.
In 1995, Shorter released the album High Life, his first solo recording for seven years. It was also Shorter's debut as a leader for Verve Records. Shorter composed all the compositions on the album and co-produced it with the bassist Marcus Miller. High Life received the Grammy Award for best Contemporary Jazz Album in 1997.
Shorter would work with Hancock once again in 1997, on the much acclaimed and heralded album 1+1. The song "Aung San Suu Kyi" (named for the Burmese pro-democracy activist) won both Hancock and Shorter a Grammy Award.
In 2009, he was announced as one of the headline acts at the Gnaoua World Music Festival in Essaouira, Morocco.
Wayne Shorter ha supuesto un profundo impacto en el jazz tanto como
improvisador y compositor como conceptualizador. A través de su carrera ha roto muchas veces las reglas preestablecidas.
Fue director musical de los Jazz Messengers de 1959 a 1964. Recomendado por Coltrane, dijo no a Miles Davis hasta que pudo finalizar sus compromisos con Art Blakey. En 1964 definitivamente firmó con Miles para formar parte de su quinteto junto a Herbie Hancock.En 1970 crea junto a Joe Zawinul “Weather Report”, una banda que continuó de forma más expansiva el jazz electrónico que introdujo Miles unos años antes.