Wayne Shorter (August 25, 1933 – March 2, 2023) was an American jazz saxophonist and composer who came to prominence in the late 1950s as a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.
In the 1960s, he joined Miles Davis’s Second Great Quintet, and then co-founded the jazz fusion band Weather Report. He recorded over 20 albums as a bandleader.
Wayne Shorter was born in Newark, New Jersey and graduated from Newark Arts High School in 1952. He loved music and was encouraged by his father to take up the clarinet as a teenager. His his older brother Alan played alto saxophone before switching to the trumpet in college.
While in high school Wayne Shorter performed with the Nat Phipps Band in Newark.
After graduating from New York University with a degree in music education in 1956, Wayne Shorter spent two years in the U.S. Army, during which time he played briefly with Horace Silver. After his discharge, he played with Maynard Ferguson.
In his youth Wayne Shorter had acquired the nickname “Mr. Gone”, which later became an album title for Weather Report.
His early influences include Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane and Coleman Hawkins.
In 1959, Wayne Shorter joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers where he stayed for four years, eventually becoming musical director and composing pieces for the band. Together they toured the US, Japan, and Europe, recording several albums. During this time Shorter “established himself as one of the most gifted of the young saxophonists” and received international acknowledgment
Wayne Shorter met Teruko (Irene) Nakagami in 1961. They were later married and had a daughter, Miyako. Some of his compositions are copyrighted as “Miyako Music” and Shorter dedicated the pieces “Miyako” and “Infant Eyes” to his daughter. Unfortunately, Wayne and Irene separated in 1964.
He was acclaimed for his mastery of the soprano saxophone since switching his focus from the tenor in the late 1960s and beginning an extended reign in 1970 as Down Beat’s annual poll-winner on that instrument, winning the critics’ poll for 10 consecutive years and the readers’ for 18 years.
Wayne Shorter met Ana Maria Patricio in 1966 and they were married in 1970. In 1986, their daughter Iska died of a grand mal seizure at age just 14. Ana Maria and the couple’s niece, Dalila, were both killed on July 17, 1996, on TWA Flight 800, while travelling to visit Shorter in Italy.
In 1999, Wayne Shorter married Carolina Dos Santos, a close friend of Ana Maria, he also received an Honorary Doctorate of Music from the Berklee College of Music.
On September 17, 2013, Wayne Shorter received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz.
Wayne Shorter won 12 Grammy Awards, including a Lifetime Achievement award in 2015 in honor of his “prolific contributions to our culture and history”..
In 2016, Wayne Shorter was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in the field of music composition, the only jazz artist to receive the honor that year.
In 2017, Wayne Shorter was announced as the joint winner of the Polar Music Prize, which is a Swedish international award founded in 1989 by Stig Anderson, best known as the manager of the Swedish band ABBA, with a donation to the Royal Swedish Academy of Music. The award is annually given to one contemporary musician and one classical musician. The award committee stated: “Without the musical explorations of Wayne Shorter, modern music would not have drilled so deep.”
In 2018, Wayne Shorter received the Kennedy Center Honors Award from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for his lifetime of contributions to the arts.
Wayne Shorter practiced Nichiren Buddhism for over 50 years as a longtime member of the Buddhist association Soka Gakkai International.
Tina Turner credits Wayne Shorter with saving her life and said that Shorter and his wife Ana Maria provided her with critical refuge at their home for six months after she left her abusive husband, Ike Turner, in 1976.
Many of Wayne Shorter’s compositions have become jazz standards, and his music has earned worldwide recognition, critical praise, and commendation.
Wayne Shorter died in Los Angeles on March 2, 2023, at the age of 89.
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