An ME Tribute to Wayne Shorter

In case you missed it (since the media completely isgnored it), jazz giant Wayne Shorter died on March 2nd, 2023. I found out several days later when my friend Steve texted me. Meanwhile we get media alerts every time Beyonce drops a tune or Taylor Swift farts. 

Wikipedia: “Wayne Shorter (August 25, 1933 – March 2, 2023) was an American jazz saxophonist and composer. Shorter came to prominence in the late 1950s as a member of, and eventually primary composer for, 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 more than 20 albums as a bandleader.

Many Shorter compositions have become jazz standards, and his music has earned worldwide recognition, critical praise, and commendation. Shorter won 12 Grammy Awards. 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 DownBeat’s annual poll-winner on that instrument, winning the critics’ poll for 10 consecutive years and the readers’ for 18.

The New York Times music critic Ben Ratliff described Shorter in 2008 as “probably jazz’s greatest living small-group composer and a contender for greatest living improviser”.In 2017, he was awarded the Polar Music Prize.”

I wanted to get all that in there because if you’re not familar with Shorter, you should be aware of what a giant he was. Her are some tunes.

In 1977, Weather Report released their seminal album Heavy Weather, which produced the jazz classic “Birdland.” This is actually a Joe Zawinul number called “A Remark You Made.” One of my wife’s favorites:

Miles Davis’ Second Great Quintet (Davis, Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Wiliams) was formed in and around 1964. In 1965, Miles released an album called E.S.P so called because it was inspired by the fact that “since Shorter’s arriveal, the five members of the quintent seemed to comunicate by mental telepathy. 

This album was recorded not too long prior to Miles going fusion. It is 100% my kinda jazz. Here’s the title tune:

Speak No Evil is the sixth album by Wayne Shorter. It was released in June 1966 by Blue Note Records.The music combines elements of hard bop and modal jazz, and features Shorter on tenor saxophone, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Elvin Jones.

Here’s “Witch Hunt.” I love the way the rhythm section swings on this one:

I saw Shorter any number of times with Weather Report back in the day including with Jaco. A great experience. Alas, some years back we went to see him with Herbie Hancock. Just the two of them. How could that suck? Well, it wasn’t bad but they seemed unrehearsed overall. But I guess everyone has an off night.

Here’s a good night “live” (with Santana). Montreux 1988. Carlos doesn’t solo either because he’s deferring to Wayne or he’s saying, No thanks.

One more tune for ya. “Adam’s Apple is the tenth album by post-bop jazz artist Wayne Shorter. Recorded in 1966 and released in 1967, it included the first recording of his composition “Footprints”, later recorded by the Miles Davis Quintet for the album Miles Smiles (1967). Shorter is featured with pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Reggie Workman and drummer Joe Chambers,

Oh fuck it. I can’t resist the live version of “Birdland” from 8:30.

In 1999, Shorter received an Honorary Doctorate of Music from the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

On September 17, 2013, Shorter received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz (formerly Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz).

On December 18, 2014, the Recording Academy announced that Shorter was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in honor of his “prolific contributions to our culture and history”.

In 2016, Shorter was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in the field of music composition, the only jazz artist to receive the honor that year.

In 2017, Shorter was announced as the joint winner of the Polar Music Prize. The award committee stated: “Without the musical explorations of Wayne Shorter, modern music would not have drilled so deep.”

In 2018, 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.

 

 

20 thoughts on “An ME Tribute to Wayne Shorter

  1. ME!
    Great piece on Wayne. Charles Lloyd posted some nice photos of the two of them playing and hanging out on FaceBook after Wayne passed. Charles shared some thoughts on a Buddhist view of death, it was a short, moving piece.
    Here are some links to the media coverage I found on March 2, and 3.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/wayne-shorter-dead/2023/03/02/b70f60a6-b925-11ed-b0df-8ca14de679ad_story.html

    https://www.latimes.com/obituaries/story/2023-03-02/wayne-shorter-dead

    Thanks for all the great reads.
    Brian

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  2. Holy cow, I had no idea! I think you’re right Wayne Shorter’s death wasn’t widely reported. At least not comparable to Jeff Beck, for example. I’m a huge saxophone fan and have included Shorter a few times in my Sunday Six feature.

    I absolutely love that first Weather Report tune you highlighted, “A Remark You Made”. I would have loved to see these guys with Shorter and Jaco Pastorius! “Birdland” is super cool, too. And, then, there’s of course this epic Shorter sax part:

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    1. Gary Rossington of Skynryd got more play on the news when he died and he’s hardly a household name. (Tribute coming up). I swear I saw Weather Report 5 or 6 times, once in a college auditorum, once after Heavy Weather came out. And, believe it or not, once in Londnn. Thanks for the You Tube. I’ll check it out.

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      1. I had heard of Rossington, but not Shorter – you literally broke that news to me!

        I guess when it’s rock or pop, media cares more? Plus, according to Wikipedia, Shorter had retired from performing in 2018. Who knows, it’s still remarkable…

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        1. For sure. He had performed for 70(!) years – that in and of itself is just incredible. Then his affiliation with the Jazz Messengers and Miles Davis and, of course, Weather Report – definitely a remarkable career!

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  3. Great post, thanks for keeping the jazz flame burning. Jealous of your many Weather Report shows — never had that opportunity (or whiffed if I missed a show I could have made).

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    1. It will blow your mind – and it does mine in thinking about it – that in London many moons ago I saw WP, McLaughlin, and Billy Cobham on the same bill.

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  4. Im going to settle into this play list later today. Shorter makes his way into my spin list pretty regular. ‘Sweetnighter’ was the first time I heard him. The door was thrown wide open to a wealth of music that I’m still discovering.
    A Swift/Beyonce fart? That got my attention. Maybe I should get on those feeds.

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      1. Just tying into the set right now. I think Carter mentioned in the doc how much Shorter brought to the Mile’s sessions. Hire the right people and let them do their thing. Smart.
        Yeah the Aja cut was a good call by the Dan guys. Reminds me of the Stones (Charlie) pulling in Rollins for ‘Waiting On a Friend’

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        1. Like I said. I was hooked into some Shorter just awhile ago. ‘Complete Bluenote Recordings’. Listening to ‘Witch Hunt’ and ‘Footprints’ just abut sent me into a listening jag.

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  5. Nice tribute to an iconic musician. Those Weather Report shows, especially with Jaco, remain some of the best I’ve ever seen. They could rock as hard as anyone then morph into something sublime like ‘Dream Clock’. So many of my favorite musicians are checking out….

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    1. Yet they never lost their jazz sensibility. I’m going to be writing about Gary Rossington soon, less because of him in particular and more because he was the last original member of Skynyrd.

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