Wayne Shorter, the pioneering saxophonist whose momentum helped chart the course of jazz, died in Los Angeles this morning (March 2), The New York Times reports, citing the musician’s publicist. Shorter was 89.
Born in Newark, New Jersey, Shorter was a teenager fond of comics, movies, and bebop. He was also a tenor saxophone prodigy, with a degree in music from New York University. He rose to international fame as a musician and songwriter in the 1960s, working with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and the Miles Davis Quintet while releasing landmark LPs for Blue Note as the bandleader, with current standards like “Footprints” and “Black Nile.” . between song lists.
In the late ’60s, she added the soprano sax to her arsenal and, with Davis, led jazz to the forefront, eventually midwifeing the fusion subgenre. As styles evolved in the ’70s and ’80s, Shorter’s own group Weather Report led and pursued various iterations of jazz. Meanwhile, his work with the likes of Joni Mitchell and Steely Dan helped masters outside the world of jazz branch out into new styles with harmonic nuances free from the orthodoxy of rock and folk.
His work over several decades with the Wayne Shorter Quartet continued to explore and expand the outer reaches of jazz. He garnered a host of Grammy Awards, adding to a collection that began in 1980, when he won Best Jazz Fusion Performance for “8:30.” His life’s work was recognized throughout the music establishment, with honors including a Grammy for his lifetime achievement, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the 2017 Polar Music Prize, and, the following year, an Honor Award from the Kennedy Center.