There is little that can be said that hasn’t already been stated about the iconic saxophonist Wayne Shorter.
Pioneering, creative, brilliant composer, thought provoking, calming, cool. Those are just a few adjectives that come to mind when thinking about Shorter and the influence he had and is continuing to have on jazz music and jazz musicians. Since the 1950s, Shorter has been on the prowl to bring something new and uplifting to jazz. He joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in 1959 and was a part of Miles Davis groundbreaking quintet in the 60s which included bassist Ron Carter, pianist Herbie Hancock, and drummer Tony Williams. Shorter composed some of the group’s most endearing tunes and also contributed to Davis’ jazz fusion masterpieces’ Bitches Brew and In A Silent Way. Shorter also was a pioneer of the then new jazz fusion sensation co-founding the group Weather Report, which was one of the earliest fusion bands in the 1970s.
Shorter has never stopped doing what he loves and his work is a living testament of just how passionate he is about jazz. He has continued to elevate the genre, most recently with his acoustic group The Wayne Shorter Quartet, which includes a group of younger musicians including pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade.
I personally had an opportunity to witness Shorter’s genius playing skills with his quartet while covering last year’s Detroit Jazz Festival in which he was one of the headlining acts.
Here’s an excerpt from my review of Shorter’s performance at the festival:
While there were many amazing performances throughout the weekend, the most spectacular performance of the festival had to be the Wayne Shorter Quartet, which featured Danilo Perez on piano, John Patitucci on bass and Brian Blade on drums… Shorter conjured up the spirits of all of the free jazz legends of his time and his electrifying skills ascended to new levels. The band started off in a gradual manner, each member in sync and following Shorter’s moves as he played short, subtle phrases. Then, there was a succession of experimental wonders from the band as Shorter ventured off into a fast, high pitched zone on the sax while Blade hammered on the drums in blinding speed and Patitucci aggressively provided the bass line along with virtuoso piano runs by Perez. It was like each member was doing his own thing but still stayed on the same pace. Their performance completely summed up exactly what the Detroit Jazz Festival is all about: taking jazz to new heights while celebrating a historic music unlike any other.
Here’s a clip from the upcoming documentary “Wayne Shorter; Zero Gravity” which chronicles Shorter’s life in music.