Wayne Shorter, Obituary, Music News, News, Jazz

Pioneering Jazz Saxophonist Wayne Shorter Dies at 89

Wayne Shorter, a trailblazing jazz saxophonist and composer who played with the likes of Miles Davis and Art Blakey, died yesterday morning (March 2) in Los Angeles, according to The New York Times. He was 89 years old.

Born in Newark, New Jersey, Shorter was a tenor sax teen prodigy, eventually gaining a music degree from New York University. He rose to international prominence as a player and composer in the 1960s, working with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and the Miles Davis Quintet. He also worked on landmark LPs for Blue Note Records as a bandleader, which include songs like “Footprints” and “Black Nile.”

In the late ’60s, Shorter added the soprano sax to his musical arsenal. With Miles Davis, he innovated jazz towards a more avant-garde sound – eventually leading to the fusion subgenre. As styles evolved in the '70s and '80s, Shorter’s own group, the Weather Report, pursued various iterations of jazz.

Besides legendary jazz figures, Shorter worked with the likes of Joni Mitchell (he contributed to her 1970s albums Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter and Mingus) and collaborated with Steely Dan. He was known for helping musicians outside of the jazz world expand into new styles within their genres.

Shorter's personal life was full of ups and downs. He 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. AFter separating from Nakagami in 1964, Shorter married Ana Maria Patricio in 1970. In 1986, their daughter Iska tragically died of a grand mal seizure at the age 14. Ana Maria and the couple's niece, Dalila, were both killed on July 17, 1996, on TWA Flight 800, while traveling to visit Shorter in Italy. Dalila was the daughter of Ana Maria Shorter's sister and her husband, jazz vocalist Jon Lucien.

In 1999, Shorter married Carolina Dos Santos, a close friend of Ana Maria. The Shorters practiced Nichiren Buddhism and were longtime members of the Buddhist association Soka Gakkai International. Composer and producer Rick Shorter (1934-2017) was Wayne's cousin.

Shorter's work over several decades with the Wayne Shorter Quartet continued to explore and extend jazz’s reach. He earned several Grammys, adding to a collection that got started in 1980, when he won Best Jazz Fusion Performance for the tune “8:30.” The quartet famously received the Best Jazz Instrumental Album award at the 2019 Grammys. Shorter also earned a lifetime achievement Grammy, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the 2017 Polar Music Prize, and, the following year, a Kennedy Center Honors Award.

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Article Image: Close-up of Wayne Shorter playing saxophone at a 2006 performance. (Tom Beetz [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons.)

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About Kathryn Milewski

  • New Jersey