Virtuosic jazz saxophonist and composer Newark-born-and-raised musician Wayne Shorter died this week at 89.
Just last year, Newark renamed a street “Wayne Shorter Way,” celebrating the fact that Shorter had been raised in the city’s “Ironbound” neighborhood. Shorter, who played with everyone from Art Blackey’s Jazz Messengers and Miles Davis and co-founded the seminal fusion group Weather Report had as much attended New York University as well as served two years in the army.
Returning from his military service, Shorter began his unprecedented musical career, which saw him play with the heavy-weight jazz cats mentioned above as much as on ten Joni Mitchell albums, and with Carlos Santana and Steely Dan, among many others.
As much known for his composing as playing, Shorter’s “Speak No Evil,” “Black Nile,” “Footprints,” and “Nefertiti” are all considered modern jazz standards. Releasing more than twenty-five albums as a band leader, he was given a lifetime achievement Grammy in 2015 (as well as winning Grammy’s countless times during his career) and just last month won another Grammy for “Best improvised jazz” solo on the song “Endangered Species” with Leo Genovese.
Shorter’s work has been performed by popular symphonies in Chicago, Detroit, and Lyon, with the National Polish Radio Symphonic and also the Orpheus Chamber orchestras.
Granted, more of a rock and roll guy than a jazz listener (and more a prog rock from the ’70s fan mostly); it’s hard for me to get into the more noodling jazz moments. But Wayne Shorter delivers in a way very few musicians do…jazz players or anybody else. The confidence of his horn, the layers to his writing, the way he can get all jumpy and jivin’ as much as he can get real melancholy as he does on “Nefertiti” speaks to a depth Shorter had that not everybody can even aspire.
RIP Mr. Shorter, one of our greats…and from New Jersey.