Wayne Shorter, Saxophonist and Founding Father of 20th Century Jazz, Dies at 89

The Weather Report founder played with everyone from Miles Davis to The Rolling Stones

Wayne Shorter
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Wayne Shorter, a virtuoso saxophonist and principal architect of modern jazz music, died Thursday, his publicist confirmed. He was 89.

Shorter died surrounded by family in Los Angeles, his publicist said.

Shorter won a dozen Grammy awards in his lifetime – but no amount of statuettes or accolades could ever adequately illustrate his impact on 20th Century jazz music. He came to prominence in the 1950s, playing with Art Blakey, Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard in the Jazz Messengers, eventually becoming the jazz supergroup’s musical director.

But Miles Davis recruited Shorter in the mid-1960s, finally convincing him to join the iconic trumpeter’s quintet. There he played alongside keyboardist Herbie Hancock, who feted his friend Thursday night on Twitter, writing:

“Wayne Shorter, my best friend, left us with courage in his heart, love and compassion for all, and a seeking spirit for the eternal future. He was ready for his rebirth. As it is with every human being, he is irreplaceable.”

Shorter released several solo albums, efforts that allowed him to fuse jazz with other music like Latin, Rock ‘n’ Roll, funk and R&B. It was these explorations that led to the creation of perhaps his most well-known group, Weather Report.

Weather Report’s album Heavy Weather went platinum in 1977, making a rare appearance (for a jazz record) on U.S. Top 30 charts. Shorter was just as comfortable outside of jazz as in it – he collaborated with Carlos Santana and played on The Rolling Stones’ album “Bridges to Babylon.”

Born in 1933 in New Jersey, Shorter began playing clarinet as a teenager, but switched to sax and soon became a serious student of music.