Saxophone Legend Wayne Shorter

At 70, the "Boy Wonder" Continues His Unique Jazz Journey

Wayne Shorter

Wayne Shorter's latest CD is Alegria (Verve, 2003) Roy Hurst, NPR News hide caption

itoggle caption Roy Hurst, NPR News

A Sampling of Shorter

Listen  From E.S.P. w/ Miles Davis (1965) -- "E.S.P."

Listen  From Adam's Apple (1966) -- "Footprints"

Listen  From Heavy Weather w/ Weather Report (1977) -- "Birdland"

Available Online

Wayne Shorter seems to have always had that curve in the personality that marks so many of the most original thinkers in music. NPR's Roy Hurst has this profile of the legendary tenor saxophone player.

Born in Newark, N.J., Shorter was 16 when he and his elder brother began playing in the high school band. He was by all accounts an original, quirky kid — so much so that he even took on the name "Mr. Weird."

"In 1962, Shorter emerged a boy wonder — both on tenor saxophone and as a composer," Hurst says. "That year, a jazz poll brought Wayne Shorter in second as best composer, behind Duke Ellington."

Mile Davis recruited Shorter to join his band to replace John Coltrane. Shorter remembers the day Coltrane told him the news. "He told me you can have that gig if you want it. He said you have it if you want it."

Shorter's collaborations with Davis marked a new direction in the development of jazz — one that would lead to a controversial style dubbed Fusion, which relied heavily on electric instruments that gave the music something of a pop feel.

But Fusion was just another phase in a long career for Shorter. "He is among a handful of the most influential jazz musicians living today, and is enjoying a revival of sorts," Hurst reports. "Last year, he swept the Grammy Awards jazz category, and on the eve of his 70th birthday a huge celebration of his life in music is taking place at the Hollywood Bowl. But it's not a retirement party."

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