Wayne Shorter is a living legend — a saxophonist, composer and lifelong original thinker. He's never been afraid to be different, which is perhaps why he's accomplished so much. Among his accomplishments:
- Music director for Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers
- Member of the Miles Davis Quintet in the mid-1960s
- Co-founder of the band Weather Report
- Bandleader and recording artist for more than 50 years
- Winner of 10 Grammy Awards, including one for lifetime achievement
He's revered by many generations of jazz lovers, including the members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. They created new arrangements of tunes from throughout his career. Then they performed those arrangements with him in May.
"He didn't have any requests for changes of anything, amazingly, as I reflect upon it," says reedman Victor Goines. "He was able to take what we had — even though he hasn't played some of those tunes in decades, I'm sure — and interpret them and make them as fresh as anything that is being written today."
Shorter frequently revisits some of his earlier compositions. But his objective isn't retrospective, or to recreate his older style. He always makes it a point to try to make his music new again.
"It's almost like as an adult to go outside and play with some other adults like they used to do when they were kids," Shorter says.
The man who called himself "Mr. Weird" as a kid is a huge film buff and loves science fiction. He's also a practicing Nichiren Buddhist, and that pushes him forward too.
"Hon Nim Myo," Shorter says. "It means from this moment, from this moment forward is the first day of my life. And don't, we don't lie and sit on accolades and rewards and awards and what-do-you-call-it, trophies, Grammys and this and that and bank accounts and fame and all that. That's the worst kind of fuel that you can rely on. The best kind of fuel that you can rely on is Hon Nim Myo. You start from now."
In this episode of Jazz Night In America, we hear selections from the concerts he performed with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in New York. And we visit Shorter at his house in Southern California to find out more about his many sources of inspiration.
"I always tell the kids when they ask, 'What do you think about when you play?'" Shorter says. "I say, 'All right, let's try to play what you wish for.' Play what you wish for. Play what you wish for the world to be."
Featuring Wayne Shorter (tenor and soprano saxophone) with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra: Wynton Marsalis (trumpet), Ryan Kisor (trumpet), Marcus Printup (trumpet), Kenny Rampton (trumpet), Chris Crenshaw (trombone), Vincent Gardner (trombone), Elliot Mason (trombone), Walter Blanding (saxophones), Victor Goines (saxophones), Sherman Irby (saxophones), Ted Nash (saxophones), Paul Nedzela (baritone saxophone), Dan Nimmer (piano), Carlos Henriquez (bass), Ali Jackson (drums). Recorded May 16, 2015 at Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Jazz Night In America is a co-production of WBGO, Jazz at Lincoln Center and NPR Music.