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Joe Zawinul Site - Musicians
Wayne Shorter

Wayne Shorter

Shorter began his career as a member of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers from 1958 to 1963, composing, arranging and developing his distinct tenor sound. He began recording albums as a leader in the early '6Os for Blue Note Records, and joined Miles Davis' great second quintet, from1964 to 1970, along with Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams. During this time, Shorter established himself as a stellar soprano saxophonist and became known as an important composer because of his experimentadon with new song forms and structural Ideas. Shorter's contributions were pivotal to Davis' band, which was expanding the parameters of jazz, pushing the music into new harmonic and rhythmic territory.

Davis himself lauded Shorter's contributions, saying "Wayne brought in a kind of curiosity about working with musical rules. He knew that freedom in music was the ability to know the rules in order to bend them to your satisfaction and taste. He was the intellectual musical catalyst for the band in his arrangement of his musical compositions that we recorded." In 1968, with MILES IN THE SKY and FILLES DE KILIMANJARO, Miles started his experiments with rock elements, including the use of electric keyboards and bass and rock-styled drums. Shorter can be heard on those two albums, as well as IN A SILENT WAY and BITCHES BREW.

In 1970, Shorter formed Weather Report with keyboardist Joe Zawinul (whom he'd met in Davis' band the year before) and bassist Miroslav Vitous -- with bassist Jaco Pastorius an important member from 1976 to 1982. With various well-known drummers, Including Eric Gravatt and percussionists Airto Moreira and later, Dom Um Romao, the group established itself as a pioneer in electronic jazz-rock fusion. Weather Report ushered in a new sound in jazz, attracting a much larger audience than mainstream artists could, even as many traditionalists insisted that the band wasn't actually playing jazz. Meanwhile, Heavy Weather, released in 1978, was the first million-selling jazz-fusion album, and the single Birdland was a pop-radio and disco hit. The group received Grammy nominations for five albums and received a Grammy award in 1979 for the album 8:30. The group released their last album in 1985.

During this time, Shorter still involved himself with occasional side projects including NATIVE DANCER, his landmark project with vocalist Milton Nascimento released in 1974, which added a Brazilian touch to his fusion experiments and led to even wider popularity for Shorter in the jazz and pop worlds. Shorter also reunited with his former Davis bandmates in 1976 as V.S.0.P., recording a live album, THE QUINTET. Following Weather Report, in 1985, Shorter released another solo album, ATLANTIS, which was nominated for a Grammy and reasserted Shorter as a premier composer and performer of progressive music. Shorter followed up with an acting role, appearing as himself in 'ROUND MIDNIGHT (1986) and received his second Grammy for his composition Call Sheet Blues. He then recorded two more solo albums, PHANTOM NAVIGATOR in 1987 and JOY RYDER in 1988.

In 1992, Shorter again reunited with Hancock, Carter and Williams to pay tribute to and musically celebrate the life and work of Miles Davis. With young trumpeter Wallace Roney, the group toured and collaborated on the 1994 Grammy Award winning album A TRIBUTE TO MILES. That year, Shorter was also singled out for a nomination for his solo on Pinnochio, one of his composidons from the '60s.

In recent years, Shorter has contributed saxophone performances on soundtracks for GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS (1993), THE FUGITIVE (1993) and LOSING ISAIAH (1995) -- this while taking a self-prescribed two year vacadon. For his 1995 album, Shorter again explores new artistic territory. Musically, Shorter orchestrated his ideas fully. "Every note on the album is written except for my solos. All the bass lines, the hand positions on the keyboards, all of it. Still, the music progresses organically, creating a spontaneous feel as the orchestra lays dramatic backdrops for Shorter's exquisite saxophone solos. Shorter worked extensively with Rachel Z., In the composing stages. "Rachel did the programming, using two or three keyboards. It was new for me, in terms of working with a new person. I was connecting with her, saying, This is a sound that I hear, and I can't make it with my saxophone. That's what Zawinul and I did in Weather Report. I'd say be, this is the sound I want." "Even though we're using synthesizers, it still goes back to sounds and colors. Rachel and I don't allow the mechanics of progress to get in the way of that. Rachel comes from a classical background, and she went directly to my being, my head, and my soul - and she put it with her soul. Marcus Miller was brought in on the project next, Initially as a producer only, then also signing on as the bassist, contribudng his full, distinct sound. Musically and conceptually, HIGH LIFE is a rich, intriguing album. In At the Fair, Shorter's soprano and Gilmore's guitar double the melody over strings and brass accompaniment that adds lush, dramatic harmonies and textures. Maya is reminiscent of Wayne's '6Os compositions, with Shorter's soprano-stated melody and subsequent solo slowly unfolding to express complex emotions through his evocadve sound.

On Pandora Awakened, Shorter wrote the foundadon of a funk groove for Miller's bass and members of the symphony, then laid his considerable tenor over that. His resultant solo is a masterpiece, incorporadng the kind of technique only a master could have but using it to express a mood, not for mere effect. And on the title track, Shorter's plaintive tenor gives way to a more formidable sound, highlighdng his ability to convey great emotion with subtlety and restraint. Throughout the album, Shorter used synthesizers and computer technology to best effect, effectively expanding the size of his band by using sounds sampled from the Czechoslovakian Symphony string section and recorded onto a CD-ROM disk. "We mixed those strings sounds with the live Los Angeles Symphony strings to give it more feeling and warmth," Shorter says. "I wanted to have a hundred people in the studio every day, but the budget didn't allow for it, so this is how I got the sound I wanted.

Shorter experimented too with the production end of the record, mixing the sounds he'd recorded in an unconventional manner. "We didn't mix it according to a traditional orchestration, with left-to-right stereo imaging," he says. "Instead, I might have a woodwind crossing a violin, so it's more like weaving a basket. It's mixed according to what's happening in the music. If the violins have to be swept under, I do it in the mix, rather than by having something happen in the brass. So in the overall sound, certain instruments might be next to each other then one in front of the other, then wrapped around each other."
"Music is a piece of clay," Shorter continues. "The main melody may take place at the end of the piece. It's a ride and you lump on at your pleasure and grab hold where you want to. In that way, it's like when people dream of music. There's a storytelling feeling throughout the album, a going-somewhere feeling. There's something peculiar or curious to the sound of the music. A will o' the wisp elusiveness, a feeling you have for someone. That's what I kept with me when I wrote the music.


Complete Wayne Shorter's Discography



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