Blue Note’s Don Was on Re-Signing Wayne Shorter

After 40+ years, a legend returns

Wayne Shorter
Don Was

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Don Was didn’t waste any time signing Wayne Shorter to Blue Note Records. The day after he was named chief creative officer of the label in August 2011, Was found himself on a plane to Paris with his friend Ken Hertz-who happens to be Shorter’s lawyer. “I said, ‘I just got this gig. What would it take to get Wayne on Blue Note?'” Was, who has since been promoted to label president, recalls. “And it just happened. He had just left his last label. It was amazing.”

Shorter last recorded for Blue Note more than 40 years ago, but ever the musical progressive, he had no desire to revisit past glories-there would be no JuJu 2 or Speak No Evil Revisited coming from him. “What Wayne does with his music mirrors what we want to do with the label, which is to have it rooted in a tradition and yet not trade in nostalgia,” says Was. “We’re looking to apply the aesthetic to 2013 and beyond.”

The decision to release Without a Net, a compilation of live tracks, as his first new Blue Note project was strictly Shorter’s. “Some of these things were recorded before I ever approached him,” says Was, who readily agreed to what Shorter had in mind. “This [quartet] happens to be great live, and every show is really different. He takes this journey, and he just decided to piece together bits from multiple journeys. The audience and their response is also a factor in where they take the music. But if we had told everyone it all came from one night, I think they’d believe it,” he says.

“It means a whole lot to me as a fan of Blue Note to have Wayne on the label,” Was adds, “and even if I wasn’t the president of the company it would mean a lot to the order of the world.”