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In Memoriam: Wayne Shorter

August 25, 1933 - March 2, 2023

Innovative, Enigmatic, and Inventive are all words that are used to describe this century’s visionary musician, Wayne Shorter.  And these words are all true.  But, when we look a little further into his compositional career, we come upon EmanonEmanon – No Name spelled Backwards – is a 3 CD Album that includes a Graphic Novel by the same name. 

Emanon,’ he says in a press release , ‘It hit me way Back then as a teenager: ‘No name’ means a whole lot.  The connection with Emanon and artists and other heroes is the quest to find originality, which is probably the closest thing you can get to creation.’

At one point in an interview, he even says “At this point I’m looking to express eternity in composition.”

So we’ve lost a visionary whose music was a quest to form an expression of Eternity.  We’ve been a part of a search for Creation and Eternity. So it’s no wonder the words like Innovative and Enigmatic are used to describe his work.  But how do his intentions affect Jazz, or rather inform and instruct Jazz.

When you think about music, every music has a genre from which they may not escape.   The waltz is not in search of anything other than that certain rhythm for dancing.  The salsa is also contained in a particular format that makes it what it is.  Jazz on the other hand depends on that “Quest.”  That constant effort to be “original” and “creative.”  And because Mr. Shorter was grounded in that Quest, his music rose above so many others efforts to compose. He was not in it for mastering a particular style, while style was important, but he was in it to change it, to use it to create something new, original and express Eternity.  That effort changes the whole  of Jazz for us, because heretofore, we may not have known what we were listening for or listening to.  What were his markers of change.


If we review his career, we know that he started with Be Bop. His work with Art Blakey was “pace-setting.”  But having mastered that he moved on to form his own group, Weather Report.  During his stint with his group, his “quest” took him to Jazz Fusion. He’d go on to compose many jazz standards and refined modern Harmonic language. But at bottom, the Quest was the primary objective.  The search for originality and creation were paramount on his mind and his compositions during this time in the 1970s point to his intentions.  The average listeners knew there was something going on with his compositions but the actual goals that led to his intentions were not yet expressed in a fashion these listener could wrap their arms around.  But, they were transported none the less.

Shorter understood clearly what JAZZ meant to musicians and the sophisticated listener.  It meant a certain freedom.  While the years during which these transformations took place offered very little freedom to the traditional music formats.  Jazz offered a freedom that encouraged and confirmed and supported Innovation mentioned by so many.  It wasn’t an accident that Jazz was the one art -followed soon by abstract art – that allowed for, indeed permitted freedom.  With the country so focused on freedom and so willing to fight for it, Jazz was that one place that freedom and change and every creative avenue was encouraged.  So when we see those “hep Cats” sitting around shoulder to shoulder with their cigarettes, coffee and black berets, they are soaking in the vibe of freedom and wondering how to Create that into a manifestation in their own lives.  Mr. Shorter was the sound track, no, the example of what beautiful freedom can come from that quest.  He led the way to show us all how we might break free from the constraints holding us.  Mr. Shorter was more than a musician, he was a visionary who led the way for the rest of us and continued to do so for decades.

Now Mr. Shorter hadn’t just come lately to creating.  At fifteen, he illustrated and wrote a Comic Book called Star Talk.  He drew it in Blue Ink and added script in Blue Ink as well.  Blue Ink.  Who does that?  His Characters, Men and women, headed to the moon where – upon landing – the main character ”Remembers that Spot.”  That was in 1949.  Wayne was also a High school Grad from the first fine Arts and Performance school in New Jersey.  He was recruited for Painting, but was convinced to switch to the music side of the program.  He started out with clarinet, but switched to Tenor Sax and took private lessons.  He was a kid in a family who clearly saw his potential.  He and his brother even started a group while in high school.  Mr. Shorter would go on to graduate from NYU and he’d spend two years in the military at Fort Hood.  He was married and had several children. 


So many artists speak well of Him, and it shows how a legacy can indeed be an important part of ones memory of you.

Billy Harper said, “Wayne Shorter was a seeker, a herald of truth for the jazz community. Shorter was one of the longer expressions of truth in our music, carrying tons of creativity in his writing and playing.  May he rest in Heavenly Music with Trane and Miles.”

Wallace Roney, Jr said “I am in shock, and distraught over the news of the great Wayne Shorter.  He was, and still is, one of the fundamental reasons I fell in love with this music.  His prolific brilliance and longevity as a composer provided me motivation when I was at my lowest points.  His honesty Humanity and virtue as a saxophonist made me feel like I could trust every note he played.  I was raised on his music.  There wasn’t a time in my life where I didn’t know who Wayne Shorter was.  He has been a central figure in my development as a musician and as a human being for as long as I can remember. 

My sincerest, most heartfelt condolences go out to all his friends, family, and everyone whose lives he’s impacted both directly and indirectly.  May he rest in Peace.”


Mr. Shorter has met his goals and intentions.  His Quest to find Originality has been taken up by musicians all around the world and has allowed us, as listeners, a profound freedom as we listen to his compositions and realize that we are in the midst of a Creation experience. 

May Jazz Bless You and Keep You, Mr. Shorter