Wayne Shorter, a jazz hero whose goal was “to fear nothing”

For “Juju” probably the most indispensable album by Shorter’s Golden time With Blue Note Records in the 1960s, he was backed by a rhythm section made up of veteran Coltrane quartets: McCoy Tyner on piano, Reggie Workman on bass, and Elvin Jones on drums. House of Jade is the smoothest of the LP’s six Shorter originals, but Jones’ ever-driving beat and Workman’s confident bass play Shorter’s slow, elliptical melody with heavy, grinding power.

Miles Davis’ so-called second major quintet – for which Shorter was the principal composer – quite clearly falls into this composition, with the trumpeter pretending to have just remembered the melody as he plays along. The emotion of this piece, like so much of Shorter’s tunes, is both strong and veiled: is it sad? Longing? Just dazed? Whatever that feeling is – labelable or not – you will find that it has an attraction.

Somewhere between funk, jazz, MPB and a slow jam comes Beauty and the Beast from Native Dancer, Shorter’s first album-length collaboration with Brazilian star singer Milton Nascimento and an undisputed classic in both musicians’ catalogues.

In Weather Report, Shorter was actually the group’s second composer after Joe Zawinul, but he still threw in a few good licks. “Palladium” is one of the group’s funniest songs; Just when you think it’s about to dissipate, it flies on, transposes up a key, and finally ends on a cliffhanger.

Steely Dan was a rock band with jazzy aspirations — until the group made “Aja” a milestone of the Fusion years and their first exposure to Shorter’s raunchy saxophone playing. After an impressive guitar solo by Denny Dias, Shorter’s distinctive tenor sound emerges from the darkness, like a black car emerging from a tunnel at night with its lights off; less than a minute later he’s done and the track is in a new zip code.

Shorter first hooked up with Joni Mitchell in the late 1970s, and they remained lifelong friends and collaborators. He provides color and complement on many tracks, but on “Paprika Plains” — Mitchell’s epic tribute to the Indigenous community near her hometown of Saskatchewan — he doesn’t show up for almost 14 minutes, ready to take the song skyward to its conclusion carry.

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/02/arts/music/wayne-shorter-songs.html Wayne Shorter, a jazz hero whose goal was “to fear nothing”


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