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Wayne Shorter, Legendary Jazz Saxophonist, Dies at 89

The artist played with Art Blakey and Miles Davis before forming the revolutionary '70s fusion group Weather Report
Wayne Shorter performing in 2015 (photo: Jack Vartoogian / Getty Images)

Legendary jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter has died at the age of 89. In his 12-time Grammy-winning career, Shorter performed in Miles Davis’ quintet from 1964-1970 and went on to form the trailblazing jazz fusion group Weather Report.

The New York Times was first to report the news of Shorter’s death.

Born in Newark, N.J., on Aug. 25, 1933, Shorter got his first taste of wide exposure when he joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in 1959. A remarkable stint performing with and composing music for Davis followed, highlighted by early jazz fusion recordings such as In a Silent Way and Bitches’ Brew. This late ’60s period was also marked by his switch from tenor to soprano saxophone

Shorter founded Weather Report in 1971 alongside Miles Davis keyboardist Joe Zawinul, and the group would remain a figurehead of jazz fusion for more than a decade with a rotating cast of members that at one point included bassist Jaco Pastorius. He also recorded a well-regarded solo album, Native Dancer, in 1974 with contributions from Herbie Hancock and Brazilian star Milton Nascimento.

He enjoyed a fruitful 10-album run playing with Joni Mitchell from 1977 until 2002. He also performed the solo on the title track from the 1977 Steely Dan album Aja.

In more recent years, Shorter led an acoustic quartet with drummer Brian Blade, bassist John Patitucci, and pianist Danilo Perez, winning the best instrumental jazz album Grammy in 2006 for the live set Beyond the Sound Barrier. He retired from performing in 2018 due to health complications but continued to record and compose, including an operatic work, (Iphigenia), with help from Esperanza Spalding.

Shorter held an honorary doctorate of music from the Berklee College of Music, won a Grammy lifetime achievement award in 2014, and was a joint winner of the Polar Music Prize in 2017. He was recognized by the Kennedy Center Honors the following year.