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Fri, 08.25.1933

Wayne Shorter, Jazz Musician born

Wayne Shorter

*Wayne Shorter was born on this date in 1933.  He was a Black jazz saxophonist and composer.  

Wayne Shorter was born in Newark, New Jersey, and attended Newark Arts High School; he graduated in 1952. He loved music, being encouraged by his father to take up the clarinet as a teenager; his older brother Alan played alto saxophone before switching to the trumpet in college. While in high school, Shorter performed with the Nat Phipps Band in Newark, NJ. After graduating from New York University with a degree in music education in 1956, Shorter spent two years in the U.S. Army, during which time he played briefly with Horace Silver. After his discharge, he played with Maynard Ferguson.

His early influences include Sonny RollinsJohn Coltrane, and Coleman Hawkins.  In his youth, Shorter had acquired the nickname "Mr. Gone," which later became an album title for Weather Report.  He came to wider prominence in the late 1950s as a member of, and eventually primary composer for, Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. Together they toured the US, Japan, and Europe, recorded several recognized albums, and he also composed pieces for the band. Shorter "established himself as one of the most gifted of the young saxophonists" and received international acknowledgment during this time.  In the 1960s, he joined Miles Davis's Second Quintet, and from there, he co-founded the jazz fusion band Weather Report with Joe Zawinul. He has recorded over 20 albums as a bandleader.   

He met Teruko (Irene) Nakagami in 1961. They married and had a daughter, Miyako.  Some of his compositions are copyrighted as "Miyako Music," and Shorter dedicated the pieces "Miyako" and "Infant Eyes" to his daughter. The couple separated in 1964.  Shorter met Ana Maria Patricio in 1966 and married in 1970. In 1985, their daughter Iska died of a grand mal seizure at 14. 

Ana Maria and the couple's niece, Dalila, were both killed on July 17, 1996, on TWA Flight 800, while traveling to visit him in Italy. Dalila was the daughter of Ana Maria Shorter's sister and her husband, jazz vocalist Jon Lucien.  In 1999, Shorter married Carolina Dos Santos, a close friend of Ana Maria. He practices Nichiren Buddhism and is a longtime Buddhist association Soka Gakkai International member.  Composer and producer Rick Shorter, who died in September 2017, was a cousin. 

His compositions have become jazz standards, and his output has earned global recognition, critical praise, and commendations. Shorter has won 10 Grammy Awards. He has also received acclaim for his mastery of the soprano saxophone (after switching his focus from the tenor in the late 1960s), beginning an extended reign in 1970 as Down Beat's annual poll-winner on the tenor, winning the critics' poll for ten consecutive years and the readers' for 18. The New York Times described Shorter in 2008 as "probably jazz's greatest living small-group composer and a contender for the greatest living improviser."  

In 2013, Shorter received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz.  In 2015, producer/director Dorsay Alavi began filming a documentary about the life of Wayne Shorter called Wayne Shorter: Zero Gravity. In 2017, he was awarded the Polar Music Prize.

Tina Turner credits Shorter with saving her life. In her 2020 spiritual memoir, she wrote that Shorter and his wife Ana Maria provided critical refuge at their home six months after Turner left her abusive husband in 1976. Wayne Shorter died in Los Angeles, California, on March 2, 2023, at 89.

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