Legendary jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter dies at 89

Jazz pioneer Wayne Shorter has died aged 89.
Jazz pioneer Wayne Shorter has died aged 89.   -  Copyright  AP Photo
By David Mouriquand  & AP

Influential jazz figure and pioneering saxophone player Wayne Shorter has died aged 89.

“Visionary composer, saxophonist, visual artist, devout Buddhist, devoted husband, father and grandfather Wayne Shorter has embarked on a new journey as part of his extraordinary life - departing the earth as we know it in search of an abundance of new challenges and creative possibilities,” read a statement released by representative for the multi-Grammy winner Alisse Kingsley. It called him a gentle spirit who was “always inquisitive and constantly exploring.”

No cause of death was given.

Born in Newark, New Jersey, Shorter was a prodigy of the tenor sax, with a music degree from New York University. He rose to international prominence as a player and composer in the 1960s, working with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and the Miles Davis Quintet.

Over the next eight decades, Shorter's wide-spanning collaborations would include co-founding the '70s fusion band Weather Report, some 10 album appearances with Joni Mitchell and further explorations with Carlos Santana and Steely Dan.

Many of Shorter's textured and complex compositions - including 'Speak No Evil', 'Black Nile', 'Footprints' and 'Nefertiti' — became modern jazz standards and expanded the harmonic horizons of jazz across some of its most fast-evolving eras.

As a band leader, Shorter released more than 25 albums and won 12 Grammy Awards. In 2015 he was given a lifetime achievement Grammy.

Last month, he won a Grammy in the category of best improvised jazz solo for 'Endangered Species' with Leo Genovese.

“Maestro Wayne Shorter was our hero, guru, and beautiful friend,” said Don Was, the president of Blue Note Records, the label where he recorded several albums. 

“His music possessed a spirit that came from somewhere way, way beyond and made this world a much better place. Likewise, his warmth and wisdom enriched the lives of everyone who knew him. Thankfully, the work he left behind will stay with us forever."