Saxophonist and Composer
Wayne Shorter, a 2021 Doris Duke Artist in the jazz category, is a masterful saxophonist and composer who has won 12 Grammy Awards and been recognized by the New York Times as "probably jazz's greatest living small-group composer and a contender for greatest living improviser." Many of his compositions have become jazz standards, and he has recorded more than 20 albums as a bandleader. He is currently working on a new operatic work titled “Iphigenia,” with jazz artist Esperanza Spalding and 2021 Doris Duke Artist Lileana Blain-Cruz.
Shorter rose to national celebrity in the late 1950s as a member of, and eventually primary composer for, Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. In the 1960s, he went on to join Miles Davis's Second Great Quintet. Subsequently, he recorded multiple solo albums, cofounded the jazz fusion band Weather Report and enjoyed periodic multi-decade recording collaborations with artists ranging from Carlos Santana and Joni Mitchell to Herbie Hancock and Wallace Roney.
Shorter's musical pursuits started on the clarinet at age 16, but he soon evolved to the tenor saxophone. During his time with Davis, he became known for being one of the most intriguing composers of his time, contributing tunes such as "Nefertiti," "Fall," "ESP," "Paraphernalia" and "Sanctuary." During this time, he also developed his signature sound, a mixture of technique and emotion, and in the latter stages of his Davis tenure, he took up the soprano saxophone, which has frequently served his principal horn.
In 2001, he began touring and releasing recordings with a new quartet comprising 2021 Doris Duke Artist Danilo Pérez on piano, John Patitucci on bass and Brian Blade on drums. In 2002, they released “Footprints Live!” followed by “Alegría” in 2003 and “Beyond the Sound Barrier” in 2005. Given his long career, each of Shorter’s records and performances are still eagerly anticipated by fans and critics alike. In 2006, Blue Note Records released Blue Note’s Great Sessions: Wayne Shorter. Though absent from recording for a few years, the quartet re-emerged on record again in February of 2013 with a live outing from their 2011 tour. Shorter’s first recording for Blue Note in 43 years, “Without a Net,” was released in February of 2013 as a precursor to his 80th birthday.
Shorter has received significant acclaim for his mastery of the soprano saxophone, including as DownBeat's annual poll winner on that instrument –winning the critics' poll for 10 consecutive years and the readers' poll for 18 years. In 2017, he was awarded the Polar Music Prize, and in 2018, he also received the Kennedy Center Honors Award for his contributions to the arts.