Trailblazing Saxophonist Wayne Shorter Dies in LA

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Wayne Shorter, one of the leading figures in jazz as both a composer and trailblazing saxophonist, died Thursday in Los Angeles, it was announced.

Shorter, who was 89, died at a hospital, his publicist, Alisse Kingsley, said. No information on the cause was immediately available.

Boasting an identifiable sound on both the tenor and soprano saxes, Shorter was widely known for his work in the 1970s as a member of the groundbreaking jazz-fusion combo Weather Report and for memorable collaborations across genres with Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan, Carlos Santana and Don Henley.

During a career that included membership in such historic outfits as Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and the Miles Davis Quintet, Shorter won 12 Grammy Awards, including a trophy awarded last month for best improvised jazz solo performance. He was nominated 23 times.

His composition, "Footprints," is considered a jazz standard.

Pianist-composer Herbie Hancock, Shorter's close friend for more than six decades, said the musician "left us with courage in his heart, love and compassion for all, and a seeking spirit for the eternal future."

Hancock said in a statement that Shorter "was able to reach the pinnacle of excellence as a saxophonist, composer, orchestrator ... I carry his spirit within my heart always."

Shorter worked with the Davis band through most of the 1960s and remained when the mercurial band leader went on to pioneer a free-form style of jazz with "Filles de Kilimanjaro" and "In a Silent Way." The saxophonist also recorded a highly regarded string of albums as band leader for the Blue Note, Columbia and Verve labels.

"Maestro Wayne Shorter was our hero, guru and beautiful friend," Blue Note President Don Was said in a statement.

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

Born in Newark, New Jersey in 1933, Shorter joined the Jazz Messengers in 1959 before Davis invited him to join his quintet, with Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, and Ron Carter. Alongside pianist Joe Zawinul, Shorter helped form what's called the first fusion band, Weather Report.

Shorter also explored the world of classical music, pairing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Royal Concertgebouw, and the BBC Chamber Orchestra.

He received a lifetime achievement honor from the Recording Academy in 2015. He was a 2016 Guggenheim Fellow and a 1998 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master. Shorter received the prestigious Polar Music Prize 2017 and a Kennedy Center Honor in 2018.

Shorter is survived by his wife Carolina, daughters Miyako and Mariana, and newly born grandson, Max.

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