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Exploring the many orbits of jazz legend Wayne Shorter

Wayne Shorter, photographed during a live performance at the Town & Country Club in London in April 1987.
Fin Costello
Wayne Shorter, photographed during a live performance at the Town & Country Club in London in April 1987.

Wayne Shorter, known for his worldly eminence as a saxophonist, composer and philosophical spirit, died on March 2 at the age of 89.

This week, we take a moment to remember some favorite performances and revisit certain compositions in order to closely appreciate Wayne's long and varied legacy. From the late 1950s, during his time in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, to the forefront of jazz fusion with Weather Report, then the quartet and grand-scale collaborations well into his later years – Shorter left us a body of work that is eternal.

We'll hear compositions and recordings from those eras, as well as unheard portions of interviews in celebration of the life of "The Newark Flash."

Jazz Night in America host Christian McBride and Wayne Shorter
/ Christian McBride
Christian McBride
Jazz Night in America host Christian McBride and Wayne Shorter


Wayne Shorter with Wynton Marsalis and The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra: Wayne Shorter, tenor sax, soprano sax; Carlos Henriquez, bass; Dan Nimmer, piano; Ali Jackson, drums, tambourine; Ryan Kisor, Kenny Rampton, Marcus Printup, trumpet; Elliot Mason, Chris Crenshaw and Vincent Gardner, trombone; Victor Goines, tenor sax, soprano sax, clarinet, bass clarinet; Ted Nash, alto sax, soprano sax, clarinet, flute, piccolo; Sherman Irby, alto sax, soprano sax, clarinet, flute; Walter Blanding, tenor sax, soprano sax, clarinet; Paul Nedzela, baritone sax, bass clarinet.

Weather Report (studio recording): Wayne Shorter, soprano saxophone; Joe Zawinul, keyboards and synthesizers; Alphonso Johnson, bass; Chester Thompson, drums; Alex Acuńa, percussion.

Emanon (studio recording): Wayne Shorter, tenor and soprano saxophone; John Patitucci, bass; Danilo Perez, piano; Brian Blade, drums; and Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.

From the Detroit Jazz Festival: Wayne Shorter, soprano saxophone; esperanza spalding, bass and vocals; Leo Genovese, piano; Terri Lyne Carrington, drums.

Set List:

(All music written by Wayne Shorter unless otherwise noted)

  1. "Yes or No" [arranged by Victor Goines]

  1. "Hammer Head" [arranged by Sherman Irby]

  1. "Elegant People "

  1. "Prometheus Unbound"

  1. "Endangered Species" (Wayne Shorter/ esperanza spalding) 

  1. "When You Dream" (E. Lee/ Wayne Shorter)


Trevor Smith and Sarah Geledi, writers and producers; Katie Simon, consulting editor; Ron Scalzo, episode mix; Suraya Mohamed, project manager; Keith Jenkins, vice president of visuals and strategy at NPR Music. Gabrielle Armand and Anya Grundmann, executive producers; Christian McBride, host.

The music from Jazz at Lincoln Center was recorded by James P. Nichols. The music from the Detroit Jazz Festival was recorded by Timothy Powell and Marshawn Robinson at Metro Mobile, and remixed by David Tallacksen.
Copyright 2023 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

Trevor Smith
Trevor joined the WBGO Development Department in April of 2017 and currently handles grant writing and institutional giving initiatives as the Coordinator of Corporate and Foundation Relations.
Sarah Geledi
Sarah Geledi left her job in advertising in Montreal to pursue a career in music in New York City. She fulfilled that mission, producing content for the JAM Festival at WBGO, segments for The Checkout, and programs for WWOZ and PRI's Afropop Worldwide. She also served as a producer for NYC Winter Jazzfest before landing the "job of her dreams," producing radio for Jazz Night in America.