Wayne Shorter, whose colorful compositional style and searching improvisations on the tenor saxophone altered the direction of jazz, died in Los Angeles on Thursday. He was 89 years old.
Known for his time performing in the Miles Davis Quintet, Weather Report and Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, Shorter was a commanding presence on stage and on record. But it was his compositions, such as his trademark tune "Footprints," which pulled jazz into new realms.
Born in New Jersey, Shorter began making a noticeable mark on jazz in the 1960s, when he joined Blakey's group. After the dissolution of Davis' "first great quintet" with John Coltrane, Shorter joined the enigmatic trumpeter in 1964, the same year he recorded a trio of classic albums — Speak No Evil, Juju and Night Dreamer.
Playing alongside Davis, as well as bassist Ron Carter, drummer Tony Williams and pianist Herbie Hancock, Shorter was able to bring his intellectual confidence and philosophical background to jazz's most high-profile group.
This manifested not just in his flowery playing but his writing, with more angular tunes like "E.S.P.," "Nefertiti," and "Footprints." While others left Davis when he went in new directions with early-fusion albums like Bitches Brew, Shorter stayed on for the ride.