Wayne Shorter Dies: Weather Report Saxophonist, Joni Mitchell Collaborator And Modern Jazz Icon Was 89

Wayne Shorter, the saxophonist and composer who was a major figure in the development of modern jazz, died Thursday at a Los Angeles hospital. He was 89.

His death was confirmed to The New York Times by his publicist Alisse Kingsley. No further information has yet been released.

A native of Newark, New Jersey, Shorter first came to acclaim in the 1950s and ’60s as the tenor saxophonist for the groundbreaking Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and, later, the massively influential Miles Davis Quintet. Among other recordings, he played on Davis’ hit album Bitches Brew in 1969.

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A favorite of jazz enthusiasts nearly from the start of his career, Shorter broke through to wider public popularity both with Bitches Brew and, in 1971, his co-founding of Weather Report, the funk-jazz fusion group he co-founded with keyboardist Joe Zawinul and bassist Miroslav Vitous. The band, with various other members, stayed together until 1986, its commercial peak coming in 1977 with the album Heavy Weather and its single “Birdland.”

During this era, the group included the innovative bassist Jaco Pastorius, and both Shorter and the basisst collaborated on many of Joni Mitchell’s 1970s albums, projects that would provide the singer-songwriter with some of her most acclaimed, if not always commercially successful, albums (Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter, Mingus). Shorter and Pastorius proved a critical influence on Mitchell’s move from folk-rock to a jazzier, more free-form sound. Mitchell and Shorter would rekindle their collaboration in 2000 with the standards album Both Sides Now and in 2002 on Travelogue.

In addition to his own prolific solo career, Shorter played on Steely Dan’s hit song “Aja” in 1977 and, more than 10 years later, on Don Henley’s single “The End of Innocence.”

Shorter’s survivors include his wife Carolina Dos Santos.

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