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The Music of Wayne Shorter

“He’s at the highest level of our music—you can’t get any higher than him.” So says Wynton Marsalis of the legendary saxophonist, composer, and band leader Wayne Shorter. With a legendary career spanning over 60 years, the 11-time GRAMMY award winner (including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy) has released countless classic records and amassed a canon of lyrical, introspective music that stands up to the greatest jazz composers. In 2015, the formidable 81-year-old joined the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis onstage for three unforgettable nights; the result is The Music of Wayne Shorter, out Jan. 31 on CD and digital formats.

The Music of Wayne Shorter

Album Info

Ensemble JLCO with Wynton Marsalis
Release Date January 31st, 2020
Recording Date May 14-16, 2015
Record Label Blue Engine Records
Catalogue Number BE0023
Formats CD, Digital Download, LP
Genre Jazz at Lincoln Center Recordings
Digital Booklet Download (pdf, 5 MB)

Track Listing

Track Length Preview
Yes or No 10:20 Play
Diana 7:40 Play
Hammer Head 7:43 Play
Contemplation 7:21 Play
Endangered Species 7:52 Play
Lost 10:03 Play
Armageddon 10:28 Play
The Three Marias 8:10 Play
Teru 5:03 Play
Mama “G” 13:04 Play

Liner Notes

How would I describe Wayne Shorter?
It would be way too easy to call him something like a “legend” or a “genius.” Those are words that get thrown around much too easily in today’s 140-character culture. Wayne’s career is well-known and widely celebrated by not only the jazz community, but by music lovers all over the world. Simply put, he helped to expand the language of modern American music as both a composer and a saxophonist. All of his music has been truly beautiful music, in the sense that it celebrates the beauty and joy of optimism—but, if I had to choose one word to describe Wayne and his music outside of the obvious superlatives, the word that comes to mind is “imagination.”

Wayne Shorter’s imagination got its start in the gritty, soulful city of Newark, New Jersey.
He was born there in 1933 and developed a deep fascination with science fiction and superheroes that would fuel his creative energy forever. The inside jacket of his 1987 Columbia album Phantom Navigator includes samples of a teenage Wayne’s artwork. It was a revelation to many that, to the naked eye, young Wayne was already on his way to becoming perhaps the next great animator. But there was something more revealing about his artwork—it was actually a sci-fi short story that Wayne had both written and animated. He called it “Other Worlds.” Although there are only 12 panels of artwork and story on the inside jacket, the story called to mind H. G. Wells or Arthur C. Clarke.

There are two stories that come to mind that exemplify the imagination and daring that Wayne Shorter brought to his career as a composer and bandleader. The first was told to me by pianist Renee Rosnes and involves her first rehearsal with Wayne’s group in the late 1980s. As the musicians gathered in Wayne’s rehearsal room, he asked them to first sit and watch the Ridley Scott classic Alien. Midway through the viewing, Wayne got up to pause the tape just as the famous, gory scene of an alien bursting through a human chest unfolded. As most of the band sat squirming in their seats while this bloody creature was frozen on the screen, Wayne pointed at it and said, “THIS… is how I want this band to sound.”

The second story happened in 2002, when I played a performance with Wayne Shorter’s quartet in Den Haag. Upon my arrival, I was quite trepidatious about the gig, as I wasn’t going to have much time to rehearse with the quartet. I called Wayne in his hotel room to let him know I arrived. When I shared my fear of playing with him unrehearsed, Wayne paused and said, “If I remember, you’re a big comedy fan, right? Well, play that. Play me some comedy.” What I learned from Wayne is that, with a strong imagination (and skill), uncharted territory becomes less intimidating… and sometimes quite fun.

Wayne’s music has become basic instrumental vocabulary for all of us who came after him.
For anyone wishing to play jazz, it is a must that you come through the music of Ellington, Monk, and Shorter. Much of Wayne’s music is architecturally perfect in terms of its harmonic and melodic structure. As creative musicians, we take liberties with interpretations of every legend’s music, while keeping a conscious eye on a song’s DNA.

The bulk of the material that the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis chose to arrange for this performance was composed in the first decade of Wayne’s career. “Mama ‘G’,” “Armageddon,” “Contemplation,” “Hammer Head,” “Teru,” and “Lost” were all written between 1959 and 1966. His material from this period has become part of the foundation of modern jazz. “Diana” (pronounced “Gianna”) was composed in 1974 just as jazz fusion and, particularly, Weather Report were reaching their zenith. “Endangered Species” and “The Three Marias” both come from Wayne’s 1985 flagship album Atlantis. This album’s foundation was 80s keyboards and other various electric instruments. The JLCO does a remarkable job of creatively arranging Wayne’s music while keeping a watchful eye on the core structure of these songs. Most importantly, Wayne’s trust of the band is evident.

To describe each song’s orchestral highlights would be, I feel, antithetical to Wayne’s modus operandi of daring to experience the unknown. I encourage you to listen yourself and, of course, to use a little imagination.

– Christian McBride
November 15, 2019


Executive Producer: Wynton Marsalis
Recorded live at Frederick P. Rose Hall (New York City) on May 14-16, 2015

Front of House Engineer: David Robinson
Recording Engineers: Rob Macomber For SiriusXM and James P. Nichols
Mixing Engineer: Todd Whitelock at Amplified Art and Sound
Editor: Gloria Kaba
Production Assistant: Wes Whitelock
Mastered by: Mark Wilder At Battery Studios, Nyc 2019
Label Head And A&R: Gabrielle Armand
Label Manager: Aaron Bisman
Art Direction & Design: Brian Welesko
Illustrations: Paul Rogers
Legal: Daphnée Saget Woodley, Wesley Friedman, and Allison Job

Assistant Label Manager: Jake Cohen
Product Manager: Madeleine Cuddy
Marketing Manager: Nicole Morales
Product & Marketing Assistant: Benjamin Korman
Director of Public Relations and External Communications: Zooey T. Jones
Public Relations Manager: Madelyn Gardner
Music Administration: Kay Wolff and Christianna English
Audio Archivists: Omar Little and Benjamin Carbone
Concert Programming: Jason Olaine and Georgina Javor
Concert Line Producer: Justin Bias
Photography: Frank Stewart
Liner Notes: Christian Mcbride
Music Copyists: Geoff Burke, Austin Harris, Matt Hilgenberg, Sherman Irby, and Jonathan Kelly

Sherman Irby Alto & Soprano Saxophones, Flute, Piccolo, Bb Clarinet
Ted Nash Alto & Tenor Saxophones, C And Alto Flutes, Piccolo, Bb Clarinet
Victor Goines Tenor Saxophone, Bb & Eb Clarinets
Walter Blanding Tenor & Soprano Saxophones, Bb Clarinet
Paul Nedzela Baritone & Alto Saxophones, Bass Clarinet

Ryan Kisor
Kenny Rampton
Marcus Printup
Wynton Marsalis

Vincent Gardner
Chris Crenshaw
Elliot Mason

Rhythm Section
Dan Nimmer Piano
Carlos Henriquez Bass
Ali Jackson Drums

Featuring: Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter appears courtesy of Blue Note Records.


1. Yes or No
Miyako Music (BMI)
Composed by Wayne Shorter
Arranged by Victor Goines

2. Diana
Iska Music (BMI)
Composed by Wayne Shorter
Arranged by Ted Nash

3. Hammer Head
Miyako Music
Composed by Wayne Shorter
Arranged by Sherman Irby
SOLOS: WAYNE SHORTER tenor saxophone; SHERMAN IRBY alto saxophone; VINCENT GARDNER trombone

4. Contemplation
Miyako Music (BMI)
Composed by Wayne Shorter
Arranged by Sherman Irby
SOLO: WAYNE SHORTER tenor saxophone

5. Endangered Species
Wayana Music (BMI)
Composed by Wayne Shorter & Joseph Vitarelli
Arranged by Vincent Gardner
SOLOS: WAYNE SHORTER soprano saxophone; ALI JACKSON drums

6. Lost
Iska Music (BMI)
Composed by Wayne Shorter
Arranged by Walter Blanding
SOLOS: TED NASH alto saxophone, WAYNE SHORTER soprano saxophone; KENNY RAMPTON trumpet; ALI JACKSON drums

7. Armageddon
Miyako Music (BMI)
Composed by Wayne Shorter
Arranged by Marcus Printup

8. The Three Marias
Wayana Music (BMI)
Arranged by Carlos Henriquez
Solo: Wayne Shorter (soprano saxophone)
SOLOS: WAYNE SHORTER soprano saxophone

9. Teru
Miyako Music (BMI)
Composed by Wayne Shorter
Arranged by Wynton Marsalis
SOLOS: WALTER BLANDING tenor saxophone; VICTOR GOINES tenor saxophone

10. Mama “G”
Miyako Music (BMI)
Composed by Wayne Shorter
Arranged by Chris Crenshaw