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Wayne Shorter, jazz saxophone pioneer, dies at 89

Shorter, a tenor saxophonist who debuted in 1959, was a foundational member of two of the most seminal jazz groups: Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and the Miles Davis Quintet.
Image: Jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter performs at the 5 Continents Jazz Festival in Marseille, southern France on July 23, 2013.
Jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter performs at the 5 Continents Jazz Festival in Marseille, France, on July 23, 2013.Claude Paris / AP file
/ Source: The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — Wayne Shorter, an influential jazz innovator whose lyrical, complex jazz compositions and pioneering saxophone playing sounded through more than half a century of American music, has died. He was 89.

Shorter died Thursday in Los Angeles, a representative for the musician said. No cause of death was given.

Shorter, a tenor saxophonist, made his debut in 1959 and would go on to be a foundational member of two of the most seminal jazz groups: Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and the Miles Davis Quintet. Over the next eight decades, Shorter’s wide-spanning collaborations would include co-founding the ’70s fusion band Weather Report, some 10 album appearances with Joni Mitchell and further explorations with Carlos Santana and Steely Dan.

Many of Shorter’s textured and elliptical compositions — including “Speak No Evil,” “Black Nile,” “Footprints,” and “Nefertiti” — became modern jazz standards and expanded the harmonic horizons of jazz across some of its most fast-evolving eras.

Herbie Hancock once said of Shorter in Miles Davis’s Second Great Quintet: “The master writer to me, in that group, was Wayne Shorter. He still is a master. Wayne was one of the few people who brought music to Miles that didn’t get changed.”

As a band leader, Shorter released more than 25 albums. He won 11 Grammy awards and in 2015 was given a lifetime achievement Grammy.