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Iconic Jazz Saxophonist/Composer Wayne Shorter Is Celebrated at NJPAC

New Jersey Performing Arts Center

1 Center Street, Newark, NJ 07102

If there’s one jazz giant who is still growing in leaps and bounds, it has to be Wayne Shorter, the preeminent artist who is now close to his mid-eighties. He has valuable news to impart to us—not just his vital music but his wisdom, his idiosyncratic character and his genuine generosity. He told me three years ago that he sees his role as an artist as “being the lone voice in the wind—to be on a mission and not be afraid.”

One would guess, like Chick Corea once told me, that there’s no such thing as retirement for Shorter when he is so creatively alive. The New Jersey Performing Arts Center welcomes that spark of life over its Wayne Shorter Weekend, April 21-23, with a host of shows, culminating on the final evening with the maestro and his quartet with special guests pianist (and best friend) Herbie Hancock and vocalist Gretchen Parlato. Wayne friends fill out the bill, including trumpeter Wallace Roney leading his orchestra through Shorter’s The Universe—A Concerto for Miles; songbird Cécile McLorin Salvant and her band; “Weather Report and Beyond Reimagined,” featuring saxist Joe Lovano and bassist Christian McBride (who’s the artistic director of NJPAC); and a double-bass duo performance by McBride and Esperanza Spalding.

The entire affair is a true homecoming for Shorter, who was born in Newark in 1933. The jazz innovator earned his bachelor’s degree from New York University in 1956, and then was drafted into the United States Armed Forces in 1957. While in college, Shorter played tenor saxophone with the Nat Phipps orchestra, and upon graduating, worked briefly with Johnny Eaton and his Princetonians earning Wayne the nickname, “The Newark Flash,” for his speed and facility with the tenor saxophone. Then he starred in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers before being swept up into Miles Davis’ classic ’60s quintet. After leaving that employ, he co-founded the rock/jazz fusion band Weather Report with Joe Zawinul throughout the ’70s. He has enjoyed a brilliant solo career since.

Wayne is jazz’s leading man. Two years ago Jazz at Lincoln Center celebrated him with a festival and this Labor Day the Detroit International Jazz Festival honors him as the Artist in Residence where he’ll perform with his quartet and a newly formed quintet. He told me, “We’re all evolving. And there’s a faith in eternal existence. I try to do that onstage, intimating that there’s no such thing as a beginning or end.” —Dan Ouellette


Cover: Wayne Shorter; photo: Eric Antoniou


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