The Kennedy Center

Wayne Shorter


Wayne Shorter has been called a genius, a trailblazer, a visionary, and one of the world’s greatest composers. Born in Newark, New Jersey in 1933, he grew up poring through comic books and imagining adventures in undiscovered universes. He studied music at New York University, and upon graduating, was drafted into the U.S. Army.

In 1959, Shorter joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers as a saxophonist, eventually composing for the group and becoming its music director. After four years, Miles Davis invited him to join his second historical quintet, with Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, and Ron Carter. This marked the beginning of Shorter’s exploration of unchartered territories that led him to form—with pianist Joe Zawinul—the world’s first fusion band, Weather Report.

Over the next decade, Short produced a succession of jazz albums for the Columbia label. During this period, he became known for collaborations with greats across genres, including Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan, Carlos Santana, and Don Henley. In 1996, he released High Life, which received the Grammy® for best contemporary jazz album. Two years later, he reunited with longtime friend Herbie Hancock for an intimate duet recording entitled “1+1,” winning another Grammy® for their collaboration. In 2000, he formed his first acoustic group under his name, The Wayne Shorter Quartet, featuring Danilo Shorter, John Patitucci, and Brian Blade, which still performs today. At the same time, Shorter began exploring the world of classical music. He paired with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Royal Concertgebouw, and the BBC Chamber Orchestra, unveiling his new symphonic repertoire.

Shorter is the recipient of the NEA Jazz Masters Award (1998), the Grammy® Lifetime Achievement Award (2015), and most recently, the prestigious Polar Music Prize (2017). With a total of 11 Grammy Awards® under his belt, Shorter refuses to slow down. Currently, in collaboration with Esperanza Spalding, he is composing his first opera, Iphigenia, his ultimate expression honoring the nobility of humanity—to awaken one’s inherent power. Wayne Shorter believes that there are no limits: “To me, jazz means: I dare you.”
Wayne Shorter