Shorter is born
in Newark in New jersey, and starts to play the clarinet at sixteen,
later switching to the saxophone. He studies music at New York University
the Miles Davis's band in the late-summer
of 1964, although he still records occasionally under his own
name. His style develops greatly, and a
new emotional sonority is added to his tone with the relaxed expansiveness
of Davis's rhythm section - Tony Williams on drums,
Ron Carter on bass, and Herbie Hancock
on piano. He is the group's main writer, with classic compositions
like Nefertiti, Footprints and ESP, and a
major dynamic in Miles's development throughout the 1960s. In
1968 he first records with the soprano saxophone as Davis experiments
with and adds to his instrumentation: this use sets a trend for
much fusion music that was to follow
in the 1970s.
with VSOP (originally several groups of players centred around
Herbie Hancock and called together
for a Very Special One-time-only Performance).
with Horace Silver briefly before his
draft, and is befriended by John Coltrane,
who becomes his early mentor. Upon leaving the army in 1959 Shorter
joins Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers,
and becomes the groups musical director. During his stay with Blakey,
Shorter becomes a composer of some individual
stature with a concise style, and certainly his repertoire
consists of a much more sophisticated fare than Blakey had enjoyed
of late. His playing is very much of the hard
bop school, a muscular tone derived from Coltrane
and Sonny Rollins.
With pianist Joe
Zawinul, Shorter forms the group Weather
Report, one of the most popular and influential contemporary
jazz groups of the period. There are frequent personnel changes, including
the extravagant Jaco Pastorius
on bass guitar, but Shorter and Zawinul remain at the group's core.
With simple, catchy melodies over a regular
dance beat and modulating harmonies, the group exploits the popular
genres of its day, although Shorter becomes more withdrawn
and insular in his playing as time progresses.
to perform in and with a variety of settings and players, such as
Latin American rhythm sections and, in 1988, Carlos Santana. He
is one of the very major and historically innovative stars in the
jazz firmament still active today.