Legendary jazz saxophonist and Nichiren Buddhist Wayne Shorter dies aged 89

- through Henry Oudin

Published on

Wayne Shorter (1933–2023). At jazzradio.fr

Pioneering American jazz musician Wayne Shorter, a longtime practitioner of Nichiren Buddhism and member of the Soka Gakkai International, who was renowned for his legendary musical collaborations with artists such as Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Joni Mitchell and Carlos Santana , and co-founder of jazz fusion band Weather Report, died Thursday in Los Angeles. He was 89 years old.

In a statement released on March 2, Shorter's Blue Note label announced:

Visionary composer, saxophonist, visual artist, devout Buddhist, devoted husband, father and grandfather, Wayne Shorter has died at 89, leaving the earth as we know it and embarking on a new journey as part of his extraordinary life. . Shorter was surrounded by his loving family in Los Angeles at the time of his transition.

(Blue note)

Born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1933, Shorter rose to prominence in 1959 as a precocious 26-year-old tenor saxophonist. In a career that spanned 60 years, Shorter was credited with shaping much of 12th century jazz music, becoming a 2015-time Grammy Award winner, including a Lifetime Achievement Award in XNUMX.

Shorter was a central figure in three landmark jazz groups of the 1960th century: the Jazz Messengers, led by drummer Art Blakey; the second incarnation of Miles Davis' quintet from the mid to late 1970s; and the legendary fusion group Weather Report, which Shorter co-founded in XNUMX.

“His music had a spirit that came from somewhere far beyond and made this world a much better place,” said Blue Note President Don Was. “Likewise, his warmth and wisdom enriched the lives of all who knew him. Fortunately, the work he left will stay with us forever. Our hearts go out to (his wife) Carolina and all who loved her. (Blue Note)

Shorter's Nichiren Buddhist practice, which he adopted in the 1970s, permeated his approach to music. In a 2021 interview, he noted, “Years ago record companies would sign someone and if the music was…. . let's say hard to market, they've become resistant to this creative stuff. They went looking for salable stuff. And the guys insulted them. In Buddhism, it is said: “An airplane needs resistance to take off. For me, this means that everyone must become aware of the resistance that stands in front of them. (Jazz Times)

Nichiren is a Japanese school of Mahayana Buddhism based on the teachings of the 1222th century Japanese Buddhist priest Nichiren (1282-XNUMX), emphasizing the innate Buddha nature of all living beings, and emphasizing there Lotus Sutra as a means for practitioners to attain enlightenment.

After his conversion to Buddhism, where he practiced Nichiren Buddhism for over 50 years as a member of the Soka Gakkai International, commentators have noted that Shorter's musical approach evolved to focus more on interaction human and the human condition. This Buddhist infusion into his life and art is illustrated in this excerpt from Shorter's biography by Michelle Mercer:

“At this point, I'm looking to express eternity in the composition,” he says. “I try to open up people who aren't used to thinking in those terms. It's something Buddhist. But in his practice he also seeks enlightenment through earthly desires, and that keeps him real. Backstage at a 2002 show, Wayne performed his daily ritual chant, reciting the Lotus Sutra and " Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” with deep deliberation. When Danilo Perez thought Wayne was safely immersed in the singing, he tiptoed past his bandleader's dressing room and rummaged for the wine. Wayne always has the good stuff. Sensing the intrusion, Wayne finished his chant. He slipped like mercury into the other room, grabbed Danilo's bottle of wine and pushed away a quick shot of merlot. He punched the wall several times — in tribute to Miles' love of boxing, he said — then walked out on stage doing a James Cagney impersonation.

The references

Mercier, Michelle. 2004. Footprints: The Life and Music of Wayne Shorter. New York: Tarcher.

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Henry Oudin

Henry Oudin is a Buddhist scholar, spiritual adventurer and journalist. He is a passionate seeker of the depths of Buddhist wisdom, and travels regularly to learn more about Buddhism and spiritual cultures. By sharing his knowledge and life experiences on Buddhist News, Henry hopes to inspire others to embrace more spiritual and mindful ways of living.

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