The mind of Wayne Shorter


Since Wayne Shorter is one of the greatest and strangest saxophonists of all time, this probably belongs in my jazz blog, but it’s just so … interesting that I thought it fit better right here.

I haven’t read the new Shorter bio, “Footprints,” but the book, along with a new album and trio tour, has put the spotlight on the man famous for tearing it up with Art Blakey in the ’50s, recharging Miles Davis’ post-Coltrane era quintet in the ’60s, and forming the enormously successful, fusion pioneering Weather Report in the ’70s.

In short, Wayne Shorter watches “American Idol,” and thinks about crappy movies.

From Dan Ouellette’s Q&A with Shorter in Billboard:

Q: Even back then, though, jazz records didn’t make lots of money.

A: If something makes a lot of money, it doesn’t make it cool.
People worry about missing out on that pot of gold. But what they’re
really missing out on is their creative process. It’s about
evolving. It’s like that movie “Resident Evil” with Milla
Jovovich. Everybody was getting injected with something that made
the people feed off each other like “Night of the Living Dead,”
but it didn’t have the same effect with Milla. Her injection didn’t
work. So these guys were trying to destroy her, because she wasn’t
mutating to be some kind of war machine. But one guy said not to
destroy her because she wasn’t mutating, she was evolving.

on Joni Mitchell and “American Idol” (I’ve read in the Village Voice that Wayne prefers Clay over Reuben, calling the latter an r&b retread):

Q: Joni Mitchell is also on Nonesuch. What is it about her music that attracted you to play on so many of her albums?

A: She’s talking about things in her lyrics, and she’s a fighter.
She told me that around the time when she recorded “Don Juan’s
Reckless Daughter” and “Mingus” that someone sent her a letter
accusing her of playing a minor second within a chord and how that
was destroying the “pop” feeling she was known for. It was like
saying she was going over to some other side.

It’s like her song “Both Sides Now” that she wrote when she was
20 or 21. It was about an encounter she had with a man and the
daughter she had. She recorded it, and a record executive said to
her, “You know, don’t you?” The words struck him on a business
side. She said she had to think fast, on her feet, so she said yes.
And the executive detailed it out: We get young artists, squeeze the
blood out of the stone, then throw them away and get another young
artist. That’s what the industry is like.

Q: And you agree?

A: Yes, it’s like this record executive who came on “American
Idol” one night who said he could see working in the studio with
one of the contestants. It was if he was saying, “I’m going to show
you how to judge.” The inference was that he could make this singer
a star, that he could see and guarantee who could be a moneymaker.
That’s what “American Idol” is about: giving someone all the
responsibility to do the thinking, the marketing, the moneymaking,
the making of the idol.

Now if Wayne Shorter, one of the most advanced thinkers in jazz, is watching “American Idol,” am I missing something?

2 thoughts on “The mind of Wayne Shorter

  1. Ilene

    Yes, a whole lot of c-r-a-p on TV. Some people are compartmentalized geniuses. Serious geniuses without humor and various habits of poor taste are some sort of flaming bore. I use this as justification that some day I might too be eligible for genius status! xo

  2. Anonymous

    I have read the Shorter biography, which in fact is a hagiography. Were the guy not such a genius composer he would have disappeared into obscurity long ago,like his late brother Alan. A sense of humour and mischief is o.k but Shorter can seem precious and irritating; the writer wants to ask him about music and he replies “what’s your first memory – because that’s Occam’s Razor!” NO IT’S NOT – it’s a pile of evasive, obfuscatory b***s*** and shows that Shorter doesn’t really want to communicate properly. And no biographer should permit the subject of their biography to write the foreword.

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