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Wayne Shorter, sage of the saxophone, dies at 89 : NPR
Wayne Shorter, sage of the saxophone, dies at 89
Wayne Shorter, the 12-time Grammy-winning saxophonist and composer and the creator of one of the singular sounds in contemporary jazz over more than half a century, died on Thursday, March 2 in Los Angeles. Shorter was 89 years old.
Cem Kurosman, a publicist at Blue Note Records, which released Shorter's recent recordings, confirmed his death in an email to NPR.
Shorter's influential career spanned decades. From the hard bop of the late 1950s to genre-defying small-group jazz in the '60s all the way through the birth of rock-influenced jazz in the '70s, Shorter's soprano and tenor saxophones offered sonic clarion calls for change and innovation.
Wayne Shorter, born Aug. 25, 1933, in Newark, N.J., was known as a deep thinker on and off the bandstand, ingrained with an intense curiosity that began during his childhood. After studying music at New York University in the mid-1950s, he joined a band that brought him to the attention of the jazz world as a composer and saxophonist: Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers.
In the mid '60s, Shorter solidified the second coming of the Miles Davis Quintet, joining Davis, bassist Ron Carter, drummer Tony Williams and pianist Herbie Hancock. It was there that he was able to indulge a passion for the intellectual that once prompted one of his NYU professors to wonder why he wasn't a philosophy major.
"The six years I was with Miles we never talked about music," Shorter told NPR in 2013. "Miles, on his table, he had scores of Krustaviski, the conductor ... and then he had another book on architecture and another book on law. Just sitting on the table. And then he'd talk about clothes and fashion."
During his time with Davis, Wayne Shorter also recorded a series of highly regarded solo albums. His relationship with the iconic Blue Note Records from 1964-1970 resulted in a number of now-classic recordings including Juju(recorded with members of John Coltrane's quartet), Speak No Evil (recorded with two fellow Miles Davis bandmates) and The Soothsayer (featuring fellow Blue Note artist Freddie Hubbard). Many of the albums contained Shorter compositions that are now considered jazz standards.
He stayed with Davis after the breakup of the second quintet, when the trumpeter experimented with electric instruments. Shorter then joined another Davis alum, keyboardist Joe Zawinul, to co-found Weather Report, which became one of the most renowned jazz-rock bands of the '70s. The band's 1979 album, 8:30, resulted in the first of Shorter's 11 Grammy Awards. He was awarded the Recording Academy's Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2015.
The latter part of Wayne Shorter's life was marked by almost 50 years of devotion to Nichiren Buddhism, a Japanese strain of the popular religion.
"I was hearing about Buddhism," Shorter told NPR in 2013. "But then I started to look into it and I started to open up and find out what was going on in the rest of the world instead of the west."
Those spiritual teachings influenced the musical ideas he applied to jazz at the start of the new millennium when he formed the Wayne Shorter Quartet featuring a handpicked group of much younger musicians.
The group's recorded work was captured by Shorter's return to Blue Note Records after over four decades with a series of releases that showcased the band's intense improvisations on Shorter compositions old and new.
As recently as 2018, with the release of his acclaimed final album, Emanon, Wayne Shorter continued to find the common ground between the spiritual and the musical.
"We have a phrase [in Buddhism]: hom nim yoh," he said in the 2013 NPR interview."It means 'From this moment forward is the first day of my life.' So put 100 percent into the moment that you're in because the present moment is the only time when you can change the past and the future."
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At 80, the Saxophonist Billy Harper Is Still a Towering Force
At 80, the Saxophonist Billy Harper Is Still a Towering Force
He spent years playing with Art Blakey, Lee Morgan and Max Roach, earning praise for his sax’s piercing cry. He’s still composing and turning heads live.
“Billy Harper grew up in front of an audience. Every Sunday, his family buttoned him into a suit and tie with a freshly starched shirt and drove to Saint Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church in Houston, where his grandfather preached and young Billy sang. “They were having me onstage when I was 3, singing solos,” he said. “The music was getting inside me.” Surrounded by great vocalists, he thought he was going to be a singer, too: “Until I got the horn.”
Harper moved to New York in 1966, when he was 23, and began turning heads with the piercing and songful cry of his saxophone. It didn’t take long for him to become a prized collaborator for members of the jazz pantheon like Art Blakey, Max Roach and Lee Morgan. One of the last standing from his generation, Harper, who turns 80 on Tuesday, is still revered in the jazz world as both saxophonist and composer.
Earlier this month, he played four nights at Smoke, the Manhattan jazz club, where attendees got a blast of his singular sound, which summons the urgency of John Coltrane and the power of the Black church. A charismatic presence onstage, dressed entirely in black leather, Harper calls his listeners to attention. His improvisations are torrential, dance-like and swinging, spiraling upward to mountaintop pronouncements that can leave listeners in a sweat.
“His music is bracing,” said the pianist Francesca Tanksley, who has performed in Harper’s bands since 1983. She credits him with opening doors of inspiration, so that the music “becomes less of a craft and more of an adventure. He’s a man on a mission, he always has been — a knight of sorts.”
The drummer Billy Hart, who plays with Harper in the all-star hard bop group the Cookers, said Harper’s music reflects the divine. “I’ve known Harper for 50 years, and we don’t even talk that much,” he said. “I don’t know exactly what he believes, but I can hear it. It’s rhapsodic. He’s praying on the bandstand.”
Harper shrugs off praise. “I just want to be a pure musician,” he said, speaking by phone from his apartment in Harlem, where he lives with his wife, the singer Morana Mesic, and their 11-year-old son, Prince. His mission at 80 is the same as when he was 25: “The idea is to make a mark in the creative music world — not anything commercial — just add something to what has already been done by the guys who came before me. If I can just do that, then I’ve done my part. I’m doing it.”
He has long flown under the media’s radar, perhaps because his career took off as rock grew dominant in the music industry and independent jazz labels struggled. His debut album, “Capra Black,” recorded 50 years ago with a hotshot band and a choir, is a classic of what’s come to be known as spiritual jazz. Harper has never played anything but spiritual jazz. You can hear it in his stirring tunes, stretching back to the 1970s: “Cry of Hunger,” “The Awakening,” “Trying to Make Heaven My Home.”
As a composer, he bears comparison with more famous musicians like Wayne Shorter and McCoy Tyner. Some of his compositions seem to unfold across vast landscapes, majestic and haunting, as if Harper were traveling through epochs of time. “Billy is a griot, a storyteller,” said T.K. Blue, the saxophonist and flutist who performed with Harper for 30 years in bands led by the pianist Randy Weston. “I can hear the history of where he comes from in that music. It’s regal. I hear Africa. I hear Texas. I hear the blues.”
Harper spent much of his childhood in Houston’s Third Ward, a historically Black neighborhood filled in those days with blues joints. Walking past a music shop when he was 11, he spotted a shiny tenor saxophone in the window and was intrigued by its complexity — its multitude of buttons and keys. Returning home, he announced that he wanted either a pony or a saxophone for Christmas. (He got the horn.)
Harper’s Uncle Earl, an old schoolmate of the bebop trumpeter Kenny Dorham, introduced him to albums by Dorham, Horace Silver and Sonny Rollins. Harper, self-taught, played along with the records and in school marching bands, and soon began sitting in with blues bands around town.
By 1961, when Harper arrived at North Texas State University (now the University of North Texas), his playing “had the soul stuff, the feeling,” he said. “But I had to get the technical stuff, and they made me get it together.” Enrolled as a music major, he took his first-ever saxophone lessons and developed a grueling regimen. Holing up in a practice room for 10 or 12 hours at a time, daily, he garnered a reputation: “People thought I was crazy — or that I was going crazy,” he recalled, with a laugh.
Toward the end of his junior year, Harper won a seat in the school’s prestigious One O’Clock Lab Band, known for its polish and professionalism. It was 1964, and Harper became the first Black student ever accepted into the ensemble: “It was a big thing to get in, though I hadn’t really thought about it back then,” he said. The other musicians “were open and warm, and the band was off the charts. After that, I was ready for anything.”
After graduating in 1965, he spent a year or so in Dallas, jamming with big-time saxophonists like James Clay and Claude Johnson, veterans of Ray Charles’s band. Then in 1966, Harper jumped into his black Mustang fastback and drove to Manhattan. His second night in the city, he parked in front of the Five Spot Cafe on St. Marks Place and rushed inside with his horn to hear Thelonious Monk. He forgot to lock the car, and was robbed of nearly everything he owned. That first year in New York was a challenge. He tried sitting in nightly at Slugs’ Saloon, a jazz mecca on the Lower East Side, but rarely got a paid gig.
But in 1967, a chance meeting on Broadway with Gil Evans, the composer, arranger and Miles Davis collaborator, led to an invitation to rehearse with Evans’s big band. Harper would become one of its important soloists. Word spread and his résumé grew.
Harper — himself an accomplished drummer — spent years playing with the drummer Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. He was a member of the trumpeter Lee Morgan’s final band and was at Slugs’ the night Morgan was fatally shot there in 1972. He spent much of the ’70s in a quartet led by the drummer Max Roach, and held the first tenor chair in the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra. Its leaders would keep him glued to his seat until the end of a set — at which time, like a pent-up thoroughbred leaving the gate, he would rise to deliver a scarifying blizzard of a blues-drenched solo.
His A-list collaborations continued over the decades; since 2010, Harper has recorded half a dozen albums and toured widely with the Cookers while also maintaining his own group, which he described as authentic: “We have a soul-heart-mind connection when we play together,” he said.
Typically, members stick with the quintet for years, if not decades, as in the case of Tanksley. To this day, she said, when the band plays one of Harper’s compositions, the musicians seem to enter “a small universe with its own state of being.”
Harper has recorded around 20 albums with the quintet, though it’s been a while — the group’s most recent disc, “Blueprints of Jazz Vol. 2,” came out in 2008. His recordings can be as hard to find as they are musically definitive.
He plans to make a new album this year and has been composing a set of tunes inspired by his son. He said that music comes to him in his sleep or while walking down the street: “Suddenly I’ll hear a tune in my head, and sometimes I’ll hear a whole choir of voices, singing it. So I run home and write it down, fast.”
Not every 80-year-old maintains this level of creativity; playing a tenor saxophone for hours at a time requires a serious degree of physical conditioning. But Harper — who used to jog miles daily and trained as a martial artist — finds that his energy doesn’t flag much.
“Inside, I feel 25, maybe 26,” he said.
And he’s still turning heads with the singing sound of his saxophone. His friend Hart compares him to the Pied Piper of Hamelin: “People want to hear that sound. Charlie Parker had it. John Coltrane certainly had it. It’s a sound that doesn’t change the notes, it makes the notes, and that’s the sound that Billy has.”
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Fulton grand jury looking into whether Trump interfered with 2020 election completes investigation
Fulton grand jury looking into whether Trump interfered with 2020 election completes investigationwsbtv.com | January 9, 2023 10:03 AM
“ATLANTA — The special purpose grand jury looking into possible election tampering is over and has been dissolved.
This means the grand jury has also issued its final report.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis began investigating nearly two years ago whether then-President Donald Trump and his allies illegally tried to overturn his defeat in the 2020 election here in Georgia.
The special grand jury cannot issue indictments. Willis will decide whether to go to a regular grand jury to pursue criminal charges.
Over about six months, the grand jurors have considered evidence and heard testimony from dozens of witnesses, including high-profile Trump associates and top state officials.
Several of Trump’s allies have testified over about a 6 month period, including former New York mayor and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, as well as John Eastman and other lawyers who participated in Trump’s attempts to stay in power.
A hearing has been set for Jan. 24 to talk about what comes next and if its contents will be made public.
Part of the investigation into Trump revolved around his phone call to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger where he asked him to find nearly 12,000 votes.
Trump has consistently called the phone call “perfect” and has dismissed the Fulton County investigation as a witch hunt.
Criminal defense attorney Drew Findling, part of Trump’s legal team in Georgia, in August said the focus on Trump “is clearly an erroneous and politically driven persecution.”
Trump’s allies have also denied any wrongdoing.
Willis declined to comment for this story.”