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Interviews

Wayne Shorter: The Man and the Legacy

By Published: January 16, 2003
AAJ: You recently found out you had a Cherokee ancestry, how did that effect the lyrical development of the piece 'Masquelero'?

WS: I wrote Masquelero a long time ago, but just recently discovered that I have Cherokee ancestry, so it seemed right to revisit this piece. I thought it would be nice to celebrate this because playing music right now for me, (and the guys are saying it too now), the music is a form of celebration and celebrating life...celebrating the eternity of life...and all this compositional stuff and searching for a way to be original, could be just a way of returning the gift of life, which is hard to give back. Life has everything, what are you going to give back? The quest for originality, as opposed to, sound-like 'pop stuff' or, 'million-dollar hit' stuff, where to give back to life is the most original reflection of oneself, and getting something in return would not be a million dollars, the return is already built-in...eternity...it's not about music alone...music is not separate than life... music sometimes may spark the celebration that people will join in, in other words.. that life is eternal and you don't have to go robbing banks just becuase you think you only live once. When you have twelve brothers and sisters you don't have to go grabbing at the bread first...there's plenty there to go around. That's my bank robbing analogy.

AAJ: You seem to be using the tenor saxophone more on Footprints 'Live' than on the earlier Weather Report material where you were using the soprano. Eight out of the ten tracks were tenor, any reason for that?

WS: The tenor can be mixed and heard in an acoustic situation better, from the middle, down, below the iceberg of sound, undertones, overtones, sidetones, perpendicular tones, everything...and it's left up to mixing job to separate everything.

AAJ: Did you play a number of these tunes just with the soprano to see how they would sound?

WS: I thought about the soprano, like when we were playing for about nineteen thousand people in Tokyo three weeks ago, in Tokyo Stadium. Herbie's Band was there, another group from Norway and a Big Band from Cuba. I used both the soprano and tenor, the group from Norway had all this techno, electric, all kinds of stuff...

AAJ: Did you play an acoustic set to broadcast to that large a crowd?

WS: Yes, the other bands had synthesizers and everything, they had their trumpets hooked-up to interface with everything...and Herbie had his Future-to-Future Band, which has allot of electronics...so I used the soprano alot in that setting, and when we finished we got a standing ovation. And you know it's different in Japan, everybody is historically so polite, they don't even move in their seats normally, so when they stood up...well, that was a great experience.

AAJ: I heard you were playing just after Tokyo at a peace conference, how did that go?

WS: The Peace Conference had hundred-piece orchestra, a whole ballet and dance segment, with singer Anita Hall...all in conjunction with promoting world peace... we placed flowers with our families in Arizona...they had four wreaths, for myself, Herbie, Dr. Carter (Dean of the Chapel at Morehouse College), the grand nephew of Alfred Nobel, Michael Nobel. Also there was the grandson of Gandi, UN representatives, all these beautiful people from all over the world were there.

AAJ: We can look forward to allot of new music coming from all of these inspirational people and experiences?

WS: There are more (World Peace) events coming, there is a big orchestra coming from Brazil, that started in the ghetto of Favela, the deepest ghetto in Brazil, allot of those people started playing when they were only seven years old and now they're seventeen.

AAJ: So are you thinking about doing a Latin CD?

WS: It won't be just Latin, I just got this orchestras' CD, they're doing music of the world, they are not thought of as a novelty, they are not thinking about the Americanized approach to Latin music, which is to put a clave rhythm to all of these great pieces.

AAJ: You've played with so many world-renowned musicians throughout your career; Maynard Freguson, Art Blakely, Weather Report, Herbie, your own bands, what's been you most memorable 'life' experience so far?

WS: That would have to be my experience with Miles Davis. Miles Davis used to say:' I am not what I do, I do what I am'. That's when we musicians would watch musicians on shows like Johnny Carson, and we'd call each other on the telephone and ask: 'Do you think he's going to get to the couch?' you know, beyond the instrument, a human-being. Dizzy Gillespie was the first one to make it to the couch. What I'm speaking about is the whole change in philosophy about management, the corporate thing, like record companies...it used to be they didn't want you to do any talking, just wanted you to play. Well, it ain't like that, that's all changed, the artist has to get totally involved and do everything themselves at this point.


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