“It was probably the high point of my musical life”, says American pianist and composer Richie Beirach of his experience performing in Japan with Wayne Shorter in 1987. Beirach writes a personal tribute to Shorter, who passed away at the age of 89 yesterday morning…
Wayne Shorter was much more than a great sax player and composer; he was a genius motivator of all musicians around him and a great humanitarian too. I only had the honor and joy of playing with Wayne one time, but that was enough to experience his total musical and spiritual magic. He never spoke much, but when he did it was likely to be a torrent of wisdom and grace. I know he changed my musical life in many important ways…
Wayne, Dave Liebman, myself, Eddie Gomez and Jack DeJohnette did a big concert in Japan in 1987, Tribute to Coltrane, on the 20th anniversary of Trane’s death. It was probably the high point of my musical life. Luckily it was videotaped and recorded. In the middle of Wayne’s brilliant soprano solo on Trane’s tune “India”, I played a big flat-5 in octaves in my accompaniment to Wayne’s solo – it was a G7 Mixolydian chord and the note stuck out. Wayne, always the intense listener to the rhythm section, in his next phrase included that flat 5 in his idea!! You can actually hear me yelling like a fan at the way Wayne’s sense of inclusion made that moment EXPLODE for me and the audience too!!
Wayne was a giver in his demeanour and in his way of relating to other people. We had a great talk at the after party of the concert. Suffice it to say, I learned an enormous amount of priceless information about music and other less explainable things.
Wayne had terrible tragedies in his long life but also great triumphs. He overcame and adapted to the changing world with wonderful grace, humility and always with that devilish sense of humor. He will never be forgotten… One of my true mentors.
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Musicians who admire your contribution to the Jazz world, will identify 100% with your identification of Wayne’s totally unique and ability to transmit, the highest drama with his Music and Groups……RIP Wayne, Irreplaceable