Footprints: The Life and Music of Wayne Shorter

Footprints: The Life and Music of Wayne Shorter

by Michelle Mercer
     
 

The first biography about the man The New York Times recently called "jazz's all-around genius, matchless in his field as a composer, utterly original as an improviser."

Saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter is one of the great architects of jazz, and a man whose influence will be felt by musicians and music fans for generations to come. In this firstSee more details below

Overview

The first biography about the man The New York Times recently called "jazz's all-around genius, matchless in his field as a composer, utterly original as an improviser."

Saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter is one of the great architects of jazz, and a man whose influence will be felt by musicians and music fans for generations to come. In this first biography of Shorter, Michelle Mercer traces the amazing trajectory of his fifty-year career. As fellow jazz great Herbie Hancock puts it: "Wayne Shorter has evolved as a human being to a point where he can synthesize all the history of jazz into a very special, very alive musical expression. Nobody else can do that now."

In many ways, Wayne Shorter's story is the story of modern American music. Born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1933, he learned bebop as an adolescent in cutting contests with Sonny Stitt and Sonny Rollins. In the 1950s, he graduated to some "hard-drinking, hard bop years" with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. The saxophonist was the catalyst in the famous 1960s quintet of Miles Davis, then followed the trumpeter on his avant-garde electric excursions. In the 1970s, he and Joe Zawinul pioneered fusion in Weather Report. Into the 1980s and 1990s Wayne's solos graced pop recordings like Steely Dan's "Aja" and Joni Mitchell's "Hejira." And today, at age seventy, he is leading the Wayne Shorter Quartet, a group that critics have compared to Coltrane's classic quartet and to Davis's own groundbreaking quintet.

A rich portrait of a great American artist, Footprints. makes a vital contribution to the literature of jazz.

Author Biography: Michelle Mercer is a music writer and a regular music commentator for National Public Radio's All Things Considered. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, Village Voice, Down Beat, and Jazziz.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Billboard
In her exceptional book...Michelle Mercer captures the musical and spiritual essence of one of jazz's living legends.
New Republic
Mercer's book is pleasurable and empathetic, essential for anyone who wants to get closer to this inscrutable genius.
San Francisco Chronicle
Footprints is a fascinating, often intimate account of his creative journey.
Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly
Legendary jazz saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter gets an appreciative appraisal in this excellent biography by music journalist Mercer, who follows this "determinedly eccentric" genius from his early days with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers in the late 1950s, through his stunning work with the Miles Davis Quintet in the 1960s, to his popular jazz-rock fusion band Weather Report in the 1970s and his ongoing recording and performing. She carefully details his early influences, including his mother's tireless indulgence of his creative whims and his fascination with the 1948 film The Red Shoes, whose central conflict-living for oneself versus living for one's art-would define his career. Mercer expertly investigates Shorter's relationships with the two pianists who most influenced his music, fellow Davis Quintet member Herbie Hancock and Weather Report co-leader Joe Zawinul, as well as the impact of his Buddhist faith on his music. Mercer also shines in her consideration of some Shorter's less critically acclaimed efforts, including his genre-defying work with Joni Mitchell and Brazilian pop singer and composer Milton Nascimento. Interviews with Shorter, Carlos Santana, Amiri Baraka and dozens of others lend depth and tone to this clear-eyed account. B&w photos not seen by PW. Agent, Dave Dunton. (Jan.) Forecast: Laudatory prefaces by Herbie Hancock and Shorter himself, plus blurbs from Carlos Santana, Sonny Rollins and Gary Giddins should signal jazz fans that this is the real deal. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Music writer and NPR commentator Mercer provides an elegant, questing biography into the mindset of the great jazz sax man. How do you get into the head of an improviser? It isn't easy, especially when the subject is given to speaking in runes. But the author acquits herself admirably, going straight at Wayne Shorter as he veers this way and that, musically and verbally. Here is a man who takes naturally to harmonic complexities, convoluted melodic lines, and shifting accents, all expressed with confounding metaphysical gravity. This happy jazz buddha is comfortable discussing pre-Socratic ideas or music as a found object (even though he's fully cognizant of the hard, hard work of composing). Exploration, Mercer demonstrates, is Shorter's leitmotif: pursuing instantaneous harmonic ideas, polytonal orbits, and Latin bossa nova beats, he finds the center through all the chord changes. How he comes up with the music is a mystery, but it has as much to do with Buddhism (which he began practicing around the time he formed Weather Report with pianist Joe Zawinul), his family, and his literary probings as it does with exposure to musical forms from classical to bop and all around the musical block. Shorter's work is also stretched by his skepticism of compositional limits: Why eight bars? Why not more or fewer? It can be difficult to make sense of the saxophonist's cerebrations: playing "the barely comprehensible chaos of the world" with Miles Davis, he says, "I felt like a cello, I felt the viola, I felt liquid, dot-dash and colors really started coming." Still, if Shorter remains an enigma, his journey is given color and arc by Mercer, who fills in when the music doesn't speak for itself,providing lightly handled dispatches on familial influences, reviews from the music press, and the world of Brownian motion inhabited by her subject. Shorter winds his own clock, but Mercer gathers the influences that make him tick. (16 pp. b&w photos, not seen)Agent: David Dunton/Harvey Klinger

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781585423538
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
12/29/2004
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.36(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
14 Years

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >