Posted March 13, 2023
I love Wayne Shorter. He's the best saxophonist ever, in my opinion. Miles thought so too. Even over Coltrane and the people who were much more famous than Wayne, really. Everything was magical about him. I remember I was playing with Jaco Pastorius, who had just joined Weather Report. Wayne, of course, was one of the founding members of that band. Jaco was supposed to be in the studio recording with me, and he didn't show up. So I said to Henry, the engineer, ”I know where he is. Let's go get him.” So we went down to the rehearsal studio. Zawinul and Jaco were tossing a Frisbee on the ground. They were throwing it with their hand and priding themselves on how good they were at catching a Frisbee and everything.
At a certain point, they threw it at Peter Erskine, who was a new drummer in the band. It came towards him and he was terrified. He reached up and grabbed it and threw it. It wobbled all the way back. Jaco looked at him and kind of gave him the stink eye for a bad throw. Up on the stage meantime was Wayne with his horn tucked under his left arm. He was playing the keyboard with his right hand. Joe threw the Frisbee at Wayne, and it was coming straight at Wayne’s head, out of his peripheral vision. Wayne reached up, caught it and threw it back perfectly. You know, Wayne was more than a musician. He was like a little Zen master. He was mystical. He was the only musician that I could direct metaphorically or theatrically. I would say to him, “Come in here and get out here. Then come in really sad, and by the time you get to here… get really young.”
And he would play that! Or, I’d tell him, okay, Wayne, “you're the bird.” So he'd go out in the studio, put his horn in his mouth, and the first lick that came out of him was so like a bird. It was amazing. Then his hand was in the air waving for “one more take,” and I said, “no way. I'll punch you in, but I won't start over.” So I punched him in and I left the first lick that he played on the record. It was magnificent. He was just kind of unconscious when he played it, but it was so bird-like and so unusual. He was a beautiful musician. He will be sorely missed.