We Read Your Mail

I thought I’d take this opportunity to answer some of it. “And? If they weren’t actual letters, would I be able to do this?” (Sorry, Dave.)

Regarding my Post on “Hamilton”, a viewer writes they, too like the album, but…

“I am surprised that you do. It’s very hip hop/Broadway, and I don’t think of you when I think of those musical genres.”

Oh, contrare, kind viewer! Actually, for me, there are only two kinds of music- Good. Bad. And Disco. Ok. three. Only the first matters.

Hip hop and I go way back, actually. I was on Run-DMC when King of Rock came out because I was wearing Adidas sneakers back then and their “My Adidas” caught my ear. I only wore them without laces, like they did, once, though. I got the album and grief from my friends. That reminded me of when I picked up the first Ramones Lp, along with Talking Heads and Television back when they were new to CBGB’s. I got grief from the guys in my band about that, too.

I went on to love what’s now called “Old School.” A Tribe Called Quest is my all-time favorite hip hop group, and one of my favorite groups of any kind, period. Yes, I LOVED their recent reunion appearance on Jimmy Fallon, for the first time in 15 years. Q-Tip’s last album, “The Renaissance,” was one of the best of the year to my ears. I drove to Asbury Park to see Tribe in a small club after “Award Tour” dropped, and I also saw them at The Palladium one New Year’s Eve. This was one of the last incarnations of the Palladium as a club. Leaders Of The New School, featuring Busta Rhymes, opened, then DeLa Soul, and then Tribe played at midnight, With A Band (like on Fallon)! Wow.

Beyond Tribe, I loved P.E. and have/had all their albums, too. I saw Public Enemy at the Apollo Theater in Harlem one July 4th(*- the first concert I ever saw was at the Apollo, believe it or not- JAMES BROWN in 1961!!! That’s a whole nother story.), I was in the balcony with a date. We may have been the only 2 white people there. Great show. Chuck D’s solo album is great, too. There’s not enough Chuck D.

I was also very into Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth (“Mecca & The Soul Brother” is an enduring classic), Arrested Development, The Beastie Boys (I really got into their instrumental album, “The In Sound From Way Out,” as I thought it was great they were an actual band, “too.”), Digable Planets, and of course, I was very into “Acid Jazz,” since many of those artists sampled the Blue Note jazz classics I grew up on, like Guru’s “Jazzmatazz.” It’s a direction I was hoping more jazz artists would get into. Miles Davis actually did on his final album, “Doo-Bop.”

By the time Old School came around I had already been into the late, great Gil Scott-Heron, who’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” I first heard on FM late one night. The fact that he had a great band, led by Brian Jackson, made it easy, but he’s such a terrific writer/poet and vocalist, like many, I liked him immediately. I hear the jazz vocal tradition in him. It’s not all that far from Billie’s “Strange Fruit” to Gil’s “We Almost Lost Detroit,” (how prescient), or “Whitey On The Moon.” He gets a lot of cred as the “godfather” of rap. I don’t know about that, but I do know that he continues to be VERY overlooked, and he’s still ahead of his time. “I’m New Here,” which may or may not be his last album is very overlooked, too, in spite of over a million plays of this on youtube.

As far as Broadway goes, I’m primarily a music guy. I know little about dance, staging and the rest. I come out of Gershwin and Bernstein, who’s shows I got into through my love of classical music. I was immediately taken by Sondheim, who I consider to be a master and a visionary. I’ve heard almost everything he’s done.

One of the great things about Music, and Art for that matter, is that new artists are almost always influenced by what’s come before, and many times those influences manifest themselves in completely unexpected ways- like “Hamilton.” On that count, no less than Sondheim himself says this about Lin-Manuel Miranda and “Hamilton-“

“Lin-Manuel’s use of rap is that he’s got one foot in the past. He knows theatre…Hamilton is a breakthrough, but it doesn’t exactly introduce a new era. Nothing introduces an era. What it does is empower people to think differently. There’s always got to be an innovator, somebody who experiments first with new forms.” 1

For me, it’s always most exciting to see what’s coming next, to see the “breakthroughs.” They are what keep Music and Art new, fresh and exciting.


The crowd at the Richard Rogers Theater for the $10 Hamilton Ticket Raffle- 3 hours before curtain

It’s rare when something new in the Arts receives immediate public acclaim, like “Hamilton” has. (It’s sold out through August, 2016 @1,300 seats per show.) Usually, only other artists appreciate it and it’s left for the public to discover it, or not, over time, if it’s lucky.

I’m looking forward to what’s coming next.

In the meantime…Keep those cards, letters, and CandyGrams, coming…to denizen@nighthawknyc.com

Soundtrack for this post is “Where Did The Night Go,” one of my personal anthems, by said Gil Scott-Heron and appearing on “I’m New Here.”

  1.  http://www.playbill.com/news/article/stephen-sondheim-says-hamilton-is-a-breakthrough-352907

“Real Friends…” The Post Script

I closed my post on that topic on 11/17 with- “If you doubt the value of what I’m saying, try living without a Real Friend.”

Today, the Eagles of Death Metal gave their first interview after the unspeakably horrific massacre at their Paris show. How incredibly ironic to find this in one account

“Lead singer Jesse Hughes and band member Josh Homme say that many of the people died in the Bataclan theater attack because they refused to leave their friends or were trying to protect the ones they love.”


“Echoes of Friendship.” For all those we lost or were wounded.

Further, I included in that post this all too now eerily prescient quote from Morrissey’s “Hold On To Your Friends-”

“Why waste good time
Fighting the people you like
Who will fall defending your name.”*

There is no “greater love” than this…

Soundtrack for this Post is “I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris,” by Morrissey and Martin James “Boz” Boorer, published by Warner/Chappell Music Inc/Universal Music Publishing Group. It appears on his “Years of Refusal” album.

*-“Hold On To Your Friends,” by Morrissey from his album “Vauxhall And I.” Words and music by Morrissey and Alain Whyte. Published by Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

Please send comments, thoughts, feedback or propositions to denizen at nighthawknyc.com.
Click the white box on the upper right, for the archives, to search, or to subscribe.
This Post was created by Kenn Sava for www.nighthawknyc.com

“Today’s A Birthday.” Happy 50th, Bjork!

Moma’s show,“Bjork,” which they called a “retrospective,” for the most creative musician now working, (though her career is, hopefully, far from over. “Vulcinara” is one of this year’s best.), got ummm… mixed reviews (Jerry Saltz-“A discombobulated mess.” The Guardian- “A disaster.” Peter Schjeldahl of The New Yorker took Moma to task, big time, and I couldn’t agree with him more). Meant to honor her in her 50th year, it missed on that front, too, ending in early June, five months before that year began.

Bjork is 50 TODAY-  November 21, 2015.

Maybe they saw me coming, cause it was sold out when I went, so I missed seeing it in person, which as someone who’s such a big and long time admirer of her and her music, I hate to admit. According to the show’s checklist, I have seen 33 of the the 34 music videos that were on view, but I would have loved to have seen the rest… the McQueen dresses, the infamous “Swan” Dress, the headpieces and on and on. Luckily, reading about it and looking at the videos posted online, you can get a bit of a sense of it. In particular, I was struck by one video that focused on the collection of Bjork’s early notebooks and writings that were displayed.

As many know, Bjork’s first album was released when she was all of 11! You can check it out here.


1977. Björk sings and plays flute(!), her stepfather, Sævar Árnason, played guitar while her mom, Hildur Hauksdóttir, designed the album cover.

She would soon leave school and become a full time musician. Her early notebooks feature hand drawn staves with careful musical notations, fascinating in light of her patented, transcendent and seemingly improvised vocal flights of wonder. As I looked at this amazing collection, I was struck by a feeling of having seen this before, of another manuscript I’d seen pictures of that was written by a young European girl for who english was probably a second language, too, of about the same age…Annelies, better known as Anne, Frank.

“She lives in this house over there,

has her world outside it.

Grapples with the earth with

her fingers and her mouth,

she’s five years old.”*

Anne Frank was born in 1929, and this past June 12 would have been her 86th Birthday. Happy Birthday, Anne! The world misses you! She died one day in February, 1945, a couple of weeks before she would have been liberated, at age 15. It’s hard to fathom that Bjork was born only 36 years after Anne was in November, 1965. Only 36 years later. How the world and everything in it had changed in only 36 years! What would Anne have added to the world in the intervening 70 years since her tragic death? A childhood friend (Eva Schloss– Anne’s step sister, and Auschwitz survivor, born one month before Anne in 1929 is  alive and well at 86 as I write this) thinks she would have been very proud to know that her Diary has sold 30,000,000 copies since it was first published in 1952. What would she have written? Perhaps, the closest we can get to an idea can be seen online at The Anne Frank Fond, founded by her father, which has a few essays she wrote here, and here.

“she’s painting huge books,

glues them together,”*

Looking at Bjork’s early writings, it’s not hard, thanks to 20/20 hindsight, to see Bjork is much the same today. Different, of course…she’s grown up and had 35 years of incredible experiences and creativity. Bjork first came to world attention as the lead singer of the Sugarcubes, who’s first hit was, coincidentally, “Birthday.” It only mentions it’s title once. Her lyrics sound like a snapshot of her life then- very involved with nature, collecting bugs, and being a part of the natural beauty she found right outside her door in Iceland. We should have known right then and there about her. As she said about this music to the New Zealand Herald in 2007, which is quoted on bjork.com

“i mean when i look back now i feel like i was a baby then–but it actually surprised me how formed, i mean as a group, like the ideas, the lyrics stuff that we were actually really–maybe it’s like when you’re in your teens and early twenties when you form your views of the world, and then you sort of stick pretty much to them.”


As close as I got to Bjork @ Moma- Some of the instruments invented for her in the lobby.

I was into their music, but I didn’t look deeper. Those who did may not have been surprised when in 2011 she took her love of nature to the max with her epic CD and revolutionary app, “Biophilia,” which also served as a teaching platform to help kids learn about music and nature, and featured many unusual instruments she commissioned (which you can see above, and here. She used them when I saw her perform the album at Roseland in 2012.) She had grown up, but the seeds she would develop and grow were there all along if you looked for them.


I saw Nirvana here almost exactly 20 years earlier. Roseland is gone now, too.

“Thread worms on a string,

keeps spiders in her pocket,

collects fly-wings in A jar

scrubs horse flies and

pinches them on a line.”*

No, this doesn’t mean that Anne would have developed along the same lines, or even continued to write, which by all accounts, she wanted to. She might have, and she might have more than lived up to the promise of the Diary (possibly adding 70 more years to it, like Anais Nin did)! More than anything, it makes me feel her loss, again. Yet, Anne Frank was only one among the 6,000,000 other victims of the holocaust, not to mention the other 50,000,000 who’s lives ended too early in World War II.

How many great writers, artists, poets, scientists, doctors, or saints- never, were among them? How many great works of art, life changing inventions, scientific or medical breakthroughs, or timeless novels have we missed out on, been cheated of. From them, or their children? As with Anne, we’ll never know what we missed. Among the many other things it is, her Diary is a reminder of how much promise and potential she had.

“she’s got one friend

He lives next door,

they listen to the weather,

he knows how many freckles

she’s got,

She scratches his beard.”*

At Moma what that potential can become in it’s full flower was on display for the world to see.

When you consider all those who didn’t make it to be here with us, EVERY Birthday is something very special and worth celebrating.

“Today’s a birthday,

they’re smoking cigars,

he got a chain of flowers,

Sows a bird in her knickers,

they’re smoking cigars,

lie in the bathtub,

chain of flowers.”*

“Happy Birthday, Bjork!” May you always have a pocket full of spiders.

*-Soundtrack for this post- “Birthday” by Bjork Gudmundsdottir, Einar  Orn Benediktsson, Fridrik Erlingsson, Bragi Olafsson Sigtryggur Baldursson, and Por Eldon Jonsson. Published by Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd. Recorded by The Sugarcubes on “Life’s Too Good.” Video-

Comments are off, but that doesn’t mean I don’t welcome them, thoughts, feedback or propositions. Send them to denizen@nighthawknyc.com.

Real Friends… 

are one of the greatest blessings life can bestow. Along with health. Yet, as more and more time is spent online on things called “social media,” (a term that puzzles me because it doesn’t involve being “social” in any kind of traditional way. Shouldn’t it really be called “un-social media?”), I can’t help but wonder-

Do we remember what a REAL Friend is?

“Real Friends” have nothing to do with social media, where people say they are “friends” with some they don’t know or haven’t even met. I wonder how many have thought about the absurdity of having an “online friend.” That goes against the very definition of what a Friend has been for hundreds (thousands?) of years. They should be called an “online computer user I may or may not know.” Not very “nice” is it? Not very human. That’s EXACTLY why the big corporations don’t call it that- NO ONE would use their service, and there would be no one to mine for personal data and sell stuff to, or exploit, based on their personal info. Because, after all, NOTHING on line is really “FREE,” is it, right? So, they try and put a “human face” on something that has no face.

“Give up your job
Squander your cash, be rash
Just hold on to your friends.”*

That conversation must have gone something like this- “No computer has a face. Hmmm…Salesguys, we’ve got a problem. How can we market around that? I got it- we’ll put a human face on a faceless machine using loved terms like “friends” and “like,” and seduce people that way. EVERYONE wants a friend. We’ll make them think that have more than they ever dreamed of having. They’ll feel so much better about themselves cause they have all this “acceptance” they don’t have in the real world, they’ll spend more and more time using us!”

As a result, they’ve cheapened the word! This possibly began with a TV Sitcom using that word as it’s title depicting imaginary characters that again conspires to make you feel something for people who are not real.

Why? To sell you stuff. Like social media does now. And? Because everyone wants friends.

It’s time we got back to remembering what Real Friends are, and valuing those we may have while we still can! If you’re thinking that that’s “boring, cause it’s easier online,” they’ve seduced you to the point that you’ve already stopped making the effort it takes to have, and keep a Real Friend.

Real Friends may be the closest you’ll come to family, beyond your biological. They are, as I’ve been told, “the family you get to choose.” They may even know you better than your family, they may have shared things with you your family hasn’t. They know your hopes, dreams, you past and your present. They spot small changes, like new shoes, instantly. They have seen you at your best, and maybe at less than it. And? They’re STILL your friend. Even if some of them have been out of touch for a while. Somehow, often, at least part of that connection remains.

“There are more than enough
To fight and oppose
Why waste good time
Fighting the people you like
Who will fall defending your name.”*

Real Friendships may be based on things held in common- interests, values, experiences, background or character. They may spark immediate bonds, or ties that grow gradually in time, the way a tree grows. It’s a strong, though delicate thing, one that both need treat with respect, nurture and tend to the way you tend to any living thing. If you both do? You have something beautiful, wonderful, unique to treasure.


If you do, they’ll stick by you when things are dark, and fair-weather friends turn foul, or more likely, just turn. They’ll have your back while you’re busy watching the coming front…and see things through clearer eyes than you sometimes when your’s tire.

And, why? Why do they do these things?

Why? When no one else will?

Because they, too, need a Real Friend. They need their Friend to be ok so he or she can be their Friend. (The way no computer can.)

Everyone wants a Real Friend. Everyone NEEDS a Real Friend.

They are as hard to find as a wife. (Don’t get me started on the search for “love” online. Yes, it’s possible but look at the many who are using faceless computers to pull the same strings I am talking about here to dupe those who are seeking a real connection. Why? Because it’s easy, as the big corporations have discovered. Society doesn’t care enough, yet, about giving up their private data, apparently.)

As rare as the Northern Lights.

Even if you have a wife, or “significant other,” you still need Real Friends. Why? Because Real Friends will still be there after your wife or sig other isn’t any more.

If you have one, give thanks, and honor that gift in your life. Very very few have more than a handful in my experience. Why? Because it’s that hard to develop and maintain that level of connection. Always remember the difference between a Real Friend and a similar term any major corporation may use trying to get you to lower your values so they can sell you stuff.

They don’t CARE about you! A Real Friend does. You don’t need to publicly proclaim you are “friends” with someone. IF you really are? You both know it and that’s all that matters. If you feel you have to? You might want to look at why. While you’re at it? You might also want to look at why some corporation wants to know about it!

Instead of worrying about how many online “friends’ you have, worry about maintaining the few Real Friends you have offline, where real life is lived.

“Oh, don’t feel so ashamed
To have friends
Be mad, be rash
Smoke and explode
Sell all of your clothes
Just bear in mind
Oh, there just might come a time
When you need some friends.”*

If you doubt the value of what I’m saying, try living without a Real Friend.

*-Soundtrack for this post is “Hold On To Your Friends,” by Morrissey from his album “Vauxhall And I.” Words and music by Morrissey and Alain Whyte. Published by Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

This post is dedicated to a Friend I made 2 years ago tonight.

Please send comments, thoughts, feedback or propositions to denizen at nighthawknyc.com.
Click the white box on the upper right, for the archives, to search, or to subscribe.
This Post was created by Kenn Sava for www.nighthawknyc.com

“Look around. Look at how lucky we are to be alive right now.”*

“Hats off, Gentlemen…A Genius,” the composer Robert Schumann famously said after hearing Frederic Chopin for the first time.

A “Genius.”

In Chopin’s case? Schumann nailed it. More often? It’s a word that is savagely abused in most of the realms of life it’s used in. I HATE throwing that word around. Life has shown me that, unfortunately, there are very, very, VERY few geniuses. Personally, out of all the musicians I’ve known and worked with, all the artists and heck, the people I’ve known, only 3 were geniuses, I think, and one was my dad. Jaco Pastorius and Thomas Chapin were the other two. 1

Lin Manuel Miranda is someone I’ve never met, but I’ve had my ear on him since he stopped me cold when I first heard him perform at the White House Poetry Jam in 2009. I was tuned in to hear Esperanza Spalding, and then, out of the blue…WHAM!

WHO is Lin-Manuel Miranda??

Looking at his classic performance, again, I can see I wasn’t alone in being surprised and delighted. Over a million have watched it since. Accompanied only by a piano, it’s fresh, new, and brilliant on every level. In his introduction, Mr Miranda says that he “is working on a hip-hop album, a concept album about someone I think embodies hip-hop, Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton.”

Seriously? Alexander “Face-of-the-10-Dollar-Bill” Hamilton? The man who’s grave I’ve walked right past countless times Downtown at Trinity Church, and was right in the shadow of the World Trade Center? I’ve always respected him as much as any Founding Father, but, I admit, I didn’t know his whole story. Well? It turns out he lived Uptown- in Harlem. Who knew?

“Revolution’s happening in New York”*

Little did I suspect that 6 years later this “concept album” would be the phenomenon, “Hamilton” which is not only taking Broadway, (after opening at the Public Theater in February), by storm (It’s currently sold out for a year- if you hurry, you can get tickets for September 16, 2016, and take your chances Mr. Miranda will still be starring in it then), it has revolutionized music, theater and musical theater in the process. In spite of the fact that Mr. Miranda and his team had already won a Tony Award for Best Musical for “In The Heights,” I don’t think many saw this coming.

“History is happening in Manhattan

and we just happen to be

in the greatest city in the world.”*

True to history (being based on Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton), and full of fresh poetry that bursts with the cleverness of the finest hip-hop and wonderful songwriting, it’s both relatable and educational while bringing Hamilton’s story full force into the 21st Century. The shock of melding the life of a Founding Father from some 240 years ago with that most urban of contemporary music, hip-hop, is something that sounds like a recipe for disaster worthy of “The Producers” Bialystok & Bloom. That the results will win almost anyone over immediately is the secret of it’s charm, and belies one facet of Mr. Miranda’s talent- He’s a visionary who also happens to be one very talented writer, songwriter and performer. This vision has succeeded on Broadway, no less, and now? “Hamilton” is poised to be a cultural phenomenon the likes of which the theater hasn’t seen since “West Side Story.” It’s both a piece of American culture and American history, in more ways than one that results in an irresistible piece of Americana that I could see being produced all over the country, internationally, in schools, and eventually, on film. If you don’t know about it yet, you will. 60 Minutes just featured it. It’s the kind of work that not only pulls audiences out of their seats, it’s the kind that will inspire countless young people to act, sing, write, create, and maybe even get into politics. (Gulp.)

“Look at where you started

the fact that you’re alive is a miracle.”*

In September, Mr. Miranda was named a MacArthur Foundation fellow, receiving one of 24 “genius grants” for 2015. I’ve wondered about some of their choices in the past. I’ve wished they’d chosen up and coming talent who are in there fighting to survive and hold onto their integrity in the process. (I’ve been secretly voting for the brilliant pianist/composer Craig Taborn for the past 10 years. Check out his “Junk Magic.”) Mr. Miranda is 35, and he’s already “made it.” It’s terribly hard being an artist of any kind in this country, so far be it of me to have a problem with him getting some extra help. He’s “giving back”/donating part of his “genius grant” to Graham Windham, which helps children in need, and was founded by Hamilton’s wife, Elizabeth in 1806.

I’m not ready to call him a “genius” yet. If he keeps it up, he may prove himself to be one. But now? He’s got my full attention, and at the very least, I recommend you check out the “Hamilton” cast album, in lieu of paying a scalper $400. for the cheapest seats on Broadway.

Hamilton MinePNH

Taking my own advice, but getting a cast signed copy. Well? It’s history, after all.

We could sure use someone to come along and be that “next one” after Sondheim to pick up the mantel and write great, creative musicals that take musical theater further, (with all due respect to Matt Stone & Trey Parker and “Book of Mormon”. It remains to be seen if that’s a one shot deal, or not). Maybe it will be Lin-Manuel Miranda. Right now, it’s important and groundbreaking that with “Hamilton,” he’s taking hip-hop somewhere it’s never been- into “legit” musical theater, and showing the world that it has arrived as a serious musical style in American (and world) culture, as well as broadening it’s possibilities.

“Who lives, who dies, who tells  your story”* (The closing words)

I can only imagine what Robert Schumann experienced when he heard Chopin, but he expressed it in words for the Ages. There can be no doubt that Alexander Hamilton could never have imagined it, but Mr. Miranda has now, finally, told his story for the Ages. For me, I rejoice in the fact that there are new artists making great work NOW- “geniuses,” or not, time will tell. This minute, as his song says, “How lucky we are to be alive right now.” In “The greatest City in the world.”*

That’s what matters.

*-Soundtrack for this post  “The Schuyler Sisters,” “That Would Be Enough”  and “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story,” by Lin-Manuel Miranda from “Hamilton.”

This post is dedicated to kitty, Jane, their Mom and Family.

Please send comments, thoughts, feedback or propositions to denizen at nighthawknyc.com.
Click the white box on the upper right, for the archives, to search, or to subscribe.
This Post was created by Kenn Sava for www.nighthawknyc.com

  1. I called Wayne Shorter one, here, but I’ve never had the privilege of knowing him.

56 Years Of The Genius Of Wayne Shorter…And Counting

Or rather, of Wayne, I should say.

In jazz, many of the icons are known simply by a one word name.

















In 56 years he’s earned that level of respect. Unfortunately, it seems Wayne’s longevity has flown largely under the radar- it’s something his fans know, appreciate and marvel at, but something that hasn’t been brought to the attention of the greater public since jazz doesn’t have a “Hall of Fame,” or similar institution, and for some reason he hasn’t as yet received a National Honor or Award from Obama, the Kennedy Center, et al, that would pull the coat of the wider public to what he’s achieved. But those who love his music and wait to hear everything new he creates well know. If I were to sum up his career, I’d say that for jazz lovers, no…for lovers of good music, Wayne will be a name spoken with those of the Masters. His music & artistry will endure. Such has been his impact.

Wayne Shorter Auto 2005PNH

Wayne, in the 60s, by the great Alfred Lion of Blue Note, signed in 2008. From my collection.

The first recorded appearance I can find of Wayne (and I’ve been looking for much of my life) is from July 3, 1959, when, at 25, he was a member of the Maynard Ferguson Big Band at that year’s Newport Jazz Festival. Yes, a recording exists! 1959! That’s 2 years before Bob Dylan started performing in NYC. Almost immediately after that concert Art Blakey approached Ferguson trying to pry Wayne from his band. “The Big Band is a bomber,” he told Ferguson. “Wayne is a fighter pilot,” referring to his better suitability for his own small group, Blakey’s Jazz Messengers (usually 5 pieces in those days). Ferguson released Wayne, who immediately flew to join The Messengers in Fort Lick, Indiana, recorded his first solo album, “Introducing Wayne Shorter” in November, 1959, and the rest is a history that is STILL being written.


Wayne went on to join the pantheon of those rare musicians who create an instantly identifiable sound and style on the tenor sax, along with the trumpet, jazz’ signature instrument, and later reinvented the soprano sax, all the while writing a timeless body of songs, that are revered, covered by others and studied world wide, starting for his own records, then for Blakey’s Blue Note records. After leaving Blakey, no less than John Coltrane (a good friend) recommended him to Miles Davis, who hired him in Fall, 1964, completing what is, perhaps, THE Greatest group in Jazz history- Miles Davis’ mid 1960’s Quintet (aka “Miles Davis’ Second Great Quintet,” with Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams). Wayne proceeded to write yet more songs that are now “standards,” (including “Footprints,” “Orbits,” “Dolores,” “Masqualero,” “Limbo,” “Vonetta,” and “Nefertiti”) for a group that re-wrote what small group interplay could be (from late 1964 through 1968) on the albums “Nefertiti,” “Miles Smiles,” “Sorcerer,” and the aptly named “E.S.P,” another of Wayne’s compositions, to such an extent that it’s never been surpassed, and given the incomparable level of talent among it’s 5 members, may never be equalled. To my ears, it was a revolution in small group musical performance akin to the creation of Cubism in painting and sculpture by Picasso, Braque & Juan Gris, Miles being something of a “musical Picasso,” with about as many different periods and styles as the Spanish Master.

After Miles expanded the Quintet to start yet another period, exploring electric music, beginning with the seminal record “Bitches Brew,” Wayne left in 1970 to form the now legendary group “Weather Report” with Joe Zawinul, who he first played with back way back when in 1959 with Ferguson! After that, there has been a steady stream of “Wayne Shorter Quintets,” and now the “Wayne Shorter Quartet,” with young masters Danilo Perez, John Patitucci and Brian Blade, which he formed in 2001 and continues to be the world’s greatest jazz group to this day.



Imagine the sound. 1 minute before I shot this, the Wayne Shorter Quartet finished removing the roof from Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater in April, 2012. Yes, those are Wayne’s horns, with Patitucci’s bass behind them.

This is not to mention his excellent work as a sideman on classic dates by Steely Dan (“Aja”), Joni Mitchell (including “Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter” and “Hejira,”), Milton Nascimento, Carlos Santana, Jaco Pastorius, Don Henley, Esperanza Spalding and on and on.

Though he is decently documented on record, it’s not nearly enough for me (especially since 2001), so I have continued to seek out every radio and television broadcast I can find from around the world to fill in the gaps. My list of these “unofficial” recordings now approaches 200 pages over these 56 years! How different his live performances are from the albums. Taken with the official records, Wayne’s total recorded legacy is staggering. A unique document in musical history. He has never stood still, yet his incomparable composing and sheer brilliance on the tenor and soprano saxophones, remain the dual roots of his genius.

The era of Jazz Masters appears to be coming to an end. Tragically, only a few remain with us. The “Sonny” I mentioned before, Sonny Rollins, a slightly earlier contemporary of Wayne’s, being another one. For me, Wayne is the world’s greatest living musician, and he is still out there , composing, gigging and making magic.

He turned 82 this past August 25. I wish him a belated VERY Happy Birthday!, a heartfelt THANK YOU for your genius and artistry, and many more years of health, life and art.

For everyone else, I hope you avail yourself of a chance to go hear him, or listen to his records again soon, and often. There are galaxies to discover and even life lessons to learned from his music. So much so that I believe people will be listening to Wayne for as long as they are born with ears. And then, by “E.S.P” after.

Recommended Wayne-

It’s all good. If you haven’t heard it? Check it out.

If you’re new to him and want to dip your toe in the Ocean, I recommend starting with his albums “Night Dreamer,” “Juju,” or “Speak No Evil” on Blue Note. For classic, electric Wayne, get “Heavy Weather” by Weather Report and “High Life,” a personal fave, on Verve. If you want to hear Wayne in the groove, check out “Ugetsu,” “Free Fall,” or “Indestructible” by Art Blakey. To hear Wayne making history with Miles, “Nefertiti,” “Miles Smiles,” “Sorcerer,” and “E.S.P” are impossible for me to choose between. For the best of the current Wayne Shorter Quartet, “Without A Net,” his return to Blue Note is stellar. The titles belies the group’s approach, or you can experience it in full effect, here-

Also, Wayne, the survivor, Buddhist, and student of life, physics and possibilities, has achieved the status of “sage” when he speaks, which is both rare and sparingly, not unlike his sax playing. He’s become something of a “Yogi Berra of jazz” with his memorable quotes. One of my favorites being his definition of jazz- “Jazz means I dare you.”

Keep that in mind when you listen to him.

Here’s a recent interview, conducted by saxophonist Joe Lovano-

Soundtrack for this post- “Footprints” by Wayne Shorter and recorded by the Miles Davis Quintet on “Miles Smiles.”

Comments are off, but that doesn’t mean I don’t welcome them, thoughts, feedback or propositions. Please send them to denizen@nighthawknyc.com.