Miles Davis Rarely Changed Wayne Shorter's Jazz Compositions (And That's A Big Deal)

Legendary jazz saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter died Thursday, March 2 in Los Angeles at the age of 89, The New York Times reports. Over his long career, Shorter played with a number of great musicians from the worlds of jazz and pop music, including Joni Mitchell, Carlos Santana, Steely Dan, and his own jazz-fusion group Weather Report. Perhaps most notable of all Shorter's collaborations, though, was with another jazz icon: Miles Davis.

In 1964, the New York University-trained musician joined the second lineup of the Miles Davis Quintet and in doing so, Shorter left a lasting impression on both the influential trumpet player's music and the genre of jazz itself. Davis was known for constant innovation and for never accepting a piece of music without first putting his own stamp on it, according to another jazz legend who played alongside Shorter in that second version of the Davis quintet, pianist Herbie Hancock (via All About Jazz). Davis' reported reaction to Shorter's musical contribution to the classic quintet speaks volumes to the quality of the saxophonist and composer's writing, as well as the special creative relationship Davis and Shorter had.

Miles Davis on Wayne Shorter

Jazz music by nature is known for improvisation and the work Wayne Shorter did with Miles Davis in the Miles Davis Quintet has no shortage of free-flowing passages. As Davis himself wrote in his 1989 "Miles" autobiography, though, the university-educated saxophone player brought an exacting edge to the group, and to the jazz compositions they performed together. As Davis described, Shorter carefully wrote out scores for just how he wanted each part to be played which everyone in the group would then work from.

As Davis put it (via The New York Times), "[Shorter was] the conceptualizer of a whole lot of musical ideas we did." Among Shorter's most well-known works with Davis is the 1968 album "Nefertiti." Speaking with Billboard, Shorter said, "You're a universe and beyond. If you wanna do something, you'd better stay on your toes — you study your stuff, you sponge up whatever you can."

Herbie Hancock called Wayne Shorter 'a master'

Having played with both Wayne Shorter and Miles Davis in the Miles Davis Quintet, pianist Herbie Hancock commented on the close creative partnership Davis and Hancock shared and the special working relationship the icons had. Via NBC News, Hancock said, "The master writer to me, in that group, was Wayne Shorter," referring to the time Hancock spent in the Miles Davis Quintet. "He still is a master. Wayne was one of the few people who brought music to Miles that didn't get changed," Hancock said.

On that note, Davis wrote in "Miles," his 1989 autobiography: "Wayne was out there on his own plane. Orbiting around his own planet." In the quintet, Davis added, "[Shorter] was the intellectual musical catalyst for the band." That said, Shorter was never afraid to break musical rules, Davis noted. "[H]e understood that freedom in music was the ability to know the rules in order to bend them," Davis wrote. According to Shorter's publicist (via CNN), he is survived by his wife, Carolina; his two daughters, Miyako and Mariana; and his grandson, Max.