Wayne Shorter, “House of Jade” (1965)
For “Juju,” arguably the most indispensable album from Shorter’s golden period with Blue Note Records in the 1960s, he was joined by a rhythm section of Coltrane quartet veterans: McCoy Tyner on piano, Reggie Workman on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. “House of Jade” is the gentlest of the LP’s six Shorter originals, but Jones’s ever-propulsive beat and Workman’s staunch bass playing vest Shorter’s slow, elliptical melody with heavy, grinding force.
Miles Davis Quintet, “Fall” (1968)
Miles Davis’s so-called second great quintet — for which Shorter was the primary composer — quite distinctly falls into this composition, with the trumpeter acting as if he’s just remembered the melody as he goes along. The emotion of this piece, as in so many of Shorter’s tunes, is both stark and shrouded: Is it mournful? Longing? Simply dazed? Whatever that feeling is — nameable or not — you’ll find it exerts a pull.
Wayne Shorter, “Beauty and the Beast” (1975)
Somewhere between funk, jazz, MPB and a slow jam, “Beauty and the Beast” comes from “Native Dancer,” Shorter’s first album-length collaboration with the star Brazilian vocalist Milton Nascimento, and an undisputed classic in both musicians’ catalogs.
Weather Report, “Palladium” (1977)
In Weather Report, Shorter was actually the group’s secondary composer, after Joe Zawinul, but he still got in some good licks. “Palladium” is one of the group’s most fun tunes; just when you think it’s resolving, it keeps flying on, transposing up a key and ultimately finishing on a cliffhanger.
Steely Dan, “Aja” (1977)
Steely Dan was a rock band with jazzy aspirations — until the group made “Aja,” a milestone of the fusion years and their first encounter with Shorter’s slippery saxophone playing. After an impressive guitar solo by Denny Dias, Shorter’s unmistakable tenor sound comes barreling out of the darkness, like a black car emerging from a tunnel at night with its lights turned off; less than a minute later he’s finished, and the track is in a new ZIP code.
Joni Mitchell, “Paprika Plains” (1977)
Shorter joined up with Joni Mitchell for the first time in the late 1970s, and they remained lifelong friends and collaborators. On many tracks, he offers color and complement, but on “Paprika Plains” — Mitchell’s epic tribute to the Indigenous community near her Saskatchewan hometown — he doesn’t appear till almost 14 minutes in, ready to carry the song skyward to its close.