Once he joined, Mr. Shorter contributed new compositions to every studio album made by the Miles Davis Quintet, beginning with the title track of “E.S.P.” in 1965. During an engagement at the Plugged Nickel in Chicago later that year, his tenor solos were marvels of invention, turning even a songbook standard like “On Green Dolphin Street” into a portal for shadowy intrigue.
But on the scale of intrigue, there could be no topping “Nefertiti,” the title track of a Davis quintet album released in 1968. A 16-bar composition with a slithery melody and a shrewdly indeterminate harmonic path, it was so holistic in its effect that Davis decided to record it with no solos, just the melody line played over and over. In Michelle Mercer’s 2004 book “Footprints: The Life and Work of Wayne Shorter,” Mr. Shorter described “Nefertiti” as “my most sprung-from-me-all-in-one-piece experience of music writing,” like someone recalling a trance.
Most of Mr. Shorter’s storied output on Blue Note unfolded while he was working with Davis, often with some of the same musical partners. He chronicled some aspects of his life on these albums: “Speak No Evil,” recorded in 1964, featured his wife, Teruko Nakagami, known as Irene, on the cover, and contained a song (“Infant Eyes”) dedicated to their daughter, Miyako. The marriage ended in divorce in 1966; “Miyako” would be the name of another composition the next year.
The Mysterious Traveler
Unlike the other members of the Miles Davis Quintet, Mr. Shorter remained through Davis’s push into rock and funk — on the terse 1969 album “In A Silent Way,” featuring the Austrian keyboardist and composer Josef Zawinul, and on the epochal sprawl of “Bitches Brew.”
Together with Mr. Zawinul and the Czech bassist Miroslav Vitous, Mr. Shorter then formed Weather Report, which released its debut album, called simply “Weather Report,” in 1971. Over the next 15 years, the band changed personnel several times, with Mr. Zawinul and Mr. Shorter as the only constants. Weather Report also changed styles, tacking away from chamberesque abstraction and toward danceable rhythms. Its most commercially successful edition, featuring the electric bass phenom Jaco Pastorius, became an arena attraction, and one of its albums, “Heavy Weather,” was certified gold (and later platinum).