Documentary: Wayne Shorter – The Language of the Unknown

Documentary: Wayne Shorter – The Language of the Unknown


Focusing on a concert performed on November 3, 2012, in the Salle Pleyel in Paris, The Language of the Unknown, explores the genius of Wayne Shorter (at that time 81) through his music and philosophy. Shorter died in Los Angeles on March 2, 2023.

Shaun Brady writes:

If one were to subscribe to Wayne Shorter’s philosophy — and it’s an expansive one, folding in inspiration from Buddhism, science fiction, literature, comic books and beyond, along a lifetime of boundless curiosity — then the saxophonist-composer’s death on March 2 shouldn’t be viewed as an ending.

As Shorter explained to me in a characteristically wide-ranging interview in 2008, “What’s the greatest gift you can return to the celebration of life? To dare to be original. To dare to put a mirror up to the process of life itself and say, ‘Look how beautiful you are, life.’ With that, you can start discarding a lot of ugly-ass shit that led you to believe that you only live once.”

Whether or not he returns to this earthly realm in some form, Wayne Shorter packed enough daring and originality into his 89 years for several lifetimes. Just listing off the bands in which the Newark-born musician played a key role is enough to ensure his place in the jazz pantheon: the early ’60s incarnation of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, which cemented the band’s status as a proving ground for generations of trailblazers; the second Miles Davis Quintet, one of the greatest bands of all time, in any genre; Weather Report, which expanded the horizons of the music in ways that the term “fusion” is pitifully incapable of capturing; and finally the Wayne Shorter Quartet, a band blessed with the uncanny ability to redefine itself with every performance.

“I’m just trying to see where all the non-comfort zones are,” he explained. “What do you do on the edge of the precipice, looking into the dark without a flashlight? Now it’s time for the unexpected or unusual — or the unlimited — to enter. And ‘unlimited’ to me is only a beginning.” [Continue reading…]

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