Not only does legendary saxophonist Wayne Shorter push boundaries musically but when he shares his thoughts he takes anyone around him on an intellectual journey. Revive contributor Natalie Weiner recently published an in-depth interview with Shorter on Billboard where he waxed philosophical in his inimitable way about music, jazz, and the future of music. He used every question as an opportunity to share wisdom that has come from his unique blend of influences and insatiable love of searching and exploring.

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 Check out an excerpt below:

Who are you listening to?

When Miles and I talked, he would ask me a question. “Wayne (in his voice), hey Wayne — do you ever get tired of playing music that sounds like music?” Before I answered him, he said, “I know what you mean.” Like, he’s answering his own question. He could go everywhere with that one — music that sounds like you’ve studied music. Are you going for something that’s really unexpected and in the world that’s unknown? It challenges people to be that way. Now, at a time where we really need to be fearless, and facing the unknown and the unexpected. Negotiating things that we have not been trained for.

That’s what this music is about now. It’s all about that one moment equals eternity — the challenge to be in the moment is something else. When you get in the moment and you start improvising, it’s hard to lie. You can tell a story, and the story don’t have to be the truth, but it’s not necessarily a lie. If we go on with that old formula that used to work — business-wise, too — it ain’t gonna work in this whole new “now you see me, now you don’t” world.

Do you consider your music political?

I’m trying to do music which inspires the desire to transcend politics, which has a limited and selfish and egoist and unknowledgable end about what anyone knows about existence. A lot of what people are talking about what goes from here to there — there’s a limit. I’m doing music that can awaken people to the fact that we’ve all been hijacked from the cradle. Have you seen The Equalizer with Denzel Washington? It starts with a quote from Mark Twain — it says, ‘There are two great events in our existence: one is being born, the other is knowing why.’

I watch everything — I try to grab everything I can. Like Kanye West says, “If I say something that has a little bit of truth in it, what is everybody else saying?”

Do you see a future for fusion, for people inflecting other kinds of music with jazz or vice-versa?

I think the future is based on anyone’s behavior. How much someone knows, and is dedicated to — not their music or their instrument, but their mission. Why they’ve been born. Not what anyone’s been telling you or pulling you into or sugarcoating you with or intellectualizing — giving us great awards for being a straight-A student at Yale or Harvard and all that stuff, and still not knowing what in the hell is going on. Like Richard Pryor said, “I’m just standing in that long line looking up at who’s in front.”

A lot of people say that the future of fusion, and the avant-garde — a lot of people will give up doing that, because they say that the corporate powers-that-be are against us. Their grand plan is to keep us subjugated so they can go for the moneymaking stuff, the easy sell.

The corporations serve as a resistance to the creative process. But if you really kind of think of it, an airplane cannot take off without resistance. We have to find the jewel in what we call the enemy. That’s called wisdom. I’m drilling for wisdom. That’s the challenge — I have to play wisdom and make it fun — not intellectual. You can get all convoluted with all this book stuff and academics. As Art Blakey would say, “That stuff you’re playing sounds too clinical! Louis Armstrong didn’t start off that way!”

Everything we’re talking about, at this point, at 81, I see as the human-damn-condition.

For more of Wayne Shorter’s thoughts on music and jazz head over to Billboard to read the entire interview.

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