Remembering Wayne Shorter: “Footprints” in Two Versions

Wayne Shorter, the legendary American jazz saxophonist and composer, passed away last Thursday. He was 89.

Born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, Wayne Shorter joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in 1959 and became the band’s music director. In 1964, he became a member of Miles Davis’ Second Great Quintet. Herbie Hancock remembered Shorter as the group’s “master writer,” and commented, “Wayne was one of the few people who brought music to Miles that didn’t get changed.”

Beginning in the late 1960s, Shorter moved towards jazz fusion, and in 1971, with keyboardist Joe Zawinul and bassist Miroslav Vitous, founded the synthesizer and funk-based band, Weather Report. In later years, Shorter collaborated with Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell, and Carlos Santana. In 2008, New York Times music critic Ben Ratliff described Shorter as “probably jazz’s greatest living small-group composer and a contender for greatest living improvisor.”

Footprints first appeared on the 1966 post-bop album, Adam’s Apple, on which Shorter joined pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Reggie Workman, and drummer Joe Chambers. Jazz commentator Rodney Franks offers the following description:

Although occasionally mistaken for a waltz, the melody alternates between simple and compound time (6 over 8 and 4 over 4), while drum rhythm goes from three-over-two to two-over-two. In this context the 4 over 4 beat is known as “tresillo” in Afro-Cuban music and correlates to the twelve-over-eight timing. “Footprints” incorporates what is possibly the first use of systemic, African-based cross-rhythm. While taking the form of a 12-bar C-minor blues, the melody is actually written in C-Dorian, using A-sharp rather than A-flat.

Another version of Footprints forms the third track of Miles Davis’ 1967 album, Miles Smiles. The recording features Shorter with Miles Davis (trumpet), Herbie Hancock (piano), Ron Carter (bass), and Tony Williams (drums).


  • Adam’s Apple: Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Reggie Workman, Joe Chambers Amazon
  • Miles Smiles: Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams Amazon

Featured Image: Wayne Shorter performing in Belgrade in 2010, photograph by Tim Dickeson 

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

1 thought on “Remembering Wayne Shorter: “Footprints” in Two Versions”

  1. I’m deeply touched that jazz great Wayne Shorter, in his passing, has been honored in this classical music blog. Kudos to Tim for including him among the great composer-musicians of history, a gift to serious music that transcends genres. RIP brother Wayne.


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