Alan Shorter

Alan was born in Newark’s Ironbound District. After graduating high school, he switched to trumpet. He began on the alto saxophone. After attending Howard University, he rebelled against its ultra-conservative atmosphere. He later graduated from New York University (NYU). His first professional gigs were with a bebop band called the Jackie Bland Band. Other members of his band included Wayne, his brother, and trombonist Grachan Montcur III., as well as pianist Walter Davis, Jr. In his youth, he was a strong bebop player. However, he soon switched to free jazz and, with the exception of six months in the US Army Band, he continued to play that style throughout his life. Orgasm (1968), and Tes Esat (2001) were his two albums as a leader. Both of these albums were out of print for years before being reissued by Verve Records in 2005 and 2004 respectively. Five albums were recorded with Archie Shepp (1965-1970), three with Marion Brown (1965-1966), and one with Alan Silva (1970). He also appeared on The All Seeing Eye (1965), which was his brother’s 1965 album. Many of these albums feature his unique compositions, including “Mephistopheles”, his most well-known. Alan made his move to Europe in the mid-1960s, where he started his own avant-garde concerts in Paris and Geneva. His free jazz style sometimes proved too outlandish for European audiences. His brother recalls that Alan’s European gigs would end with him shouting, “You’re still not ready for me!” However, he found European audiences to be more open than Americans. He returned to the USA, teaching briefly at Bennington College before fading into invisibility. In 1987, he died from a ruptured orifice in Los Angeles, just 56 years after he was engaged to Ruth Ann Hancock (a cousin of Herbie Hancock). Alan’s playing style is similar to Don Cherry’s, but with an aggressive and more anarchic bent. His albums are based on the group he is part of, and not his individual virtuosity. According to reports, his musical style is very similar to him personally: deep, intellectual, and intentionally bizarre (his childhood nickname was Doc Strange). from

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