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Jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter’s influence on display at 80th birthday concert

Saxophonist Wayne Shorter, here performing in France in July, inspires a variety of approaches.
Saxophonist Wayne Shorter, here performing in France in July, inspires a variety of approaches.Claude Paris/Associated Press

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If Wayne Shorter were an aging rock guitarist, an all-star concert themed around his 80th birthday might feature a series of reverential (but artistically inconsequential) guest appearances and, somewhere, an interminable jam on “Johnny B. Goode.”

But old soldiers of jazz, like Shorter, don’t fade away; they’re likely to stay relevant, even decades after their names have been chiseled into the granite of “legendary” status. And so the Wayne Shorter 80th Birthday Celebration, as heard at Symphony Hall in a Celebrity Series concert Sunday evening, displayed the saxophonist and composer’s enduring influence not through polite reverence but nervy risk-taking.

The robust crowd on hand saw three groups offering three different approaches to the form and, more specifically, Shorter’s canon.

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