NEC Jazz Orchestra + Carl Atkins: "High Life: The Music of Wayne Shorter"

NEC: Jordan Hall | Directions

290 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA
United States

In their final performance of the academic year, the NEC Jazz Orchestra will pay tribute to the legendary jazz composer and saxophonist Wayne Shorter, who passed away in March 2023. Guest artists will include NEC alum Rachel Z, who performed and recorded with Wayne Shorter; Carl Atkins, the first Chair of NEC’s Jazz Studies Department; as well as current faculty members Jerry Bergonzi and Ethan Iverson. Members of the NEC Philharmonia will join the NEC Jazz Orchestra and Rachel Z for performances of three pieces from Wayne Shorter’s “High Life” recording, including the title track, Children of the Night and Midnight in Carlotta’s Hair. The program will also include Carl Atkins’s arrangements of three Shorter classics, Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum, Speak No Evil and Yes or No, in addition to Shorter’s own arrangements of Shere Khan, The Tiger and This is for Albert. Ethan Iverson will be featured on the premier performance of his new arrangement of Shorter’s The Chess Players. Jerry Bergonzi will play on a new arrangement of Shorter’s Infant Eyes arranged by Ken Schaphorst, NEC Co-Chair and Conductor of the NEC Jazz Orchestra.

About Wayne Shorter

Wayne Shorter, called a genius, a trailblazer, a visionary, was born on August 25, 1933 in Newark, New Jersey. He studied at New York University and served in the U.S. Army. He spent brief periods in the Horace Silver quintet and the Maynard Ferguson big band before his first major association, with Art Blakey’s hard-bop Jazz Messengers. Miles Davis convinced Shorter to join his quintet in September 1964, thus completing the lineup of a group whose biggest impact would leapfrog a generation into the ’80s. Staying with Miles until 1970, Shorter became the band’s most prolific composer at times, contributing tunes like E.S.P., Pinocchio, Nefertiti, Sanctuary, Footprints, Fall, and the signature description of Miles, Prince of Darkness. Herbie Hancock said: “The master writer to me, in that group, was Wayne Shorter. He still is a master. Wayne was one of the few people who brought music to Miles that didn’t get changed.” Following the release of Odyssey of Iska in 1970, Shorter formed Weather Report. The band produce many high-quality recordings in diverse styles, with funk, bebop, Latin jazz, ethnic music, and futurism being the most prevalent denominators. After leaving Weather Report in 1986, Shorter continued to record and lead groups in jazz fusion styles.
         In 2000, he formed the first permanent acoustic group under his name, a quartet with pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Brian Blade, playing his own compositions. Four albums of live recordings have been released: Footprints LiveBeyond the Sound BarrierWithout a Net; and Emanon, with the latter, in addition to live material, including Shorter’s quartet in a studio session with the 34-piece Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. Wayne Shorter’s works have been performed by the Chicago Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Lyon Symphony, National Polish Radio Symphonic Orchestra, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Prague Philharmonic and Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. He has received commissions from the National, St. Louis, and Nashville Symphony Orchestras, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the La Jolla Music Society. Shorter has realized over 200 compositions and dozens of these works have become modern standards. Shorter died on March 2, 2023, at the age of 89.


This is an in-person event with a public live stream

  1. Wayne Shorter (arr. Carl Atkins) | Suite Wayne/Sweet Wayne

    Speak No Evil


    Yes or No

    • Carl Atkins, conductor
  2. Wayne Shorter | The Chess Players

    arr. Ethan Iverson

  3. Wayne Shorter | Shere Khan, the Tiger

  4. Wayne Shorter | This is for Albert


  6. Wayne Shorter | Midnight in Carlotta's Hair

    • Rachel Z, piano
  7. Wayne Shorter | Infant Eyes

    arr. Ken Schaphorst

  8. Wayne Shorter | Children of the Night

  9. Wayne Shorter | High Life


    Biographies and Personnel

    In a career spanning more than 60 years, Carl Atkins has distinguished himself as a woodwind specialist, conductor, composer, ethnomusicologist, administrator, consultant, and teacher, in “Jazz,” non-Western and Western European art music. Atkins received the Bachelor of Music in Woodwinds from Indiana University, the Master of Music in Conducting from the New England Conservatory, and the Doctor of Music in Conducting from the Eastman School of Music.
           Atkins has performed with many noted musicians and organizations, including Gunther Schuller, George Russell, Bill Evans, Jaki Byard, and Herbie Hancock; the American National Opera Co., the Boston Opera Co., and the Swedish Radio Jazz Orchestra.  As a composer, he has written for solo artists, chamber ensembles, symphony orchestras, wind orchestras, and documentary films.
          Atkins was the founding director of the Jazz and Afro-American Music Department at the New England Conservatory, where healso taught woodwinds, African American Music History, and conducted jazz and wind ensembles.  He has served as President and Executive Director of the David Hochstein School of Music & Dance (Rochester, NY), and Board Chair of the National Guild for Community Arts Education.  In 1995 he became Co-Director (with noted Jazz bassist, Ron Carter) of the Thelonious Monk Institute at NEC.  In 1999, Atkins was appointed Associate Dean for Advanced Studies at NEC. In 2002, he was appointed Professor of Music at the Rochester Institute of Technology, serving as Chair of the Department of Performing and Visual Arts from 2012 to 2018.  Atkins retired as Professor Emeritus in 2018, and in 2021 was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the New England Conservatory.  

    Tenor saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi is an internationally recognized jazz performer, composer, author, and educator. Bergonzi has performed throughout the world at all the major jazz festivals and jazz venues, with his own ensembles as well as with numerous jazz greats. His music is renowned for its innovation, mastery, and integrity. His discography includes more than 60 recordings, notably Standard Gonz with the Jerry Bergonzi Quartet on the Blue Note label; he also has 60 recorded song titles registered with ASCAP. As a clinician Bergonzi has taught at conservatories and music schools throughout the U.S. and Europe. He is the author of a series of instructional books with play-along CDs and videos, entitled Inside Improvisation, published by Advance Music (seven volumes: Melodic Structures, Pentatonics, Jazz Line, Melodic Rhythms, Thesaurus of Intervallic Melodies, Developing a Jazz Language, and Hexatonics), as well as the book/CD set Sound Advice. The Inside Improvisation series is now available in French, German, and Italian translations. Bergonzi is a three-time NEA grant recipient.

    Ethan Iverson is a pianist, composer, and writer who lives in Brooklyn. His latest Blue Note release, Technically Acceptable, features a Piano Sonata originally premiered at New England Conservatory, where Iverson has taught since 2016.

    Rachel Z is a keyboardist with a long history of award-winning performances in the worlds of jazz and rock. In addition to her 13 albums as bandleader and her work in internationally acclaimed bands such as Steps Ahead, Vertú, the Omar Hakim Experience, and OZmosys, she has played and toured with artists like Wayne Shorter (on the Grammy-winning album High Life), Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller, Terri Lyne Carrington, Al Di Meola, and Regina Carter. She also co-wrote the Grammy-winning song, Tokvo Blue with fellow NEC graduate, Najee. Rachel came to worldwide prominence in the rock world in the Peter Gabriel concert films Growing Up Live and Still Growing Up Live. Since 2000, she has been a Professor of Jazz and Contemporary Music Studies at The New School University in New York. Since 2022 also a Professor of Jazz Studies and Electronic Music at Montclair State University and Cali School of the Arts.

    NEC Jazz Orchestra
    Ken Schaphorst, director

    Zack Bacak, alto and soprano saxophone, flute

    Lenka Molcanyiova, alto and soprano saxophone
    Logan From, tenor saxophone, flute
    Hunter McKay, tenor saxophone, clarinet
    Matt Wessner, baritone saxophone, bass clarinet


    Richard Stanmeyer
    Woody Pierre                               

    Koki Renwick
    Sammy Davies

    Aiden Coleman
    Cooper Malanowski  
    Yimin Ji
    Weza Jamson-Neto, bass trombone

    Longfei Li, piano
    Peikun Liu, guitar
    Nick Isherwood, bass
    Dominic Vance, drums

    Itay Dayan, clarinet
    Jake Wise, bass clarinet
    Maddoc Johnson, trumpet

    Members of NEC Philharmonia

    Subin Oh

    Abigail Hope-Hull

    English horn
    Christian Paniagua

    Julien Rollins
    Carson Meritt

    French horn
    Mauricio Martinez
    Sophie Steger

    Violin 1
    Olga Kaminsky
    Angela Sin Ying Chan
    Joy Wei
    Sydney Scarlett

    Violin 2
    Claire Thaler
    Yebin Yoo
    Gabriella Foster
    Tessie Katz

    Philip Rawlinson
    Po-Sung Huang
    Ru-Yao Van der Ploeg
    Chengrong Li

    Nicholas Tsang Man To
    Asher Kalfus
    Lexine Feng
    Seoyeon Koo


    Lucas Vogelman


    Klara Poznachowska
    (guest, Berklee College of Music)