Weather Report: Forecast: Tomorrow
If you followed jazz during the 1970s you were well aware of Weather Report. They consistently won the Down Beat readers' poll for jazz group of the year and helped forge a link between jazz, rock, and what would be later termed world music.
Formed in 1970 by saxophonist Wayne Shorter, keyboardist Joe Zawinul and bassist Miroslav Vitous, the band lasted for over 15 years with an ever-changing lineup. Forecast: Tomorrow is a 3CD/1 DVD retrospective produced by founding members Shorter and Zawinul and Columbia/Legacy producer Bob Belden. The CDs cover a lot of ground and the DVD is a two hour concert from September 28, 1978 in Offenbach, Germany.
The first three tracks on the disc are pre-Weather Report numbers. "In A Silent Way," "Super Nova" and "Experience in E (excerpt) show the environment that gave birth to the band. (It's a shame that nothing is included from Atlantic's Zawinul album, from 1970, since sound-wise it was a precursor to early Weather Report). "Milky Way is a duet with Zawinul on prepared acoustic piano and Shorter on tenor saxophone. When one listens to the piece, it sounds different than what you would expect from those two instruments. It sounds like it could have been recorded using electronic rather than acoustic instruments. One of the staples of the group was their ability to alter the relationship between instruments, in order to get different sounds or timbres.
"Eurydice clocks in at just under eleven minutes and has a very dreamy quality to it. Eventually, it works its way into a sound reminiscent of trumpeter Miles Davis' quintet from the late 1960s. "Orange Lady is also reminiscent of Davis. In particular, it sounds like it could have come from the Big Fun album (Columbia, 1974). That's not surprising though, since it was part of "Great Expectations" from that album. The ethereal, moody feeling stretches everything out. Vitous' bass lines works well in the upper register and are not confined to the traditional walking.
"Unknown Soldier" is from I Sing The Body Electric (Columbia, 1972). The instrumentation is unorthodox including piccolo trumpet, English horn, flute and voices. The tune is based on an incident during Zawinul's World War II childhood, when he discovered the body of a dead soldier. "Directions (Take 1) features Shorter on soprano saxophone. There is strong interplay between the band members and an interesting lightness to the group.
"Second Sunday In August is a Zawinul composition based on some of the festivals that he attended as a youth. Shorter fits more into the background here. Drummer and tympanist Eric Gravatt adds a more pungent flavor to the mix. "125th Street Congress off Sweetnighter (Columbia, 1973), has more of the high-energy funk groove that would be a staple of the band for years to come. You can trace the change in direction from a more free-form electric sound in the earlier compositions to a more groove-dominated sound here.
This disc begins with an unreleased live version of "Nubian Sundance" from a concert in Chicago in 1974 (given as "Mysterious Traveller on the promotional CD). The sound is a little muddy, even though it comes directly from the mix board. Shorter is featured on soprano saxophone and Zawinul is using layers of keyboards (including Fender Rhodes, synthesizers and piano). Zawinul once famously said of Weather Report, "no one solos, everyone solos." "Nubian Sundance" lives up to that billing. "Badia" is a Zawinul composition from the Tale Spinnin' album (Columbia, 1974) and includes some wordless Japanese-sounding vocals. It became a regular part of concerts for years to come.
"Black Market" starts out with crowd noise, from a tape from percussionist Alex Acuna and electric bass lines from Alphonso Johnson. Zawinul plays the theme on synthesizer (with an inverted keyboard). Chester Thompson's drums become more prominent as the tune progresses while Zawinul restates the theme. Shorter eventually comes in on tenor saxophone. A nice groove number that sounds even better in concert.
"Havona" is from the Heavy Weather album (Columbia, 1976) and is more of an elastic groove-oriented piece, more along the lines of the early music of guitarist Pat Metheny. The piece also features Shorter on soprano saxophone and Jaco Pastorius on electric bass. Pastorius' dexterity on the piece is fairly evident. It reminds me why he was one of the most talked about and revered electric bass players in jazz during his lifetime.
"Birdland" is probably Weather Report's most popular piece. It has a fairly catchy melody that has been covered by many (the most well-known being the Manhattan Transfer). Zawinul has talked about how he wanted to get a big band sound on the synthesizer to reflect the era in which he came to New York City. "Palladium" has a Latin feel which evokes some of the music that was played at the Palladium Ballroom in New York during Shorter's time at New York University. This piece is not as heavy on the backbeat as the previous piece, and the drumming from Acuna and percussion from Manolo Badrena has a loose but assured feel. Pastorius adds steel drums to the mix as well.
"Dream Clock shows Pastorius' ability to play lead on bass as well as Shorter and Zawinul. Shorter plays a soulful tenor saxophone in a way that you know that he could. Then he switches to soprano saxophone, floating in and out with Pastorius going back to the lead. "Three Views Of A Secret starts with the Pastorius playing the theme on bass and Shorter coming in afterwards on tenor. Zawinul then joins in on keyboards. After a crescendo by the band they go into a fairly straight-ahead groove. Drummer Peter Erskine shows his dexterity by playing fairly fluidly, instead of simply dropping an R&B backbeat.
"Port of Entry has the group improvisation feel once again with percussionist Robert Thomas, Jr. figuring prominently. Wordless vocals evoking Afro-Cuban rhythms figure in the background. "Procession sounds like a ritual invocation. Zawinul's synthesizer and vocoder are featured prominently on this piece. Victor Bailey's bass lines, while lower key than Pastorius', fit in well with the overall sound. While the piece sounds commercial at times, there is enough of an angular feel not to get it confused with a smoother jazz concept.
"D Flat Waltz sounds like it could have come from the Caribbean. Shorter comes in with his tenor sounding reminiscent of saxophonist Sonny Rollins during the same period. His tone is a little harder edged than in some of the previous tunes on the disc. The closing section of the piece sounds almost as though a big band is playing.
"Predator has a little more funk from bassist Bailey with drummer Omar Hakim playing a heavier backbeat. Zawinul provides a rather meandering interlude featuring layers of synthesizers and keyboards. The last piece is a remix by DJ Logic of "125th Street Congress, called here "125th Street Progress and replete with a rap and turntablism. It may not be to everyone's taste, but the two strands sit well together.
DVD: Live in Stadthalle, Offenbach, Germany; September 28, 1978
The date on the video itself is listed as September 29, 1978. So there's an error somewherebut hey, what's a day one way or the other twenty eight years down the line? Fortunately, attention to detail is strong elsewhere in this package.
"Black Market" begins the show with Zawinul introducing the theme on synthesizer with while Pastorius and Erskine lay down a groove on bass and drums respectively. Shorter later joins in on tenor saxophone. Pastorius bounces around the stage playing electric bass, as he does throughout the concert. Shorter eventually takes a solo with drummer Erskine backing him. The band sounds pretty tight, even for the first number.
Sometimes it takes a few numbers before a band's sound starts to gel, but that is not the case here. "The Pursuit Of The Woman With The Feathered Hat has a keyboard intro from Zawinul, and an exotic, almost Middle Eastern feel to it. Pastorius plays electric bass in the higher register while Shorter plays the theme on soprano, then Zawinul and Pastorious sing the theme in unison followed by some more soprano by Shorter. Then it's back to the vocals by Zawinul and Pastorius.
"Portrait Of Tracy" is Pastorius' solo number on electric bass. He looks like the rock star of the group (with long hair and a reddish-orange jumpsuit) and it shows on this number. He does a little figure that gets looped through a digital delay, which he then plays over to give the impression that there is more than one bassist out there. He then plays Jimi Hendrix's "Third Stone From The Sun with the usual distortion effects.
"Teen Town is a Pastorius composition that comes in blaring. Zawinul takes the first solo, followed by Pastorius and then a drum interlude from Erskine. Shorter sometimes utilizes phrasing and space like Miles Davis, except in this case on soprano saxophone instead of trumpet. Zawinul plays acoustic piano on Duke Ellington's "I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good. Hearing him play acoustic piano is a refreshing change after all the electronics. Zawinul shows he still has chops. Shorter then comes in on tenor saxophone while Zawinul switches to synthesizer. Eventually, Zawinul switches back to acoustic piano with Shorter accompanying him.
"Birdland, Weather Report's famous hit, follows. By this time Pastorius and Erskine are playing shirtless. This may have been a regular part of their concerts or maybe it was an especially hot night. Pastorius adds his wordless vocals to the piece. "Badia is the last piece of the concert and begins with Zawinul on percussion and synthesizers. Shorter and Pastorius are also playing percussion at the beginning of the piece. Shorter then states the theme on soprano saxophone. This piece gets fairly dissonant at times with Zawinul's keyboards competing with Pastorius' bass lines.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: In A Silent Way; Super Nova; Experience In E (excerpt); Milky Way; Tears; Eurydice (full version); Orange Lady; Unknown Soldier; Directions (tk. 1); Surucucu; Second Sunday In August; 125th Street Congress.
Personnel: Joe Zawinul: organ, electric piano, prepared acoustic piano; Wayne Shorter: tenor and soprano saxophones; Miles Davis: trumpet (1); John McLaughlin: guitar (1, 2); Herbie Hancock: electric piano (1); Chick Corea: electric piano (1), drums (2); Dave Holland: bass (1); Tony Williams: drums (1); Sonny Sharrock: guitar (2); Miroslav Vitous: bass (all tracks except 3); Jack DeJohnette: drums (2); Airto Moreira: percussion (2, 5-8); Nat Adderley: cornet (3); Cannonball Adderley: alto saxophone (3); Walter Booker: bass (3); Roy McCurdy: drums (3); orchestra (3); Alphonse Mouzon: drums (5, 6, 7, 8); Wilmer Wise: piccolo trumpet (8); Hubert Laws: flute (8); Andrew White III: English horn (8), electric bass (12); Yolande Bavan: vocals (8); Joshie Armstrong: vocals (8); Chapman Roberts: vocals (8); Roger Powell: consultant (8); Eric Gravatt: drums (9-12); Dom Um Romao: percussion (9-11), pandeira, cuica, tamanco, chucalho, gong, tambourine, cowbell (12); Herschell Dwellingham: drums (12); Marungo: Israeli jar drum (12).
Tracks: Nubian Sundance (previously unreleased live version); Blackthorn Rose; Badia; Cannon Ball; Black Market; Three Clowns; Havona; Birdland; Palladium; The Pursuit Of The Woman With The Feathered Hat; The Orphan; Sightseeing.
Personnel: Joe Zawinul: electric piano, synthesizers, oud, melodica, mzuthra, vocal, west africk, xylophone, acoustic piano, orchestration, ARP 2600, Yamaha grand piano, Oberheim polyphonic synthesizer, keyboards, kalimba, thumbeki drums, sleigh bells; Wayne Shorter: tenor and soprano saxophones, vocals; Alphonso Johnson: electric bass (1, 3, 5, 6); Darryl Brown: drums (1); Dom Um Romao: percussion (1); Alyrio Lima: percussion (3); Ndugu: drums (3); Jaco Pastorius: electric bass, mandocello, vocals, steel drums, drums (4, 7-10, 12); Narada Michael Walden: drums (4, 5); Don Alias: percussion (5); Alex Acuña: percussion (5, 6), drums (7-9); Chester Thompson: drums (6); Manolo Badrena: tambourine (8), congas, percussion (9), solo voice, vocals (10); Peter Erskine: drums, vocals (10, 12); Jon Lucien: vocals (10); West Los Angeles Christian Academy Children's Choir: vocals (11).
Tracks: Dream Clock; Three Views Of A Secret; Port Of Entry; Dara Factor Two; Procession; Plaza Real; The Well; D-Flat Waltz; Domino Theory; Predator; Face On The Barroom Floor; Indiscretions; 125th Street Congress (DJ Logic remix).
Personnel: Joe Zawinul: keyboards, percussion, vocoder, vocals, orchestrations, electric piano); Wayne Shorter: tenor and soprano saxophones; Jaco Pastorius: electric bass, percussion, voice (1-4); Peter Erskine: drums, drum computer, claves (1-4); Robert Thomas Jr.: percussion, hand drums, tambourine (1-4); Victor Bailey: electric bass, vocals (5-12); Omar Hakim: drums, vocals (5-12); Jose Rossy: percussion, vocals (5-10); Mino Cinelu: percussion (12); Miroslav Vitous: acoustic bass (13); Andrew White III: electric bass (13); Eric Gravatt: drums (13); Herschell Dwellingham: drums (13); Marungo: Israeli jar drum (13); Dom Um Romao: pandeira, cuica, tamanco, chucalho, gong, tambourine, cowbell (13); Carlos (Omega) Caberini: vocal (13).
Tracks: Black Market; Scarlet Woman; Young And Fine; The Pursuit Of The Woman With The Feathered Hat; A Remark You Made; River People; Thanks For The Memories; Delores/Portrait Of Tracy/Third Stone From The Sun; Mr. Gone; In A Silent Way; Waterfall; Teen Town; I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good/The Midnight Sun Will Never Set On You; Birdland; Introductions; Fred & Jack; Elegant People; Badia.
Personnel: Wayne Shorter: saxophones; Joe Zawinul: keyboards; Jaco Pastorius: electric bass; Peter Erskine: drums.