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Weather Report
Friday, 20 October 2006
Early History
Weather Report was a influential jazz fusion band of the 1970s and 1980s, pitting jazz with R&B, funk, and rock elements while still retaining an extremely high level of compositional and improvisational skills. Along with other groups that were founded by Miles Davis alumni Return to Forever, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Herbie Hancock's group, WR was one of the greatest innovators of the jazz fusion genre at that time. They were also the most long-lived and perhaps the most artistically successful (as cited by Ken Burns) of the four groups.

The band was originally a spin-off from the group of musicians associated with Miles Davis in the late sixties and early seventies. The stable core of the group was the duo of pianist Joe Zawinul and saxophonist Wayne Shorter, while the other musicians were rotated, sometimes with almost every new album release. Both Zawinul and Shorter had made their earlier marks as being among the best composers in jazz, Zawinul in Cannonball Adderley's group and Shorter in Miles Davis' group. Zawinul would later join Shorter with Miles Davis' first recordings of fusion music, "In a Silent Way" and "Bitches Brew".

Initially, the band's music featured extended improvisation, similar to Davis' Bitches Brew-period work, and instrumentation included both a traditional trap set drummer and a second percussionist (first Airto Moreira, later Dom Um Romão). The group was unusual and innovative in abandoning the soloist-accompaniment demarcation of straight-ahead jazz and instead featuring continuous improvisation by every member of the band.

Reedman Wayne Shorter furthered pioneering on the soprano sax (taking the torch from Sidney Bechet's and John Coltrane's earlier efforts) and both Zawinul and original bassist Miroslav Vitouš experimented with rock guitarists' electronic effects, Zawinul on piano and synthesizers, Vitouš on upright bass, often bowed, as a second horn-like voice.

Weather Report's self titled debut album "Weather Report" won Down Beat's Album of the year in 1971. Although the album is generally softer than in later years (acoustic bass and no synthesizers were used) it is still considered a classic of early fusion. Their sophomore effort the following year, "I Sing the Body Electric", featured their first use of electronics beyond an electric keyboard (a synthesizer and sound effects were utilized). Part of the 2nd album was recorded live in Japan which was taken from a Japanese-only release at the time. The entire "Live in Toyko" double album would later be released as an import and made available in the US.

Posted by planet/meganmattjohn at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 31 October 2006 6:01 AM EST
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Thursday, 19 October 2006
The Middle Years
For its first 8 years of existence the group had difficulty finding a permanent drummer, moving through an approximate average of one drummer per year Alphonse Mouzon, Eric Gravatt, Greg Errico, Ishmael Wilburn, Skip Hadden, Darryl Brown, Leon 'Ndugu' Chancler, Chester Thompson, Narada Michael Walden and Alex Acuña until Jaco Pastorius helped recruit Peter Erskine in 1978. Erskine and Omar Hakim later on were the only Weather Report drummers that played with the band more than 2 years.

Weather Report's breakout album that established its hallmark sound would be "Mysterious Traveller" from 1974. For the first time an electric bass (performed by Philadelphian Alphonso Johnson) would be used on nearly every song. In addition, general compositional technique would be greatly hightened and Zawinul would exploit improvements in synthesizer technology on the recording. Some of the extra musical effects beyond just the musical synthesizer playing include crowd cheering (taken from an actual Rose Bowl game), space alien sounds, and child-like cries (Zawinul's own son recorded in their home). "Mysterious Traveler" would begin Weather Report's unprecidented string of 4 successive victories winning Down Beat's "Album of the Year" award.

"Tale Spinnin'", recorded in 1975, made even further strides in utilizing technological improvements in synthesizers. The album also showcased more of Wayne Shorter's soloing to the extent that he probably solos more on that album than any other Weather Report record. Shorter would also record the seminal latin-jazz classic of the 70's "Native Dancer" under his own name that same year with the Brazilian vocalist Milton Nascimento. The Weather Report effort won the Down Beat best album award again and the Shorter/Nascimento effort was runner up.

Posted by planet/meganmattjohn at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 31 October 2006 6:01 AM EST
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Wednesday, 18 October 2006
"One Star" Rating
Many of the group's earlier albums had received the highest possible (5-star) record rating in Down Beat's record reviews. However, in 1978 the group recorded the controversial and experimental Mr. Gone, which received only a 1 star review from Down Beat magazine. The group arranged for a rebuttal interview with the magazine to defend their efforts. Zawinul and Pastorius were more defiant in their responses to the interviewer, Shorter being more philosophical, and Erskine the most reticent of the four. Many regard Down Beat's review of this album (which virtually everybody agrees is not among Weather Report's best) as the most controversial single review in the history of the magazine.

They would make a comeback and follow up with their last album of the 70's. 1979's "8:30" is considered to be one of their best, combining both live and studio recordings on a double LP release. Despite the "Mr. Gone" controversy, the band's follow up 8:30 tour was probably their most well attended. Zawinul has been quoted as saying there were more stage hands hired for that tour than at any other time in the band's history. The group toured intentionaly as a quartet now, temporarily abandoning the percussionist chair.

Posted by planet/meganmattjohn at 12:01 AM EDT
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The Middle Years
For its first 8 years of existence the group had difficulty finding a permanent drummer, moving through an approximate average of one drummer per year Alphonse Mouzon, Eric Gravatt, Greg Errico, Ishmael Wilburn, Skip Hadden, Darryl Brown, Leon 'Ndugu' Chancler, Chester Thompson, Narada Michael Walden and Alex Acuña until Jaco Pastorius helped recruit Peter Erskine in 1978. Erskine and Omar Hakim later on were the only Weather Report drummers that played with the band more than 2 years.


[edit] WR's Middle Period
Weather Report's breakout album that established its hallmark sound would be "Mysterious Traveller" from 1974. For the first time an electric bass (performed by Philadelphian Alphonso Johnson) would be used on nearly every song. In addition, general compositional technique would be greatly hightened and Zawinul would exploit improvements in synthesizer technology on the recording. Some of the extra musical effects beyond just the musical synthesizer playing include crowd cheering (taken from an actual Rose Bowl game), space alien sounds, and child-like cries (Zawinul's own son recorded in their home). "Mysterious Traveler" would begin Weather Report's unprecidented string of 4 successive victories winning Down Beat's "Album of the Year" award.

"Tale Spinnin'", recorded in 1975, made even further strides in utilizing technological improvements in synthesizers. The album also showcased more of Wayne Shorter's soloing to the extent that he probably solos more on that album than any other Weather Report record. Shorter would also record the seminal latin-jazz classic of the 70's "Native Dancer" under his own name that same year with the Brazilian vocalist Milton Nascimento. The Weather Report effort won the Down Beat best album award again and the Shorter/Nascimento effort was runner up.

Posted by planet/meganmattjohn at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 31 October 2006 6:01 AM EST
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Tuesday, 17 October 2006
The Leaders
It is with first with Miles Davis, then with Weather Report that keyboardist Josef Zawinul became synonymous with the jazz fusion era, contributing a number of genre-defining compositions. One such song is the band's signature tune "Birdland" from the band's top seller Heavy Weather. Many consider Zawinul as the best synthesizer player that jazz has ever produced, frequently employing the use of over 10 keyboards with live settings of the band.

Wayne Shorter's role was not as prominent as it was with Miles Davis during the 60's and this led to some criticism of the group. However, he is still regarded as one of the all time greats on both the tenor and soprano saxophone. At the urging of Davis before he left his band, Shorter began using the soprano saxophone and played it exclusively in Weather Report's debut recording. Shorter is known as playing in an economical style in many of the WR recordings.

Posted by planet/meganmattjohn at 12:01 AM EDT
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1980's
The band kept releasing new albums once a year with various line-ups until 1986. A high quality video ("Live in Japan"-VHS and Laser Disc only) featuring Omar Hakim on drums, Victor Bailey on bass, and Mineu Cinelo on percussion was also released around 1984. This video was never officially released on DVD and is not currently available.

Weather Report did not manage to match the critical or commercial success they enjoyed during the 70's during this decade. It was also becoming harder to market jazz fusion as traditional jazz was making a comeback at the time. Shorter and Zawinul mutually decided to disband in 1986 after recording their last album, "This is This". Both would play jazz fusion with their own groups for a time before moving on to new styles of music.

Posted by planet/meganmattjohn at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 31 October 2006 6:03 AM EST
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Sunday, 15 October 2006
The "Jaco" Years
By 1976's Black Market, the group's music evolved further from the open-ended funk jams into more melody-oriented, concise forms. They also had achieved a greater mass-market appeal by this time. Most notably, this album introduced virtuoso bassist Jaco Pastorius into the group, who plays on two of the album's songs. Alphonso Johnson (who plays on the other 5 songs) decided to leave Weather Report to play with the Billy Cobham/George Duke Band (a group that featured a young John Scofield on guitar). Black Market was perhaps the most rock oriented studio effort by Weather Report, in part due to former Frank Zappa sideman Chester Thompson playing drums on most of the songs (he later would be recruited into the touring band of Genesis). Black Market again won Down Beat's album of the year.

It was with Jaco Pastorius that helped push the group to the heights of their popularity. With the release of their biggest individual hit jazz standard "Birdland", from the Heavy Weather album in 1977, Birdland would even make the pop charts that year. The group also appeared on television with one of Don Kirshner's Rock Concerts. Heavy Weather would prove to be the band's most successful selling album while still retaining wide critical acclaim. Pastorius would also establish a new standard in fretless electric bass playing and add two compositions of his own into the song mix. Heavy Weather would dominate the disc award scene and coup the last Down Beat "Album of the Year" award for the group.

Jaco Pastorius appeared on four more Weather Report albums, including Mr. Gone in 1978, 8:30 in 1979, Night Passage in 1980 and their second self-titled album, (recorded in 1981 and) released in 1982. Pastorius departed the group in late 1981 due to touring requirements that he had to fulfil with his own Word of Mouth Big Band. By the time he left Weather Report Jaco had begun displaying symptoms of manic depression which would leave him in serious trouble with everybody.


Posted by planet/meganmattjohn at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 31 October 2006 6:03 AM EST
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Saturday, 14 October 2006
Members - Past and Present
(1970-1971)
Joe Zawinul - keyboards

Wayne Shorter - saxophone

Miroslav Vitouš - double bass

Alphonse Mouzon - drums

Airto Moreira - percussion


(1971-1973)
Joe Zawinul - keyboards

Wayne Shorter - saxophone

Miroslav Vitouš - double bass

Eric Gravatt - drums

Dom Um Romão - percussion


(1974)
Joe Zawinul - keyboards

Wayne Shorter - saxophone

Miroslav Vitouš - double bass

Skip Hadden - drums

Dom Um Romão - percussion


(1974)
Joe Zawinul - keyboards

Wayne Shorter - saxophone

Alphonso Johnson - double bass

Ishmael Wilburn - drums

Dom Um Romão - percussion


(1975)
Joe Zawinul - keyboards

Wayne Shorter - saxophone

Alphonso Johnson - double bass

Leon 'Ndugu' Chancler - drums

Alyrio Lima - percussion


(1976)
Joe Zawinul - keyboards

Wayne Shorter - saxophone

Jaco Pastorius - electric bass

Michael Walden - drums

Don Alias - percussion


(1976)
Joe Zawinul - keyboards

Wayne Shorter - saxophone

Jaco Pastorius - electric bass

Chester Thompson - drums

Alex Acuña - percussion


(1977)
Joe Zawinul - keyboards

Wayne Shorter - saxophone

Jaco Pastorius - electric bass

Alex Acuña - drums


(1978)
Joe Zawinul - keyboards

Wayne Shorter - saxophone

Jaco Pastorius - electric bass

Peter Erskine - drums

Manolo Badrena - percussion


(1979)
Joe Zawinul - keyboards

Wayne Shorter - saxophone

Jaco Pastorius - electric bass

Peter Erskine - drums

Erich Zawinul - percussion


(1980-1982)
Joe Zawinul - keyboards

Wayne Shorter - saxophone

Jaco Pastorius - electric bass

Peter Erskine - drums

Robert Thomas, Jr. - percussion


(1983-1984)
Joe Zawinul - keyboards

Wayne Shorter - saxophone

Victor Bailey - double bass

Omar Hakim - drums

Jose Rossy - percussion


(1984-1985)
Joe Zawinul - keyboards

Wayne Shorter - saxophone

Victor Bailey - double bass

Omar Hakim - drums

Mino Cinelu - percussion


(1985-1986)
Joe Zawinul - keyboards

Wayne Shorter - saxophone

Victor Bailey - double bass

Peter Erskine - drums

Mino Cinelu - percussion



Posted by planet/meganmattjohn at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 31 October 2006 6:04 AM EST
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Since The Breakup
A "post band" Weather Report double CD, "Live and Unreleased" was made available in 2002, featuring vintage live recordings during the late 70's/early 80's with various personnel. As of September, 2006 Columbia/Legacy has also released the first ever Weather Report boxed set called "Forcast: Tomorrow". It includes 3 CDs of mostly pre-released material and a DVD of the entire September 28th, 1978 performance in Offenbach, Germany (with Erskine and Pastorius) not previously available.



Posted by planet/meganmattjohn at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 31 October 2006 6:03 AM EST
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