Saturday, October 3, 2015

Weather Report - 1971 [1992] "Weather Report"

Originally released in May 1971, Weather Report was the debut album by the group of the same name. The album was reissued by Columbia Records in 1992. The album was digitally remastered by Vic Anesini in November 1991 at Sony Music Studios in New York City, and then released again under the Sony International label. The style of music on this album can be described as avant-garde jazz with electric instruments. It continues the style of Miles Davis album Bitches Brew (on which Zawinul and Shorter played) but in a more ambient setting.

Here we have the free-floating, abstract beginnings of Weather Report, which would define the state of the electronic jazz/rock art from its first note almost to its last. Their first album is a direct extension of the Miles Davis In a Silent Way/Bitches Brew period, more fluid in sound and more volatile in interplay. Joe Zawinul ruminates in a delicate, liquid manner on Rhodes electric piano; at this early stage, he used a ring modulator to create weird synthesizer-like effects. Wayne Shorter's soprano sax shines like a beacon amidst the swirling ensemble work of co-founding bassist Miroslav Vitous, percussionist Airto Moreira, and drummer Alphonse Mouzon. Zawinul's most memorable theme is "Orange Lady" (previously recorded, though uncredited, by Davis on Big Fun), while Shorter scores on "Tears" and "Eurydice." One of the most impressive debuts of all time by a jazz group.

1st album by Weather Report, the greatest Fusion band ever, and a pivotal recording, which would change the face of music for generations to come. The core members of Weather Report were Joe Zawinul (keyboards) and Wayne Shorter (saxophones), two prominent members of the 1960s Miles Davis ensembles, and a young Czech bass player Miroslav Vitous (who played with Davis for a brief period of time only). Vitous arrived in the US in 1966 on a Berklee scholarship (like Zawinul almost a decade earlier) but soon after left the school to explore the soaring jazz scene in NY, where he played with Chick Corea, Herbie Mann, Stan Getz and many others. After meeting Zawinul and Shorter the decision was made to start a new group, which would continue the direction set by Davis on his historic “In A Silent Way” / “Bitches Brew” sessions, based on a collaborative / group improvisation (Davis was moving in the meantime into a more funk oriented period). To complete the group they drafted another ex-Davis musician, the Brazilian percussionist Airto Moreira and a young drummer Alphonse Mouzon. The debut album, recorded soon after the band was formed, reveals with full force the extraordinary rapport the members of the group established immediately, transcending their individual personalities. The music is mostly atmospheric, free form and with subtle melody lines, mostly concealed beneath the improvisations. Thus began a journey, which lasted for over 15 years, which would place Weather Report on the forefront on contemporary music and create a model followed by countless jazz and fusion musicians all over the world to this very day. Although the group would undergo multiple personnel changes and stylistic swings, their innovative, groundbreaking and often prophetic leadership would remain unchallenged. In retrospect it’s interesting to see that something, which is considered a core of American culture, was in fact created by a group in which American born musicians were in fact a minority, with Zawinul and Vitous coming from Europe and Moreira from Brazil. It can be also considered as foretelling, since future Weather Report would be one of the first bands to include World Music elements into fusion. This is monumental stuff, absolutely essential listening and a historical document of great importance.

One of the best of the post-Bitches Brew jazz-fusion albums out there, and one that doesn't seem to get as much respect as it probably deserves.  It's not 100% original, and probably could be considered a bit of Miles Davis' stuff from the time (one key track, "Orange Lady" was even originally an outtake from Bitches Brew, though not a Davis composition), good music is good music.  What this album DOES have on anything Miles Davis did is a larger variety of sound, and since people have complained about his fusion albums sounding too much the same throughout them, it could be considered a beneficial thing.  Ranging from low-key ambient type stuff to very busy and upbeat stuff, as well as fusing a lot in between, the group produces a solid and full-range collection of fine adventurous jazz music.  It's less abrasive than the similar Miles stuff of the era, but hardly less interesting, so I can't fathom why fans of In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew wouldn't find this a fine collection of music.

Track listing

    "Milky Way" (Shorter, Zawinul) – 2:33
    "Umbrellas" (Shorter, Vitous, Zawinul) – 3:27
    "Seventh Arrow" (Vitous) – 5:23
    "Orange Lady" (Zawinul) – 8:44
    "Morning Lake" (Vitous) – 4:26
    "Waterfall" (Zawinul) – 6:20
    "Tears" (Shorter) – 3:25
    "Eurydice" (Shorter) – 5:45

Personnel

    Joe Zawinul – Electric and acoustic piano
    Wayne Shorter – Soprano saxophone
    Miroslav Vitou┼í – Electric and acoustic bass
    Alphonse Mouzon – Drums, voice
    Airto Moreira – Percussion
 

2 comments:

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  2. Chiquilicuatre y ZappaOctober 6, 2015 at 2:46 AM

    many thanks

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