Today’s selection will be from another album that has been sitting in my collection that hardly ever gets played – and I don’t know why! This stuff jams. I was blessed enough – at least in some ways – to have a boyfriend at age 18 that was a musician and into jazz fusion. He played guitar with Cat Stevens-type songs, but he had wide tastes in music. He owned Chick Corea and John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, which got me started in listening to it. One big thing I love about jazz and jazz fusion is that the bass gets treated like an equal instrument! It’s not just background accompaniment.
Weather Report was an American jazz fusion band of the 1970s and early 1980s. Throughout most of its existence, the band was a quintet of keyboards, saxophone, bass, drums and percussion. Alongside Miles Davis’s electric bands, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever, and the Headhunters, Weather Report is considered to be one of the preeminent early jazz fusion bands. Over their 16-year career, Weather Report explored various areas of music, centered on jazz (including both the “free” and “Latin” varieties), but also including various elements of art music, ethnic music, R&B, funk, and rock. While their work was often categorized as “jazz fusion”, the band members themselves generally rejected the term. With the exception of a brief quartet period between 1978 and 1979 (wherein other members could double on various percussion instruments), Weather Report’s instrumentation always included both a drummer alongside a percussionist. For its first eight years of existence, the group had difficulty finding a permanent drummer, moving through about one drummer per year until Jaco Pastorius helped to recruit Peter Erskine in 1978. Erskine and (later on) Omar Hakim were the only Weather Report drummers who played with the band for more than two years.
Heavy Weather is the eighth album by Weather Report, released in 1977 through Columbia Records. The release originally sold about 500,000 copies; it would prove to be the band’s most commercially successful album. Heavy Weather received a 5-star review from Down Beat magazine and went on to be voted jazz album of the year by the readers of that publication.
Featuring the jazz standard “Birdland”, the album is one of the best-sellers in the Columbia jazz catalog. This opening track was a significant commercial success, something not typical of instrumental music. The melody had been performed live by the band as part of “Dr Honoris Causa”, which was from Joe Zawinul’s eponymous solo album.
Although not mentioned as a live recording in the liner notes, “Rumba Mamá” (a percussion and vocals feature for Manolo Badrena and Alex Acuña) was recorded at the band’s concert in Montreux in summer 1976, of which a film would be released on DVD in 2007.
Personnel on Heavy Weather:
Joe Zawinul – keyboards
Wayne Shorter – saxophone
Jaco Pastorius – bass, mandocello, drums
Alex Acuña – drums and other percussion
Manolo Badrena – percussion
Today’s selection from this excellent album is “The Juggler.”