Friday, March 17, 2017

A Smorgasbord for the Ear

Weather Report : Birdland

An arrangemental tour-de-force, a smorgasbord for the ear.”
– Neil Tesser, Down Beat, 1977

In March of 1977, Weather Report released Heavy Weather, the band's most famous album,  and the first to feature bassist Jaco Pastorius as a full time member. We're talking about a jazz record that reached No 30 on the Billboard pop charts, went gold upon its immediate release, and was named Down Beat magazine's "Album of the Year" after earning a rare 5 star review. This may the greatest achievement in jazz fusion.

The album's highlight is Josef Zaniwul's "Birdland", a tribute to the club named for Charlie Parker. If you've never seen the band play "Birdland" you might be surprised that its bassist Jaco Pastorius who plays the melody in the introduction, his fingers on practically the highest notes his bass can play. To some ears, Pastorius dominates the album, almost to a fault.

In his review for Down Beat Neil Tesser complements the sound on the record: 

“Weather Report has never employed the studio-as-instrument as thoroughly or as well as Heavy Weather. The LP literally explodes with the clarity, separation and sheer variety of timbres, and Zawinul’s arsenal of synthesized tonalities is astounding (He’s listed on the liner as ‘producer/orchestrator’). Because of the recording quality, you can hear the smallest details of the intricately arranged layers of sound, with the versatile polyphonic synthesizer creating a vibrant, velvety richness that makes Getty look like a welfare case.

Rolling Stone critic has especially kind words about Jaco :
“Josef Zawinul, Wayne Shorter and Co. have wandered far afield from the original Weather Report, assimilating and passing off new drummers and bassists with astounding speed. The wandering in itself is no big deal, for they couldn’t have played the understated and airy music of their early albums forever and kept it fresh… If they have lost anything, it’s the resonant, pulsing space between notes and the remarkable melodies that grew out of non-melodies… Their gains have been more palpable, though, especially since jazz rock has grown lazy. Jaco Pastorius, the bassist who joined them on their last album, has been instrumental in developing their busier, talkative style… [Pastorius is] vital to them now because he fills up the music where it used to diffuse, which suits their apparent aims just fine. There was a time when Weather Report’s music went up and up only; becoming more ethereal as it went; the new bottom makes all the difference in the world.”

And Jaco's friend Pat Methany also has raves :
“To me, Heavy Weather is the best [Weather Report album]. That’s one of the great records of all time. Pretty much from beginning to end, there is not a dead spot on that record. It’s conceptually brilliant and, execution-wise, it’s devastating. Also, the sound on that record is incredible.”

For a lot more about this album visit

No comments:

Post a Comment