Musicians: Joe Zawinul (keyboards), Wayne Shorter (saxophones), Jaco Pastorius (fretless bass, drums, steel drums), Manolo Badrena (percussion, voice), Alex Acuna (drums, percussion)
Note: Following year 1978, Downbeat Critic’s Poll – Best Electric Bassist Jaco Pastorius, Best Keyboardist Joe Zawinul Best Soprano Saxophonist Wayne Shorter Best Acoustic Jazz Group Weather Report.
The Best of Jazz-Fusion
First off, I have always considered the name “Weather Report” to be an excellent choice for a jazz-fusion group. That said, the name itself implies everything from a serene sunday afternoon with blue skies to a tempestuous thunderstorm complete with lightning and pounding rain. And to me the actual jazz group DOES live up to its name.
The Definitive Group
Over the years, Weather Report has gone through a multitude of personnel changes that have also made this group live up to its name in that respect as well. But to me, the lineup of 1977 with Joe Zawinul (keyboards), Wayne Shorter (saxophones), Manolo Badrena (percussion), Alex Acuna (drums) and the amazing fretless bassist/composer/arranger Jaco Pastorius was THE most definitive Weather Report lineup ever assembled.
For me (personally as a musician), this recording is definitely one of the top 10 to have inspired me to continue playing music, period. Its amazing tour de force performances, creative compositions and tight arrangements make this a must-have for any jazz enthusiast’s essential recordings collection.
Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter didn’t truly fulfill Weather Report’s artistic and commercial potential until they brought on-board a bassist who could function as an equal partner in the musical equation, like co-founder Miroslav Vitous, whose main shortcoming was his inability to play funk. In renegade bassist Jaco Pastorius, the band found a formidable composer and improvisor, who possessed deep roots in funk and R&B, yet was equally at home in modern jazz and Afro-Cuban settings.
Birdland is the obvious “hit” on the album, but songs like A Remark You Made with Shorter’s melancholy saxophone and Zawinul’s keyboard flourishes demonstrate the depth and emotional expressiveness this jazz group can muster up.
Teen Town (one will find) is the ultimate Pastorius hit-single in the jazz realm, with Pastorius playing drums himself, using a tight crackling piccolo snare to solidify his underlying funky bass lines.
Not coincidentally, the presence of this innovative fretless bassist on Heavy Weather gave Weather Report the rhythmic/melodic dimension it had been missing since Vitous’s departure, as evidenced by his voice-like declamations on Zawinul’s ballad “A Remark You Made.” On Zawinul’s chart-topping, big band-styled arrangement of “Birdland,” Pastorius provided the kind of big, sweeping orchestral gestures the tune required, while on the shifting canvas of Wayne Shorter’s “Harlequin,” the bassist’s ability to articulate complex chords allowed him to function as a string section unto himself. And on his own “Havona,” Pastorius not only soloed with horn-like artistry, but combined with drummer Alex Acuna and percussionist Manolo Badrena to give Weather Report its funkiest rhythm section ever. —Chip Stern
Rumba Mama and Palladium
But to me the real hilight comes with Rhumba Mama (an amazing live recording of Badrena and Acuna in a show-stopping percussive assault of the senses) immediately followed by the electronic fanfare heralding Palladium, a jazz-fusion-carribean-influenced performance grounded by an absolutely killer bass line by Pastorius (who incidentally also plays steel drums toward the end.
Surely, this enfusion of many styles of music from jazz to latin to classical and funk is what Heavy Weather is all about. It is just sad that Jaco Pastorius, bursting into the jazz limelight with this single recording, had met an untimely death. I’m sure the jazz world still misses him and what could’ve been accomplished if he had been alive today.
This recording will inspire at many levels, from the simplicity and sophistication of its grooves to the depth and soul of its musicians’ various instrumental solos, for the jazz-rock-fusion enthusiast, this is a must-have and certifiable classic, which will be cherished for many years to come as one of the defining recordings in Jazz history.
- A Remark You Made
- Teen Town
- Rumba Mama
- The Juggler
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