Review

The Legendary Live Tapes: 1978-1981 – Weather Report
(Columbia/Legacy)

Weather-ReportFaced with a tugboat’s noisy foghorn at an outdoor concert in New York City, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, not to be outdone, extended and double-timed his solo, ending with an elongated “Hoooonnnk.” It was just an example of how exciting and unpredictable a Weather Report concert could be.

In the late 1970s, when Miles Davis was in a self-imposed semi-retirement, his many sidemen were as busy as ever. Two of them, keyboardist Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter were leading Weather Report. They got the name from watching a forecast and quickly started pointing where music was going. Formed in the early 1970s, the group, an eclectic, fearless, ever-changing lineup soared into the 80s, dazzling audiences and sometimes confounding purist critics.

Two of the band’s lineups are represented here. Their quartet featured versatile drummer Peter Erskine and brilliant bassist Jaco Pastorius.

The quintet was rounded out by percussionist Robert Thomas, Jr.

Besides their spellbinding stints with Miles, Zawinul worked with Cannonball Adderly. He’s the keyboardist being cheered on by a frantic audience during his funky composition “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” (“Go on, Joe! Get ‘em, Joe.!”). Shorter worked with and contributed songs to Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers. Jaco had played on several albums by Joni Mitchell during his stint in Weather Report, including The Hissing of the Summer Lawns and Mingus.

This 4-CD set is exciting music full of sonic surprises. Highlights include Jaco’s atmospheric “Three Views of a Secret,” an exuberant cover of Duke Ellington’s “Rockin’ In Rhythm” and Zawinul’s own “Birdland.”