THE DOZENS: WEATHER REPORT by Jared Pauley

Josef Zawinul and Wayne Shorter first played together in Maynard Ferguson’s big band in 1959. They later crossed paths when trumpeter Miles Davis began recording the albums that laid the foundation of jazz-fusion. In 1971, Weather Report released its debut album, and the rest is history.

Other fusion bands such as Return to Forever, the Headhunters, and Lifetime recorded timeless music, but none can match the longevity and creative influence of Zawinul and Shorter. This Dozens is by no means a complete survey, but rather represents the overall sound of Weather Report from their early days when the music was largely improvised to the later days when they composed some of the best funk music ever heard. It’s also important to note how strong an impact the musicians in this band had during and after their time with Weather Report. In particular, if not for Weather Report, we might never have known of the wonderful talents of Alphonso Johnson and Jaco Pastorius. Salud!


Weather Report: Milky Way

Track

Milky Way

Group

Weather Report

CD

Weather Report [1971] (Columbia)

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Musicians:

Joe Zawinul (piano, keyboards), Wayne Shorter (soprano sax).

Composed by Joe Zawinul & Wayne Shorter

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Recorded: February-March 1971

Albumcoverweatherreport-1971

Rating: 86/100 (learn more)

From Weather Report's debut album, this song was among the first to fully demonstrate the power of studio effects and superior sound engineering. Some of the haunting sounds found on this song were produced by Shorter's playing soprano saxophone into the upper portion of the piano causing the strings to vibrate. Though this is a very abstract piece with no backline instruments, it fits right in with the improvised, exploratory elements on this album. It's surprising that Weather Report was voted album of the year by Down Beat. One might wonder why they gave it such high praise given its freedom and the magazine's limited respect for music that's not all that jazzy. In any case, "Milky Way" may have been the ideal name for this song, since it definitely creates a suspended feeling if you listen to it several times in a row.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


Weather Report: Unknown Soldiers

Track

Unknown Soldiers

Group

Weather Report

CD

I Sing the Body Electric (Columbia)

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Musicians:

Joe Zawinul (piano), Wayne Shorter (soprano sax), Miroslav Vitous (acoustic bass),

Eric Gravatt (drums), Dom Um Romão (percussion)

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Composed by Joe Zawinul

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Recorded: November 1971-January 1972

Albumcoverweatherreport-isingthebodyelectric

Rating: 98/100 (learn more)

Joe Zawinul composed this song in memory of an experience as a child when he and his brother found a dead soldier during World War II in his native Austria. From its haunting voice introduction over a swing ride pattern by Eric Gravatt, the mood fits the title, moving through various motifs that invoke a feeling of loss, uncertainty, and closure. Midway through, one understands what a strong impact this childhood experience had on Zawinul. This is my favorite song from Weather Report with Vitous, and shows how visionary Zawinul was with his compositional talents.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


Weather Report: 125th Street Congress

Track

125th Street Congress

Group

Weather Report

CD

Sweetnighter (Columbia)

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Musicians:

Joe Zawinul (keyboards), Wayne Shorter (soprano sax),

Andrew White (electric bass), Eric Gravatt (drums), Muruga Booker (percussion)

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Composed by Joe Zawinul

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Recorded: February 3-7, 1973

Albumcoverweatherreport-sweetnighter

Rating: 84/100 (learn more)

With the bass chair in limbo during the recording of Sweetnighter, Andrew White fills in on this hand drum- driven funk piece, maintaining the groove with great time and feeling over Eric Gravatt's driving drumbeat. Though the song clocks in at over 12 minutes, it still delivers. Wayne Shorter wails in the high range of the soprano sax, as Zawinul sits back and does what he does best: laying down funk on the Fender Rhodes. Muruga Booker helps accelerate the groove as well with the tambourine. This song represents the band at a time when a listener could readily tell which direction they were heading, that being funk.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


Weather Report: Nubian Sundance

Track

Nubian Sundance

Group

Weather Report

CD

Mysterious Traveller (Columbia KC 32494)

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Musicians:

Wayne Shorter (tenor sax), Joe Zawinul (keyboards), Alphonso Johnson (electric bass),

Ishmael Wilburn (drums), Skip Hadden (drums), Dom Um Romao (percussion)

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Composed by Joe Zawinul

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Recorded: Hollywood, California, February-May 1974

Albumcoverweatherreportmysterioustraveller

Rating: 94/100 (learn more)

Josef Zawinul really had a knack for composition. From the opening crowd simulation to the absolutely stellar work by Hadden and Romão on drums and percussion, this may be the quintessential Weather Report tune. At a time when the band was moving away from the improvised direction they had pursued on their first two albums, "Nubian Sundance" catches the group at its height. There's only one thing about this song that keeps me from calling it the best song Weather Report ever recorded: not enough Wayne Shorter. Avid fans recognize that there are tracks where Shorter could have been utilized more, and here's a shining example.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


Weather Report: Mysterious Traveller

Track

Mysterious Traveller

Group

Weather Report

CD

Mysterious Traveller (Columbia)

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Musicians:

Joe Zawinul (keyboards), Wayne Shorter (sax, tack piano), Alphonso Johnson (electric bass),

Skip Hadden (drums), Dom Um Romão (percussion)

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Composed by Wayne Shorter

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Recorded: February-May 1974

Albumcoverweatherreportmysterioustraveller

Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

This Wayne Shorter tune displays his compositional ability to adapt to most styles of music. After three meter changes between the head and the chorus, Weather Report gets down to their normal agenda of funking out. Shorter also plays tack piano on the opening passage, and while he might not be the most gifted pianist, the tack sound gives the song its entire feeling, along with the reverb on Hadden's drum kit. This song may take a back seat to others in the Weather Report catalogue, but it still contains all the elements that gave WR its sound.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


Weather Report: Cucumber Slumber

Track

Cucumber Slumber

Group

Weather Report

CD

Mysterious Traveller (Columbia)

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Musicians:

Joe Zawinul (keyboards), Wayne Shorter (soprano sax), Alphonso Johnson (electric bass),

Ishmael Wilburn (drums), Ray Barretto (percussion)

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Composed by Alphonso Johnson & Joe Zawinul

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Recorded: February-May 1974

Albumcoverweatherreportmysterioustraveller

Rating: 93/100 (learn more)

Man, could Alphonso Johnson play the bass! He gives this song its entire base with a funk line that would have made the Godfather of Soul Mr. James Brown himself proud. Zawinul provides his usual tasteful comping on the Rhodes as Shorter plays a warm solo on soprano sax, mainly in the upper register. Though Weather Report sold more albums and gained more popularity following Alphonso Johnson's departure, this album stands as one of the band's most enduring releases, with solid funk grooves and exceptional songwriting.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


Weather Report: Man In The Green Shirt

Track

Man In The Green Shirt

Group

Weather Report

CD

Tale Spinnin' (Columbia)

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Musicians:

Joe Zawinul (keyboards, synthesizer), Wayne Shorter (soprano sax), Alphonso Johnson (electric bass),

Leon “Ndugu” Chancler (drums), Alyrio Lima (percussion)

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Composed by Josef Zawinul

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Recorded: February-April 1975

Albumcoverweatherreport-talespinnin

Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

Josef Zawinul composed the perfect tune for Tale Spinnin'. "Man in the Green Shirt" is a progressive masterpiece with powerful textures and melodic overtones. Though Tale Spinnin' would mark some of Alphonso Johnson's last appearances with the band, he holds his own. The album contains other strong tracks, but this one truly represents the beauty of Weather Report. With an exceptional A section followed by a great jam section over an Esus7 chord, the C section contains nothing but triads over fourths, and provides the perfect connection back to the head. In my opinion, this is the best song the band ever recorded.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


Weather Report: Black Market

Track

Black Market

Group

Weather Report

CD

Black Market (Columbia)

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Musicians:

Joe Zawinul (Fender Rhodes, synthesizer), Wayne Shorter (sax), Alphonso Johnson (electric bass),

Chester Thompson (drums), Don Alias (congas, percussion)

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Composed by Joe Zawinul

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Recorded: December 1975-January 1976

Albumcoverweatherreportblackmarket

Rating: 92/100 (learn more)

With Black Market, Weather Report broke new ground unlike any fusion band from the 1970s. All the elements are present in this song: funk, pounding drums and percussion, and genius writing, both harmonically and melodically. Joe Zawinul's wah-wah Rhodes and ARP synthesizer penetrate the sound spectrum and, coupled with Johnson's nasty bassline, proves why no band in jazz or pop music could match the power of Weather Report. This album marked the band's path for the rest of the decade, and stands as a huge testament as to why they were hands down the best at the fusion game.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


Weather Report: Cannon Ball

Track

Cannon Ball

Group

Weather Report

CD

Black Market (Columbia)

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Musicians:

Joe Zawinul (Fender Rhodes, synthesizers), Wayne Shorter (sax), Jaco Pastorius (electric bass),

Chester Thompson, Narada Michael Walden (drums), Don Alias (percussion)

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Composed by Joe Zawinul

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Recorded: December 1975-January 1976

Albumcoverweatherreportblackmarket

Rating: 89/100 (learn more)

This song, which Joe Zawinul wrote for his former bandleader Cannonball Adderley, marks Jaco Pastorius's first recorded appearance with Weather Report. Harmonically the song is powerful, and Zawinul's synthesized melody lines nicely fit the overall tone, providing the warmth Zawinul no doubt intended. While Shorter doesn't get in on the action until the song builds at the end, he nevertheless contributes a memorable solo. Pastorius also provides moments of brilliance showing why he would go on to change the way the electric bass was played.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


Weather Report: Barbary Coast

Track

Barbary Coast

Group

Weather Report

CD

Black Market (Columbia)

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Musicians:

Joe Zawinul (Fender Rhodes), Wayne Shorter (sax), Jaco Pastorius (electric bass),

Chester Thompson, Narada Michael Walden (drums), Don Alias (percussion)

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Composed by Jaco Pastorius

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Recorded: December 1975-January 1976

Albumcoverweatherreportblackmarket

Rating: 89/100 (learn more)

From the opening sounds of a train, this song grabs you with its undeniable funk. Recorded after several rewrites, this was the first song newcomer Jaco Pastorius composed for Weather Report. It's definitely not complex, but that doesn't matter because Pastorius's bassline is so dirty that even the hearing-impaired will be bobbing their heads. I would have liked some extended solos, but the group does such a good job at grooving over a Db7 chord that I quickly forget that idea. Not the best song ever from this group, but it came when the band was evolving, and shows how fast Jaco appeared out of nowhere to change electric bass playing forever.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


Weather Report: Palladium

Track

Palladium

Group

Weather Report

CD

Heavy Weather (Columbia)

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Musicians:

Joe Zawinul (keyboards), Wayne Shorter (tenor sax), Jaco Pastorius (electric bass),

Alex Acuna (drums), Manola Badrena (congas, percussion)

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Composed by Wayne Shorter

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Recorded: December 1976-February 1977

Albumcoverweatherreport-heavyweather

Rating: 97/100 (learn more)

Wayne Shorter has said he composed this song in honor of the Latin music he heard growing up as a child. He captures the energy and spark often heard in Latin music, especially at the end of the track. Zawinul plays some tasty synth lines at the end while Jaco thumps and pops like no one else could. Jaco's tone on this track is splendid and laid the foundation for all of the other bassists who bit his style. It's a shame Shorter didn't get to compose more for the band because his gift of melody is unlike anyone else's in jazz. This song is a testament to Weather Report's strengths, as they play circles around every other fusion band from this period. The band's innovative qualities ensure that their music will continue to be heard by generations of listeners. Weather Report pushed the envelope of jazz.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


Weather Report: Punk Jazz

Track

Punk Jazz

Group

Weather Report

CD

Mr. Gone (Columbia)

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Musicians:

Joe Zawinul (keyboards), Wayne Shorter (sax), Jaco Pastorius (electric bass), Tony Williams (drums).

Composed by Jaco Pastorius

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Recorded: May 1978

Albumcoverweatherreport-mrgone

Rating: 88/100 (learn more)

This song explodes with a fantastic bass solo by Jaco Pastorius. His dexterity is mighty, and he shows why he was one of the greatest to ever touch a bass. I wish this lineup was recorded more because of the way Tony Williams's hi-hat propels the group through the swing section. My only real complaint about this song is that some of the keyboards used by Zawinul sound a little cheesy. But overall this is still a great Weather Report song, and swings more than most in their catalog.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


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