Weather Report
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Weather Report

Weather Report was an American jazz fusion band of the 1970s and early 1980s. The band was initially co-led by the Austrian-born keyboard player Joe Zawinul, the American saxophonist Wayne Shorter and Czech bassist Miroslav Vitou?. Other prominent members at various points in the band's lifespan included bassists Alphonso Johnson, Jaco Pastorius and Victor Bailey; and drummers/percussionists Peter Erskine, Alex Acuña, Airto Moreira, and Chester Thompson. Throughout most of its existence, the band was a quintet of keyboards, saxophone, bass, drums and percussion.

The band began as an avant-garde jazz group; when Vitou? left Weather Report after a few years (due to creative and financial disagreements), Zawinul increasingly took control and steered the band towards a more funk and R&B-oriented jazz sound incorporating elements of world music and the latest developments in synthesizer technology. Despite these developments, during the mid-1970s Weather Report remained one of the defining acts within the jazz form, winning the DownBeat best album award five times in a row.

Alongside Miles Davis's electric bands, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever, and Headhunters, Weather Report is considered to be one of the pre-eminent early jazz fusion bands.

Musical style

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.

From the start, Weather Report took the unusual and innovative approach of abandoning the traditional "soloist/accompaniment" demarcation of straight-ahead jazz and instead featuring opportunities for continuous improvisation by every member of the band. This position remained consistent throughout the life of the band. From the mid-1970s, individual solos became more prominent, but were never allowed to overwhelm the music's collective approach. Initially, the band's music featured a free, extended improvisational method (similar to Miles Davis's Bitches Brew-period work), but by the mid-1970s, this had moved towards more groove-oriented and prestructured music (as epitomized by their hit single "Birdland").

Joe Zawinul's playing style was often dominated by quirky melodic improvisations (simultaneously bebop-, ethnic-, and pop-sounding) combined with sparse but rhythmic big-band chords or bass lines. Having originally made his name as a pioneering electric piano player, he went on to consistently develop the role of the synthesizer in jazz during his time with Weather Report. Working with companies such as ARP and Oberheim, Zawinul developed new ways of voicing and patching electronic tones for textures, ensemble roles (including emulations of traditional band instruments) and soloing. In Weather Report, he often employed a vocoder, as well as recorded sounds played (i.e., filtered and transposed) through a synthesizer, creating a very distinctive, often beautiful, synthesis of jazz harmonics and "noise" (which he referred to as "using all the sounds the world generates"). On some Weather Report tunes, however, Zawinul's synthesized arrangements dominated the sound.

In the beginning let's say Weather Report was a joint thing. Then, after the second album there's no question about it, it became more and more my group. Wayne wanted it like that, but we were always 'partners in crime'. No Wayne, no Weather Report.

--Josef Zawinul on his gradual takeover of Weather Report[1]

Wayne Shorter came to the group with a reputation as a dominant role as an instrumentalist, drawn from both his solo work and his contributions to Miles Davis' "second great quintet" during the 1960s. His choice not to follow the same approach with Weather Report led to some criticism of the group. During his time with Weather Report, Shorter was noted for generally playing saxophone with an economical, "listening" style. Rather than continually taking the lead, he generally added subtle harmonic, melodic, and/or rhythmic complexity by responding to other member's improvisations (although he could and did sometimes exercise a more frenetic style akin to that of John Coltrane or Michael Brecker). As a composer, he chose a more abstract, sometimes atonal and "free jazz" style of music, opposed to the sometimes flamboyant melodicism of the tunes written by Zawinul or Pastorius. Playing both tenor and soprano saxophones, Shorter continued to develop the role of the latter instrument in jazz, taking his cue from previous work by Coltrane, Sidney Bechet, Lucky Thompson, and Steve Lacy.

Weather Report maintained a consistent interest in a textured sound and developments in music technology and processing. Both Zawinul and original bassist Miroslav Vitou? experimented with electronic effects pedals (as generally used by rock guitarists) with Zawinul using them on electric piano and synthesizers and Vitou? on his upright bass (which he frequently bowed through distortion to create a second horn-like voice). The band's third bass player, Jaco Pastorius, popularized the use of fretless bass guitar, melodic bass soloing and extensive use of string harmonics, as well as consolidating the driving R&B pulse in the band's music (which had been brought in by his predecessor Alphonso Johnson).

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.


1970: Inception and formation

Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter had first met and become friends in 1959 while they were playing in Maynard Ferguson's Big Band. Zawinul went on to play with Cannonball Adderley's group in the 1960s, while Shorter joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and then, in 1964, Miles Davis' second great quintet. During this decade, both men made names for themselves as being among the best composers in jazz.

Zawinul later joined Shorter in contributing to the initial fusion music recordings of Miles Davis, and both men were part of the studio groups that recorded the key Davis albums In a Silent Way (1969) and Bitches Brew (1970). Consequently, Weather Report has often been seen as a spin-off from the Miles Davis bands of the late 1960s and early 1970s,[] although Zawinul was never part of Davis's touring line-up. Weather Report was initially formed to explore a more impressionistic and individualistic music (or, as Zawinul put it, "away from all that eight bars shit and then you go to the bridge...")[2]

There's some dispute over how Weather Report initially formed. According to Zawinul, it began when he and Shorter recruited another Miles Davis associate, the classically trained Czech-born bass player Miroslav Vitou?, who had previously played with each of them separately (as well as with Herbie Mann, Bob Brookmeyer, Stan Getz, and Chick Corea). According to Vitou? himself, it was he and Shorter who actually founded Weather Report, with Shorter bringing in Zawinul afterwards.[3] Whichever story is true, it was those three musicians - all composers - who formed the initial core of the project.

To complete the band, Zawinul, Shorter and Vitou? brought in former McCoy Tyner drummer Alphonse Mouzon and began recording their debut album while looking for a full-time auxiliary percussionist. The initial recruits were session player Don Alias and symphony orchestra percussionist Barbara Burton. During recording, Alias quarreled with Zawinul (allegedly due to Zawinul being too dictatorial over the percussion approach) and the innovative Brazilian percussionist Airto Moreira (yet another Davis alumnus) was brought in to complete the record. Guitarist John McLaughlin was also invited to join the group, but decided to pursue his solo career, instead.[]

1971-1972: Avant-garde collective

Weather Report's debut album Weather Report (1971) caused a sensation in the jazz world on its arrival, due to the various talents of the group's members and their unorthodox approach to their music.[] The album featured a softer sound than would be the case in later years, predominantly using acoustic bass, with Shorter exclusively playing soprano saxophone. It built on the avant-garde experiments which Zawinul and Shorter had pioneered with Miles Davis on Bitches Brew, including an avoidance of head-and-chorus composition in favor of continuous rhythm and movement. Down Beat magazine described the album as "music beyond category".[4]

Although Airto Moreira completed the recording of the debut Weather Report album, his existing commitments to Miles Davis prevented him from performing live with the group.[] Barbara Burton performed at Weather Report's first residency (a week of performances at Paul's Mall in Boston, prior to the album release), but could not come to business terms with Zawinul over tour plans.[] Zawinul subsequently removed both her album credit and that of Alias, leaving Moreira as the only percussionist credited. For the upcoming concerts, former Brazil '66 member Dom Um Romão was recruited as the group's new percussionist on Moreira's own recommendation.[]

After further gigs in Philadelphia, Weather Report went on to a tour of Europe.[] Following disagreements on tour, Mouzon was replaced by another former McCoy Tyner drummer, Eric Gravatt.

In 1972, Weather Report released its second album, I Sing the Body Electric. The first side featured new studio recordings, while the second side was taken from live recordings of a concert in Tokyo, featuring the full-band lineup of Zawinul, Shorter, Vitou?, Gravatt, and Um Romão (and later available in full as the Japan-only double album Live in Tokyo).[5] The studio side used extended versions of the band including various guest performers, suggesting that Weather Report was not necessarily an integral jazz band, but might possibly work as an expandable project set up to realise the music of its three composers. The album also featured Zawinul's first use of a synthesizer (an instrument with which he would become synonymous within jazz) and of sound effects.

I Sing the Body Electric also showed the first signs of a shift in the balance of control within the band, away from the more collective approach of the debut album. During the following year, this tendency would develop further.

1973: Move towards groove

On 1973's Sweetnighter, Weather Report began to abandon the primarily acoustic group improvisation format, and the band started to take a new direction. Primarily at Zawinul's instigation, Weather Report became more jazz funk- and groove-oriented, drawing more heavily on R&B influences and dense electric keyboard work while adding more structure to both the prewritten and the improvisational sections.

[Miroslav] loved funk, and he tried to play it, but he wasn't a funk player. It wasn't where he came from. He didn't connect up with how to go there. He could listen to it, talk about it, and he admired it, but that's not what came out of him, so that was something that held back where Joe wanted to go at the time I was with them. Melodically and rhythmically, Miroslav was great; what he did do, in terms of where I was coming from, was very unique. Miroslav was still playing acoustic, and it was an odd kind of a funk. It was very... interesting!

--Weather Report touring drummer Greg Errico on Miroslav Vitou?[6]

The change in approach affected the band deeply. Repetitive funk did not suit Miroslav Vitou?' talents. Zawinul judged Eric Gravatt's approach to be unsuitable for some of the new pieces he had written. Andrew White III had returned to play occasional English horn on the album, but Zawinul also employed him on bass guitar on three tracks to get the style of funk playing required.[] For similar reasons, the studio-based drummer/composer Herschel Dwellingham played drums on four of the album's six tracks, replacing Gravatt entirely on three of them: on "Non-Stop Home", Dwellingham and Gravatt played together, with Gravatt the sole drummer only on "125th Street Congress". Muruga Booker also contributed percussion to the sessions alongside Dom Um Romão.)

Gravatt took his replacement in the studio sessions badly and quit the band at the end of recording, moving to Minneapolis to join the band Natural Life. Many years later, Zawinul paid tribute to Gravatt's skills and stated that he had been the finest of the band's "pure jazz" drummers[7] as well as being "from the jazz side... my favorite of them all."[8] With Gravatt gone and Dwellingham unavailable for touring, former Sly & the Family Stone drummer Greg Errico played on the Sweetnighter tour, but did not stay with the band afterwards.

At this point, Vitou? and Zawinul found themselves at creative loggerheads, since the former preferred Weather Report's original approach and the latter wished to continue further along the road to funk. Retrospectively, Zawinul accused Vitou? of being unable to play funk convincingly (something which Greg Errico corroborated) and claimed that he had not provided enough music for the band. Vitou? countered that he had in fact brought in compositions, but that Zawinul had been unable to play them. Vitou? has also accused Zawinul of having been "a first-class manipulator" primarily interested in commercial success.[9][10] When Shorter sided with Zawinul, the original three-man partnership broke down acrimoniously and Vitou? left Weather Report, moving on to an illustrious career leading his own band and winning respect as a composer. His final contribution to Weather Report was to play bass on a single track, which appeared on the band's 1974 album Mysterious Traveller ("American Tango", which he had co-written with Zawinul).

Vitou?' departure marked the end of the first phase of Weather Report and the shift of overall creative dominance of the band to Josef Zawinul, although Shorter remained an integral, influential, and vital part of the project. Vitou? has subsequently accused both Zawinul and Shorter of having used foul play to edge him out of the band, to deny the scale of his contribution to Weather Report's history and creative approach, and to cheat him out of remuneration.[9][10]

1974-1975: Further into groove

Vitou?' replacement was the Philadelphian electric bass guitarist Alphonso Johnson (formerly a sideman for the pop-fusion player Chuck Mangione). Recruited by Shorter, Johnson was a supple player more than capable of providing the funk element which Zawinul desired. He was also an early advocate of the Chapman Stick, which he can be heard playing on some of the live Weather Report recordings of the period.

Weather Report's breakout album was 1974's Mysterious Traveller, which also featured the debut of new drummer Ishmail Wilburn. The album continued Sweetnighter's process of reducing the free-jazz elements of previous albums, but also showed a more fully developed compositional technique. Zawinul exploited improvements in synthesizer technology on the recording and began to add processed sound effects (such as cheering crowds, childlike cries and noises reminiscent of science-fiction aliens). Mysterious Traveller was the second Weather Report album to win Album of the Year at Down Beat magazine.[]

According to Zawinul, Wilburn apparently "lost heart" on tour (despite performing well in the studio). To shore up the music, the band hired another drummer, Darryl Brown, to play alongside him. At the end of the tour, both Wilburn and Brown left the band (as did Dom Um Romão) and Weather Report was, once again, drummerless.

For the next set of studio sessions, Weather Report added a new Brazilian percussionist (Alyrio Lima) and a new drummer - Chuck Bazemore of The Delfonics.[6] Bazemore turned out to be unsuitable for the band and departed early in the sessions, with none of his recorded contributions being retained. Instead, the band called in the former Herbie Hancock drummer Leon "Ndugu" Chancler, who had been working on another project in an adjacent studio.[] Ndugu recorded with Weather Report for a week and recorded all of the drum tracks for the forthcoming album. However, he declined to join as a permanent member, opting instead to continue with Santana. Johnson recommended his friend Chester Thompson (a former Frank Zappa sideman), who joined as drummer in time for the next tour.[]

The new album, Tale Spinnin', was released in 1975. It was the first Weather Report album to feature a consistent rhythm section (rather than a varied set of drummers, percussionists, and bass players) since their debut. The album also made further strides in using technological improvements in synthesizers, even making use of the gigantic studio-based TONTO array.

During the same year, Shorter also recorded Native Dancer under his own name (with the Brazilian composer and vocalist Milton Nascimento). Tale Spinnin won the Down Beat best album award for 1975 (the third Weather Report album to do so) and Native Dancer was the runner-up.

1976: In transition

Weather Report in Argentina. L to R: Shorter, Erskine, Zawinul, and Pastorius

1976's Black Market album was perhaps the most rock-oriented work which the group had produced to date. Weather Report's music had evolved further from open-ended funk jams into more melody-oriented, concise forms, which also offered a greater mass-market appeal. Zawinul further consolidated his use of keyboard synthesizers, while Shorter experimented with an early form of wind synthesizer, the Lyricon.

However, the album was recorded during yet another period of change for the group, with multiple personnel shuffles. Although Alyrio Lima played percussion on one track, he was replaced during the sessions by Don Alias (his first appearance with the group since the debut album debacle) and by Alex Acuña (a Peruvian drummer and conga player based in Las Vegas, who had played with Elvis Presley and Ike Turner, among others).[11] Alphonso Johnson was also worn out from the strain put on the rhythm by the band's frequent changes of drummer. During a break in activity halfway through the recording of Black Market, Johnson opted to leave Weather Report to play with the Billy Cobham/George Duke Band (which featured a young John Scofield on guitar).

Prior to his departure, Johnson played on all but two of the new album's tracks. His replacement was Jaco Pastorius, a virtuoso fretless bass guitarist from Florida, who had been in touch with Zawinul for several years, and who came in to play on "Cannon Ball" and his own composition "Barbary Coast". Zawinul and Shorter had assumed that Chester Thompson would be departing alongside his friend Johnson, and for the second set of sessions they replaced him (on Jaco Pastorius' recommendation) with the former Mahavishnu Orchestra drummer Narada Michael Walden. Although Walden played on several album tracks, he ultimately proved unsuitable. Thompson returned for the final Black Market sessions, but left again after failing to gel as a rhythm section with Pastorius (whose style was much busier than that of Johnson). Thompson subsequently joined Genesis as their touring drummer.

Black Market continued Weather Report's ongoing run of success, selling well and being the fourth of the band's albums to win the album of the year award from Down Beat magazine. For the subsequent tour, Alex Acuña moved from percussion to the drum kit, and Don Alias was replaced by the young Puerto Rican percussionist Manolo Badrena, who had previously played with various Latin rock bands and with Art Blakey. The band made a very well-received appearance at the Montreux Jazz Festival, which was filmed for future release.

1977-1979: Jazz-rock stars

Pastorius, reaching to accentuate his bass guitar sound with harmonics

The recruitment of Jaco Pastorius helped to push Weather Report to the height of its popularity. Already a rising star in his own right, Pastorius brought a very musical, melodic quality to the bass. He could play muscular, lightning-fast groove lines influenced by R&B or funk, as well as demonstrating an extraordinary solo control of tone and string harmonics, often sounding more like a horn player. Pastorius was also a multi-instrumentalist (contributing drums, steel pan, and mandocello to the latest recording sessions), a gifted composer (eventually responsible for some signature Weather Report pieces such as "Teen Town" and "Three Views of a Secret"), and a useful production foil for Zawinul due to his knowledge of recording studios and techniques. Finally, Pastorius' stagecraft and aggressive showmanship helped the band to bring in a new audience.

L-R: Zawinul, Pastorius, Shorter

The band's next album was 1977's acclaimed Heavy Weather, which proved to be the band's most successful recording in terms of sales, while still retaining wide critical acclaim. It contained the band's biggest hit, the propulsive and danceable "Birdland" (highlighting Pastorius' singing bass lines and Zawinul's synthesized ensemble brass), which became a pop hit and later became a jazz standard. Weather Report appeared on the Burt Sugarman-produced series The Midnight Special, performing both "Birdland" and "Teen Town". Heavy Weather dominated Weather Report's disc awards, including their last Down Beat Album of the Year award.

During this period, Pastorius' strong professional connection with Joni Mitchell (for whom he played bass throughout the latter half of the 1970s) led to another musical connection. Over the next few years, Mitchell hired the Weather Report line-up en masse (although without Zawinul in each case) to play on her studio albums Don Juan's Reckless Daughter (1977) and Mingus (1979).

Jaco Pastorius, with bass guitar in Toronto, November 1977

By 1978, the band was once again without either a full-time drummer and percussionist, with Alex Acuña having returned to Las Vegas for a career as a studio musician and Manolo Badrena having been fired for "non-musical reasons". Shorter had been focusing most of his attention and compositional ideas into his solo work, while Zawinul was sketching out ideas for a solo album of his own, which involved moving away from a raw group sound in favor of constructing a far more orchestrated and experimental studio-based recording with multiple overdubs. However, Weather Report's contract and work schedule required another album, so Zawinul's solo work was absorbed into what became Weather Report's eighth album, Mr. Gone (1978).

The studio sessions made use of a variety of drummers - Pastorius played the kit on two tracks and further contributions came from Tony Williams, Steve Gadd, and Peter Erskine (the latter an ex-Stan Kenton/Maynard Ferguson drummer recruited to the project by Pastorius). Erskine became a full member of the band for the next tour and remained with Weather Report until 1982. The album also featured guest appearances from Deniece Williams and Earth Wind and Fire leader Maurice White.

The album rose to No. 1 on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart. [12]

Notoriously, Mr. Gone (1978) received only a one-star review rating from Down Beat after a string of group releases which had all pulled a five-star rating. The group arranged for a rebuttal interview with the magazine to defend their efforts. Zawinul and Pastorius were defiant in their responses to the interviewer, Shorter more philosophical, and Erskine the most reticent of the four.

Weather Report performing in Amsterdam, in 1980

By the late '70s, Weather Report was a quartet of Zawinul, Shorter, Pastorius, and Erskine, and (for the first time) had dispensed with the auxiliary percussionist role, which had been integral since the band's inception. Instead, all four members doubled on percussion at various points in live performances. Zawinul commented that this sleeker, less crowded sound provided more listening range and made the music less chaotic now that the band were focusing more on melody and harmony.[13][14]

The larger scale and multimedia staging of the band's tours (complete with stagehands, laser and film projections) began to take on the kind of rock-star proportions mostly unknown in jazz circles. The 1979 double live album 8:30 (which won that year's Best Jazz Fusion Performance) was recorded on the Mr. Gone tour and captured the direct power and energy of this lineup of Weather Report. Zawinul would later describe this lineup as "one of the greatest bands of all time! That band was a hummer!"[15]

Between March 2 and 4, 1979, Weather Report traveled to Havana, Cuba, to participate in the historic Havana Jam festival, a break in mutual Cuban/American political hostilities, which had American artists such as Stephen Stills, the CBS Jazz All-Stars, Bonnie Bramlett, Kris Kristofferson, Rita Coolidge, and Billy Joel play alongside Cuban artists such as Irakere, Pacho Alonso, Tata Güines, and Orquesta Aragón. Another featured performance was by the Trio of Doom (a short-lived teaming of Pastorius with John McLaughlin and Tony Williams). Weather Report's performance featured in Havana Jam '79, Ernesto Juan Castellanos' documentary celebrating the event.

1980-1982: A tighter arrangement

During 1979's touring, Shorter had begun to feel sidelined by the current Weather Report's aggressive drive and by the sometimes overly macho musical interplay between Pastorius and Zawinul, which on at least one occasion squeezed him out of band performance.[] At one point, he claimed to a journalist that he would be leaving the band within a few months. In the event, Shorter resolved his major differences with his bandmates - but the near-split appeared to inform Weather Report's next development, which was a step back towards a purer jazz approach.

Drummer Thomas, left, and Shorter, performing in Amsterdam, in 1980

At the beginning of 1980, Pastorius recruited hand-drummer Bobby Thomas, Jr. (a fellow Floridan, with whom he had jammed previously) into the band. Thomas featured on the 1980 album Night Passage. A tighter and more traditional recording than previous releases, the record featured a more prominent role for Shorter, a strong element of bebop, and a nod to jazz's golden age via a high-speed cover of Duke Ellington's "Rockin' in Rhythm" (showing off Zawinul's pioneering and ever-increasing ability to create synthetic big-band sounds on his synthesizers).

By now, Pastorius was displaying signs of the mental instability and substance abuse problems that ultimately wrecked his career; and the close relationship he'd previously shared with Zawinul was becoming strained as Zawinul grew tired of Pastorius' showmanship onstage (beginning to feel that it detracted from the music). Towards the end of the year, Pastorius began working on his long-delayed second solo album (Word of Mouth) (1981) in New York, while Zawinul worked on new Weather Report material in California.

Weather Report's next album Weather Report (1982) - their second eponymous release following their 1971 debut - was recorded in 1981, although it was not released for another year. Zawinul's dominance as instrumentalist and composer (as well as group director) was even more pronounced on this album. Much of the band's music was increasingly written out rather than improvised. In the event, Pastorius spent more of his creative attention on the Word of Mouth project: his only writing for the Weather Report album being his contribution to a single, group-composed piece. Shorter (who only contributed one whole composition to the 1982 album beyond group-written work) was already taking a more philosophical approach. He later commented, "for a long time in Weather Report, I abstained. I elected not to do things."

The delay in releasing the 1982 Weather Report album had the side effect of breaking up the current line-up of the band. By late 1981, Pastorius was putting together the Word of Mouth Big Band (which included Erskine) for concert dates in Japan, on the assumption that 1982 would be a Weather Report rest year. However, previously canceled tour dates had left the band open to potentially crippling lawsuits and an obligation to play replacement concerts. When scheduled, these clashed with the Word of Mouth concerts and led to Pastorius leaving Weather Report, albeit relatively amicably. As Zawinul put it, "We had no choice. We had to find another bass player... Basically, Jaco went his way and we had to go ours."[]

Erskine's own commitment to Word of Mouth (and a subsequent summer commitment to Steps Ahead) meant that he, too, had to be replaced, while Robert Thomas, Jr., was simply dismissed. Reduced to a duo, and with tour commitments looming, Zawinul and Shorter were obliged to quickly assemble a new band.

1982-1985: A new band

On the recommendation of Micha? Urbaniak,[] Zawinul and Shorter recruited the 23-year-old drummer Omar Hakim, a talented session player and multi-instrumentalist, who had played with a variety of musicians (including Mike Mainieri, David Bowie, and Carly Simon). Hakim was immediately entrusted with recruiting the rest of the new lineup. Having failed to secure Marcus Miller as bass guitarist,[] he selected Victor Bailey (a recent graduate from the Berklee College of Music, with whom Hakim had played while backing Miriam Makeba). Hakim also recruited percussion/concertina player José Rossy, with whom he had worked in Labelle.

The new Weather Report went straight onto tour. The music developed on tour was later recorded for the 1983 album Procession, which showed the band beginning to make something of a return to the "world music" approach which it had pioneered in the mid-1970s, and featured a cameo appearance from The Manhattan Transfer.[]

Continuing with the same lineup, Weather Report recorded the Domino Theory album in 1984, with Hakim stepping into Jaco Pastorius' old role as Zawinul's co-producer. The album was Weather Report's first album to employ drum machines and samplers (the Emulator), deepening the band's involvement with cutting-edge music technology) and also featured a guest vocal from Carl Anderson. However, by this point in time the band's profile was beginning to suffer due to the revival of more traditionally styled jazz, which made it harder to market jazz fusion.[]

Percussionist and singer Mino Cinélu replaced Rossy in the spring of 1984 and appeared on the band's video release Live in Japan (reissued on DVD in 2007). The same lineup played on 1985's Sportin' Life album, which included a cover of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" and appearances by Bobby McFerrin and Carl Anderson. In keeping with Zawinul's technological curiosity, the album heralded the arrival of MIDI, which allowed him to rapidly and inexpensively write, demonstrate, and record music via a set of synthesizers.

By the time of the release of Sportin' Life Shorter and Zawinul had opted not to tour the material.[] Instead, they took a break for long-delayed solo projects. Despite Weather Report's inactivity (during which Hakim joined Sting's band and Bailey worked with Steps Ahead), Zawinul and Shorter still claimed that the band was still a going concern.

1986: Final split

Weather Report's contract with Columbia Records expired in 1986, leaving both parties open to other options.[] By this point, both Zawinul and Shorter were beginning to realise that the refreshing nature of other projects was more satisfying than Weather Report work, and both generally felt that the band had run its course.[]

Since Columbia Records was contractually owed one more Weather Report record,[] the band delivered it in the shape of their 1986 album This Is This!, which was assembled during gaps in various players' schedules.[] With Hakim now too busy with Sting to play drums on more than one of the album's tracks, Zawinul recruited Peter Erskine to play the rest. Cinelu and Bailey were both flown in for a few days to record, and contributed one composition each, with the remainder being written by Zawinul. For two tracks, Zawinul brought in guitarist Carlos Santana as a contributor. However, Shorter spent barely any more time on the project than Bailey or Cinelu did: he contributed no compositions at all, and was not even present on many of the album's tracks.

In February 1986, the San Diego Union-Tribune announced that Shorter had left the band to concentrate on solo work.[16] Having reluctantly agreed with Shorter that he would no longer use the band name, Zawinul then ended Weather Report.

1986-present: After Weather Report

Having split the band, Zawinul promptly attempted to reform it - after a fashion - as Weather Update. For this project, he reunited with recent Weather Report alumni Victor Bailey, Mino Cinélu and Peter Erskine, but replaced Shorter with guitarist John Scofield. This lineup was short-lived, with Los Angeles session guitarist Steve Khan and former Weather Report percussionist Robert Thomas, Jr. replacing Scofield and Cinelu prior to live appearances.[17] Weather Update toured in 1986 and 1987 before Zawinul dissolved the band. From 1998 onwards, Zawinul went on to enjoy a successful nineteen-year career leading the world music/jazz ensemble The Zawinul Syndicate (which has continued, following Zawinul's death, as The Syndicate).

Rather than form another collective band, Wayne Shorter concentrated on his solo career and on work as a bandleader, which continues to the present day.

In spite of the band's enduring popularity, a Weather Report reunion never occurred. The nearest that the band ever came to reuniting was when Zawinul and Shorter both played live with Miles Davis on July 10, 1991, in Paris (the only time when Zawinul is known to have shared a live stage with Davis).[5] A projected mid-'90s reunion CD for Verve never materialized; according to Zawinul, disappointing sales for Shorter's CD High Life may have played a part in ending the idea.[18]

Three of the band's members have since died. Zawinul himself died on September 11, 2007, in Vienna from skin cancer (Merkel cell carcinoma).[19][20] He was predeceased by mid-period bass player Jaco Pastorius, who died on September 21, 1987, following a fatal beating in his hometown of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Pastorius' successor on bass guitar, Victor Bailey, died on November 11, 2016 (apparently from complications from Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis).[21][22]



Releases since the band's breakup

A "post band" Weather Report double CD called Live and Unreleased was made available in 2002, featuring vintage live recordings made during the late 1970s/early 1980s with various personnel. In September 2006, Columbia/Legacy released a Weather Report boxed set, Forecast: Tomorrow. It includes three CDs of mostly previously released material (from 1970 to 1985, excluding This is This!) and a DVD of the entire September 29, 1978, performance (with Erskine and Pastorius) in Offenbach, Germany, not previously available. A DVD video of the 1976 Montreux Jazz Festival performance (featuring the Heavy Weather lineup of Pastorius, Acuna, and Badrena) has become available, as well. Columbia/Legacy have also re-released the 1984 Live in Japan concert on DVD.

In 2011, the Zawinul estate, in conjunction with an independent label, released a 40th-anniversary commemorative trilogy of previously unavailable Weather Report live shows: In March Live in Berlin 1975 was released both on vinyl and as a CD/DVD set; in June the Live in Offenbach 1978 DVD was re-released together with a previously unavailable double CD of the complete show; in October Live in Cologne 1983 was released as both DVD and double CD.


In a career spanning 16 years from 1970 to 1986, Weather Report released 14 studio albums, two live albums, and five singles. Several other live and compilation albums have been released after the break-up of the band, and many of Weather Report's tracks appear on Various Artists albums.[23][24]

Main albums

This table shows the main albums released by Weather Report. For more detailed information, please see: Weather Report discography.

Year Album
1971 Weather Report
  • First studio album
  • Number 7 on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart (1971)
  • #191 on the Billboard 200 chart (1971)
  • Jazz Album of the Year at the 36th Down Beat Readers Poll
  • Grand Prix Award, Best Band of the Year, and Best Selling Jazz Album of the Year on the Swing Journal magazine
1972 I Sing the Body Electric
  • Second studio album
  • Number 147 on the Billboard 200 chart (1972)
Live in Tokyo
  • Live album recorded on January 13, 1972 at the Shibuya Kokaido Hall, Tokyo, Japan
1973 Sweetnighter
  • Third studio album
  • Number two on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart (1973)
  • Number 41 on the Billboard Top R&B Albums chart (1973)
  • Number 85 on the Billboard 200 chart (1973)
  • Jazz Group of the Year at the 38th Down Beat Readers Poll
1974 Mysterious Traveller
  • Fourth studio album
  • Number two on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart (1974)
  • Number 31 on the Billboard Top R&B Albums chart (1974)
  • Number 46 on the Billboard 200 chart (1974)
  • Jazz Album of the Year and Jazz Group of the Year at the 39th Down Beat Readers Poll
1975 Tale Spinnin'
  • 5th studio album
  • Number three on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart (1975)
  • Number 12 on the Billboard Top R&B Albums chart (1975)
  • Number 31 on the Billboard 200 chart (1975)
  • Jazz Album of the Year and Jazz Group of the Year at the 40th Down Beat Readers Poll
1976 Black Market
  • Sixth studio album
  • Number two on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart (1976)
  • Number 20 on the Billboard Top R&B Albums chart (1976)
  • Number 42 on the Billboard 200 chart (1976)
  • Jazz Album of the Year and Jazz Group of the Year at the 41st Down Beat Readers Poll
1977 Heavy Weather
  • Seventh studio album
  • Number one on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart (1977)
  • Number 30 on the Billboard 200 chart (1977)
  • Number 33 on the Billboard Top R&B Albums chart (1977)
  • Jazz Album of the Year and Jazz Group of the Year at the 42nd Down Beat Readers Poll
  • Record of the Year at the Jazz Forum People's Poll
  • Swing Journal's Silver Disc Award
  • Playboy's Jazz Record and Jazz Band of the Year
  • Record World's Instrumental Group of the Year
  • Cash Box's Record of the Year
  • Grammy nomination, Best Instrumental Composition, "Birdland"
  • Grammy nomination, Best Jazz Soloist, Jaco Pastorius, Heavy Weather
  • Grammy award, The Manhattan Transfer version of "Birdland"
1978 Mr. Gone
  • Eighth studio album
  • Number one on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart (1978)
  • Number 52 on the Billboard 200 chart (1978)
  • Jazz Group of the Year at the 43rd Down Beat Readers Poll
1979 8:30
  • Live album recorded in January-February 1979 during the 8:30 tour except for tracks 10-13, which were recorded in studio
  • Number three on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart (1979)
  • Number 47 on the Billboard 200 chart (1979)
  • Jazz Group of the Year at the 44th Down Beat Readers Poll
  • Grammy Award for Best Jazz Fusion Performance of 1979 (awarded in 1980)[25]
1980 Night Passage
  • Live album recorded on July 12 and 13, 1980 at The Complex in Los Angeles, California
  • Number two on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart (1980)
  • Number 57 on the Billboard 200 chart (1980)
1982 Weather Report
  • Ninth studio album
  • Number five on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart (1982)
  • Number 68 on the Billboard 200 chart (1982)
1983 Procession
  • 10th studio album
  • Number three on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart (1983)
  • Number 46 on the Billboard Top R&B Albums chart (1983)
  • Number 96 on the Billboard 200 chart (1983)
1984 Domino Theory
  • 11th studio album
  • Number five on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart (1984)
  • Number 136 on the Billboard 200 chart (1984)
1985 Sportin' Life
  • 12th studio album
  • Number 13 on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart (1985)
  • Number 191 on The Billboard 200 chart (1985)
1986 This Is This!
  • 13th and last studio album
  • Number 13 on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart (1986)
  • Number 195 on the Billboard 200 chart (1986)
2002 Live and Unreleased
  • Live recordings taken from November 25, 1975 to June 3, 1983
  • Number 21 on the Billboard Top Contemporary Jazz Albums chart (2002)
2006 Forecast: Tomorrow
  • 3-CD + 1-DVD career-spanning box set
  • Number 18 on the Billboard Top Contemporary Jazz Albums chart (2006)
2015 The Legendary Live Tapes: 1978-1981
  • 4-CD box set


  1. ^ Nicholson, Stuart. "Jazz-Rock: A History". Schirmer Books. 1998.
  2. ^ Silvert, Conrad. "Joe Zawinul: Wayfaring Genius - Part II". Down Beat. June 15, 1978.
  3. ^ Jung, Fred. "A Fireside Chat with Miroslav Vitous" (page 3). All About Jazz ( October 10, 2003.
  4. ^ (Dan Morgenstern, Down Beat, May 13, 1971).
  5. ^ a b Allmusic Biography
  6. ^ a b Glasser, Brian. "In a Silent Way". Sanctuary Publishing Limited. 2001.
  7. ^ Armbruster, Greg. "Joe Zawinul Interview". Keyboard Magazine. March 1984.
  8. ^ Woodard, Josef. "Weather Report: Storm Surge". Down Beat. January 2001. pp. 22-28.
  9. ^ a b Kot, Jake. "Conversation with Miroslav Vitous" Archived July 7, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. Bass Player Magazine. August 1, 2009.
  10. ^ a b Prasad, Anil. "Miroslav Vitous: Freeing the muse". Innerviews webzine. 2004.
  11. ^ 1977 Weather Report Tour Program
  12. ^ Billboard Jazz Albums. 90. Billboard Magazine. December 2, 1978. p. 56.
  13. ^ Silvert, Conrad. "Joe Zawinul: Wayfaring Genius--Part II". Down Beat. June 15, 1978.
  14. ^ Hunt, Dennis. "Weather Report's Cloudy Image". Los Angeles Times. November 19, 1978.
  15. ^ Jackson, Blair. "Fusion Giants Weather Report". BAM #157. June 3, 1983.
  16. ^ Varga, George. "Shorter Departs Weather Report". San Diego Union-Tribune. February 28, 1986.
  17. ^ Bianchi, Curt. "Weather Update: Zawinul in Transition". Zawinul Online website. 2001.
  18. ^ Prasad, Anil. "Joe Zawinul: Man of the people". Innerviews webzine. 1997.
  19. ^ McDonald, Ray (September 12, 2007). "Keyboardist Joe Zawinul Dies". VOA News. Voice of America. Archived from the original on January 16, 2009. Retrieved 2009.
  20. ^ Schudel, Matt (September 12, 2007). "Joe Zawinul, 75; Keyboardist Was a Pioneer of Jazz Fusion". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010.
  21. ^ "Victor Bailey, RIP". Retrieved 2016.
  22. ^ "Health Update, Sept. 27th 2016". Retrieved 2016.
  23. ^ "Weather Report > Discography > Main Albums" (XHTML). AllMusic. Retrieved .
  24. ^ Bianchi, Curt (2005). "Weather Report: The Annotated Discography". Retrieved .
  25. ^ "Weather Report > Charts & Awards > Grammy Awards" (XHTML). AllMusic. Retrieved . Note: GRAMMY information courtesy of The National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences

External links

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