Biography All Music GuideWikipedia
Group Members: Victor Bailey, Dom Um Romao, Benita, Michel, Peter Erskine, Richard Torres, Alan Pasqua, Dave Carpenter, Peter Erskine, Bob Sheppard, Dave Carpenter, Peter Erskine, Alan Pasqua, Dave Carpenter, Michel Benita, Nguyên Lê & Peter Erskine, Michel Benita, Nguyên Lê & Peter Erskine, Peter Erskine, Tim Hagans & The Norrbotten Big Band, Omar Hakim, Alphonse Mouzon, Welton Gite, Jaco Pastorius, Wayne Shorter (NO), Wayne Shorter, Wayne Shortet Quintet With Wynton Kelly & Lee Morgan, Miroslav Vitous, Miroslav Vitous, Kenny Kirkland, Jon Christensen & John Surman, Miroslav Vitous Group & Michel Portal, Miroslav Vitous Group, Airto Moreira, Airto Moreira / Flora Purim / Joe Farrell, Airto, Airto Moreira and Flora Purim, Airto Moreira & The Gods of Jazz, Alex Acuna & The Unknowns, Joe Zawinul, Zawinul,joe & The Zawinul Synd, Joe Zawinul Trio, Joe Zawinul & The Zawinul Syndicate, Dave Holland, Mino Cinelu, Kevin Eubanks, Mino Cinelu / Kevin Eubanks / Dave Holland, Alphonso Johnson, Narada Michael Walden, Peter Erskine
All Music Guide:
Weather Report started out as a jazz equivalent of what the rock world in 1970 was calling a "supergroup." But unlike most of the rock supergroups, this one not only kept going for a good 15 years, it more than lived up to its billing, practically defining the state of the jazz-rock art throughout almost all of its run. Weather Report also anticipated and contributed to the North American interest in world music rhythms and structures, prodded by keyboardist/co-founder Joe Zawinul. And WR, like many of jazz's great long-lived groups, proved to be an incubator for several future leaders who passed in and out of the band in a never-ending series of revolving-door personnel changes. The original members of the band were Zawinul, Wayne Shorter (saxophones), Miroslav Vitous (electric bass), Airto Moreira (percussion) and Alphonse Mouzon (drums), with only Zawinul and (until 1985) Shorter remaining in place throughout the band's lifespan. Zawinul, Shorter and Moreira all had experience playing in and influencing the studio and live electric bands of Miles Davis -- and at first, WR was a direct extension of Miles' In a Silent Way/Bitches Brew period, with free-floating collective improvisation and interplay, combining elements of jazz, rock, funk, Latin and other ethnic musics.
With the release of Sweetnighter in 1972, Zawinul's influence upon the band's direction began to deepen; the groove became more important, structures were imposed upon the material (though the group continued its freewheeling interplay in live gigs). When the innovative bassist Jaco Pastorius replaced Alphonso Johnson in 1976, WR entered its most popular phase, with Pastorius becoming a flamboyant third lead voice, Shorter's sax receding into more epigrammatic form, and Zawinul rediscovering his commercial touch and sharpening his electronic sophistication. The best-selling Heavy Weather album (1977) actually served up a hit song that became a jazz standard ("Birdland"), and with the entry of Peter Erskine on drums (1978), the group finally had a stable lineup for awhile.
Contrary to accepted wisdom, the departures of Pastorius and Erskine in 1982 led to a recharging of WR's batteries; their replacements Victor Bailey (bass), Omar Hakim (drums), Jose Rossy and later, Mino Cinelu (percussion) were more amenable to Zawinul's deepening inclinations for Third World rhythms, sounds and textures. This edition of WR rattled off three more albums, including the outstanding Procession. But Shorter, who had gradually ceded nearly total artistic control to Zawinul, was getting restless; he took a leave of absence in 1985 and later that year, left WR for good. This Is This (1985), in which Erskine returns and Shorter plays only a limited role, was WR's swan song. Zawinul would tour in 1986 with a revamped version called Weather Update (a prelude to the keyboardist's own Zawinul Syndicate), and there was talk in 1996 about Zawinul and Shorter reuniting in the studio for a new edition of WR, but Zawinul later deflated the speculation.
Wikipedia:This article is about the band. For other uses, see Weather report (disambiguation).
Weather Report was an American jazz fusion band of the 1970s and early 1980s. The band was co-led by the Austrian-born keyboard player Joe Zawinul and the American saxophonist Wayne Shorter (and, initially, by Czech bass player Miroslav Vitouš). Other prominent members at various points in the band's lifespan included Jaco Pastorius, Peter Erskine, Alex Acuña, Alphonso Johnson, Victor Bailey, Airto Moreira and Chester Thompson.
Alongside Miles Davis's electric bands, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever, and Headhunters, Weather Report is considered to be one of the earliest pre-eminent jazz fusion bands. As a continuous working unit, Weather Report outlasted all of its contemporaries despite (or perhaps because of) frequent changes of personnel, with a career lasting sixteen years between 1970 and 1986.
Over a sixteen-year career Weather Report's music explored various areas, 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 pre-structured 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 pre-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
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 would generally add 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, though, he chose a more abstract, sometimes atonal and "free jazz" style music, opposed to the sometimes flamboyant tunes of Weather Report (written either by Zawinul, Shorter 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 Vitouš experimented with electronic effects pedals (as generally used by rock guitarists) with Zawinul using them on electric piano and synthesizers and Vitouš 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 melodic soloing fretless bass guitar and 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, Weather Report's instrumentation always included both a traditional trap set drummer and a second percussionist. For its first eight years of existence the group had difficulty finding a permanent drummer, moving through an approximate average of 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 that played with the band for more than two years.Nicholson, Stuart. "Jazz-Rock: A History". Schirmer Books. 1998.
ContentsHistory1.1 Inception and formation1.2 Debut and first concerts1.3 Move towards jazz funk1.4 Split with Miroslav Vitouš1.5 Departure of Alphonso Johnson and arrival of Jaco Pastorius
Inception and formation
Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter first met and became 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 would later join Shorter in contributing to the initial fusion music recordings of Miles Davis, and both men were part of the studio groups, which recorded the key Davis albums In a Silent Way (1969) and Bitches Brew (1970). In consequence, 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 in order 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…")
Zawinul and Shorter recruited another Miles Davis associate, the classically trained Czech-born bass player Miroslav Vitouš, who'd previously played with Zawinul as well as with Herbie Mann, Bob Brookmeyer, Stan Getz and Chick Corea (Vitous has subsequently claimed that it was in fact Shorter and himself that founded Weather Report, with Shorter bringing in Zawinul afterwards.) All three men composed, and would form the core of the project. To complete the band, the trio brought in former McCoy Tyner drummer Alphonse Mouzon and set about looking for a full-time auxiliary percussionist as they began to record their debut album. The initial recruits were session player Don Alias and symphony orchestra percussionist Barbara Burton. During recording, Alias quarreled with Zawinul - allegedly due to the latter being too dictatorial over the percussion approach - and the innovative Brazilian percussionist Airto Moreira (yet another Miles Davis alumnus) was brought in to complete the record. John McLaughlin was also invited to join the group, but decided to pursue his solo career instead.
Debut and first concerts
Weather Report's self-titled 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. The band later employed the use of synthesizers, instruments, and other effects, but the first album is still considered a classic of early fusion. It built on the avant-garde experiments, which Zawinul and Shorter had pioneered with Miles Davis on Bitches Brew (1970), including an avoidance of head-and-chorus composition in favor of continuous rhythm and movement, but taking the music further. To emphasize the group's rejection of standard methodology, the album opened with the inscrutable avant-garde atmospheric piece "Milky Way" (created by Shorter's extremely muted saxophone inducing vibrations in Zawinul's piano strings while the latter pedaled the instrument). Down Beat magazine described the album as "music beyond category" (Dan Morgenstern, Down Beat, May 13, 1971) and awarded it the title of "Album of the Year" in the magazine's polls that year.
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 soon replaced by another former McCoy Tyner drummer, Eric Gravatt.
In 1972, Weather Report released its second album, I Sing the Body Electric, a release divided between different aspects of the group. The first side featured new studio recordings, while the second side was taken from live recordings of a concert in Tokyo, Japan, featuring the full band lineup of Zawinul, Shorter, Vitouš, Gravatt and Um Romão (and later available in full as the Japan-only double album Live in Tokyo).
The studio side featured compositions, which 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. One track, "The Moors", featured a lengthy twelve-string guitar intro performed entirely by guitarist Ralph Towner (of Oregon and the Paul Winter Consort). Zawinul's "Unknown Soldier" featured performances by jazz/classical trumpet veteran Wilmer Wise and singers Yolande Bavan, Joshie Armstrong and Chapman Roberts (as well as English horn contributed by Andrew White III, a cross-disciplinary multi-instrumentalist, who was not only the oboist for the American Ballet Theatre Orchestra but also played bass guitar for both Stevie Wonder and The Fifth Dimension). 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 (1972) 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. The following year would see this tendency develop further, primarily at the expense of Miroslav Vitouš.
Move towards jazz funk
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. The last song on the album, Shorter's "Non-Stop Home", foreshadowed the band's developing hallmark sound (which would be even more in evidence on their next album).
[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 Vitouš
The change in approach would affect the band deeply. Playing more repetitive, funky bass vamps did not suit Miroslav Vitouš' particular talents, and Zawinul also judged Eric Gravatt's approach to be unsuitable for certain 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 in order 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 would pay tribute to Gravatt's skills and state that he had been the finest of the band's "pure jazz" drummers as well as being "from the jazz side... my favorite of them all."
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.
Split with Miroslav Vitouš
Zawinul wished to continue further along the road to funk and was at creative loggerheads with Miroslav Vitouš, who preferred Weather Report's original approach. Retrospectively, Zawinul would accuse Vitouš of being unable to play funk convincingly (something which Greg Errico would corroborate) and claim that he had not provided enough music for the band. Vitouš would counter that he had in fact brought in compositions but that Zawinul had been unable to play them. Vitouš has also accused Zawinul of having been "a first class manipulator" primarily interested in commercial success (potentially at the expense of the band's music).
When Shorter sided with Zawinul the original three-man partnership broke down acrimoniously and Vitouš left Weather Report. His final contribution to the band was to play bass on a single track, which appeared on the band's next album Mysterious Traveller ("American Tango", which he'd co-written with Zawinul). Vitouš would go on to an illustrious career as a composer and to lead his own band. He 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.
Vitouš' 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.
Miroslav Vitouš' replacement was the Philadelphian electric bass guitarist Alphonso Johnson (formerly a sideman for the smooth-jazz 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 (although on the title track and "Nubian Sundance" his playing was doubled by that of Skip Hadden). 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 (taken from a Rose Bowl football game), childlike cries (Zawinul's own son recorded in their home) and noises reminiscent of science-fiction aliens. Mysterious Traveller was the second of Weather Report's albums to win Down Beat's "Album of the Year" award and the first in their unprecedented run of four such consecutive awards.
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, drummer-less.
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. 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 and was considered to be Weather Report's most solid album to date. Ndugu had been well suited to Zawinul's funk approach and his reliability during the sessions had made this 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 utilizing technological improvements in synthesizers, even making use of the gigantic studio-based TONTO array. Conversely, it also showcased Wayne Shorter's playing to the extent of containing more saxophone solos than any other Weather Report album in the band's entire career.
During the same year, Shorter also recorded the seminal and well received Latin-jazz Native Dancer under his own name (with the Brazilian composer and vocalist Milton Nascimento). Zawinul and Shorter's continued dominance of the American jazz scene was emphasized, when 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.
Departure of Alphonso Johnson and arrival of Jaco Pastorius
By 1976's Black Market album, 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. The new album was also perhaps the most rock-oriented work, which the group had produced to date, in part due to Chester Thompson's presence in the lineup.
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'd played with Elvis Presley and Ike Turner, among others). Alphonso Johnson was also worn out from the band's frequent changes of drummer and the strain that this put on the rhythm section. During a break in activity halfway through the recording of Black Market, Johnson opted to leave Weather Report in order 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 (1976) sessions, but left again after failing to gel as a rhythm section with Pastorius (whose style was much busier than that of Johnson).
Black Market (1976) 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.Silvert, Conrad. "Joe Zawinul: Wayfaring Genius - Part II". Down Beat. June 15, 1978. Jung, Fred. "A Fireside Chat with Miroslav Vitous" (page 3). All About Jazz (allaboutjazz.com). October 10, 2003. Allmusic Biography Glasser, Brian. "In a Silent Way". Sanctuary Publishing Limited. 2001. Armbruster, Greg. "Joe Zawinul Interview". Keyboard Magazine. March 1984. Woodard, Josef. "Weather Report: Storm Surge". Down Beat. January 2001. pp. 22–28. Kot, Jake. "Conversation with Miroslav Vitous". Bass Player Magazine. August 1, 2009. Prasad, Anil. "Miroslav Vitous: Freeing the muse". Innerviews webzine. 2004. 1977 Weather Report Tour Program
ContentsThe Jaco Pastorius years (1976-1981)1.1 Rock star jazz tours1.2 Night Passage (1980) and Weather Report (1982)1.3 Departure of Pastorius, Erskine and Thomas
The Jaco Pastorius years (1976-1981)
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.
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 would dominate 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 would hire 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).
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 would become a full member of the band for the next tour and would remain with Weather Report until 1982. The album also featured vocal contributions from Deniece Williams and Earth Wind and Fire leader Maurice White.
Notoriously, Mr. Gone (1978) received only a 1-star review rating from Down Beat magazine after a string of group releases, which had all pulled a 5-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.
Rock star jazz tours
By now 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 would comment that this sleeker, less crowded sound provided more listening range and made the music less chaotic now that the band were now focusing more on melody and harmony.
The larger scale and multimedia staging of the band's tours (complete with multiple 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!"
Between March 2–4, 1979, Weather Report traveled to Havana, Cuba, to participate in the historic Havana Jam festival, a break in mutual Cuban/American political hostilities, which saw 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 (in which Pastorius played alongside John McLaughlin and Tony Williams). Weather Report's performance featured in Havana Jam '79, Ernesto Juan Castellanos' documentary celebrating the event.
During the year's touring, Shorter began to feel sidelined by the current Weather Report's aggressive drive and 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.
Night Passage (1980) and Weather Report (1982)
At the beginning of 1980, Pastorius recruited hand-drummer Bobby Thomas Jr. (a fellow Floridan, whom he'd jammed with previously) into the band. Thomas featured on 1980s Night Passage album. 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, which would ultimately wreck his career, and the close relationship between him and Zawinul was becoming strained as Zawinul 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 1970 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 (1981) project, with 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 that "for a long time in Weather Report, I abstained. I elected not to do things."
Departure of Pastorius, Erskine and Thomas
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. Down to a duo and with tour commitments looming, Zawinul and Shorter were obliged to quickly assemble a new band.Silvert, Conrad. "Joe Zawinul: Wayfaring Genius--Part II". Down Beat. June 15, 1978. Hunt, Dennis. "Weather Report's Cloudy Image". Los Angeles Times. November 19, 1978. Jackson, Blair. "Fusion Giants Weather Report". BAM #157. June 3, 1983.
Recruiting a new band
On the recommendation of Michał 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 rhythm section. Having failed to secure Marcus Miller as bass guitarist, he selected Victor Bailey (a recent graduate from the Berklee College of Music, whom Hakim had played with while backing Miriam Makeba). Hakim also recruited percussion/concertina player José Rossy, whom he'd worked with in Labelle.
The new Weather Report went straight onto tour, where they were received well by audiences and critics as a band, which had gained in subtlety and integrity whatever they had sacrificed in power and attack. Zawinul would profess himself to be very pleased with the lineup. 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", which it had pioneered in the mid-1970s and featured a cameo appearance from The Manhattan Transfer. The consistent, carnivalesque atmosphere of Procession (1983) led it to be praised by Down Beat for its "unity and joy" (John Diliberto, Down Beat, June 1983) and it has come to be seen as one of the best Weather Report albums.
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), furthering developing the band's involvement with technology, and also featured a guest vocal from Carl Anderson. Critics, however, queried the band's lack of development or musical innovation, and speculated that this might be connected to a lack of creative tension and to Zawinul's now-entirely unchallenged dominance. The band was also beginning to suffer from the revival of more traditionally styled jazz at the time, 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 entirely suited Zawinul's compositional and recording methods by allowing him to rapidly and inexpensively write, demo and record music via a set of synthesizers. Critics noted that Shorter seemed more suited to this album than he had to its predecessor, contributing more; and the album was praised for its energetic compositions.
By the time of the album's release, Shorter and Zawinul had opted not to tour the material. Instead, they would take a break for long-delayed solo projects. The principals claimed that the band was still together (despite Hakim's involvement with Sting's band and Bailey's with Steps Ahead), but it was also notable that Weather Report's contract with Columbia Records had just expired, leaving both parties open to other options.
Despite Zawinul and Shorter's claims, Sportin' Life (1985) was in effect the last proper Weather Report record, as both were finding that the refreshing nature of other projects was more satisfying and generally felt that the band had run its course. However, it turned out that Columbia Records was contractually owed one more Weather Report record, resulting in the 1986 creation of This Is This!
In comparison to previous records, This Is This! (1986) was assembled during gaps in various players' schedules (Zawinul has referred to the album having been put together on "holiday" time). With Omar Hakim now too busy with Sting to play 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: both also contributed one composition each, with the remainder being written by Zawinul.
Significantly, Shorter spent little more time on the project than Bailey or Cinelu, contributed no compositions at all, and was not even present on many of the album's tracks: Zawinul attempted to compensate for this by bringing in guitarist Carlos Santana to contribute. On release the album received a disappointing review from the critics (including several pannings) and band members have subsequently admitted that it was a substandard release.
Split and Weather Update
By February 1986, Weather Report was over, a fact confirmed by a story in the San Diego Union-Tribune announcing that Shorter had left the band to concentrate on solo work.
Having reluctantly agreed with Shorter that he would no longer use the band name, Zawinul attempted to reform the Sportin' Life lineup (minus Shorter but adding guitarist John Scofield) under the new name Weather Update. In the event, guitarist Steve Khan and former Weather Report percussionist Robert Thomas Jr. replaced Scofield and Cinelu respectively. Weather Update toured to high expectations but unfavourable critical responses, and Zawinul dissolved the band in 1987. (A Weather Update DVD – Joe Zawinul: Weather Update - was released in 2005). Zawinul would go on to form the world music/jazz ensemble Zawinul Syndicate.Varga, George. "Shorter Departs Weather Report". San Diego Union-Tribune. February 28, 1986.
Releases since the band's breakup
In spite of the band's continued popularity, there was never a Weather Report reunion. 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).
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 3 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.
Zawinul died on September 11, 2007 in Vienna from skin cancer (Merkel cell carcinoma). Before that, the mid-period bass player Jaco Pastorius died on September 21, 1987, following a fatal beating in his hometown of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
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.Cite error: The named reference ALLMUSIC was invoked but never defined (see the help page). McDonald, Ray (September 12, 2007). "Keyboardist Joe Zawinul Dies". VOA News (Voice of America). Retrieved January 2, 2009. Schudel, Matt (September 12, 2007). "Joe Zawinul, 75; Keyboardist Was a Pioneer of Jazz Fusion". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 6, 2010.