(Columbia/Legacy, 88875006192. 3CD and DVD set. Review by Andy Boeckstaens)
Forecast: Tomorrow is an attractive compilation of music by Weather Report, covering its entire existence between 1971 and 1985. The 37 CD tracks come in roughly chronological order, and – not counting the orchestral and choral participants – showcase around 40 musicians. The DVD is of a concert filmed during a European tour in the autumn of 1978.
The opening pieces on CD1 pre-date Weather Report and illustrate its genesis: an excerpt of Experience in E shows keyboard player Joe Zawinul with the quintet of Cannonball Adderley; saxophonist Wayne Shorter is heard in his own band with Super Nova, and The Miles Davis-led In a Silent Way features both.
Zawinul and Shorter are the only constants throughout a dazzling, diverse adventure that begins with a duet, Milky Way. Eurydice has asymmetrical interplay between them, and terrific drums by Alphonse Mouzon. Orange Lady, with Miroslav Vitous in unison with Shorter, is stunning. Drummer Peter Erskine, who was to become a mainstay of the band for three years from 1978, describes the album “I Sing the Body Electric” as “like a postcard from the future”; Unknown Soldier and Second Sunday in August – the latter powered by Eric Gravatt – prove his point.
The second disc spans the middle period. It encompasses the tenure of bassists Alphonso Johnson and Jaco Pastorius, and the lineage of drummers includes Darryl Brown, Chester Thompson and Alex Acuña. A furious and incessant rhythmic groove by Brown and percussionist Dom Um Romão distinguishes the long, live take of Nubian Sundance. Cannon Ball is Zawinul’s tribute to his former (then recently-deceased) boss, and Shorter’s restless Sightseeing is arguably the “jazziest” track of the lot. Weather Report’s greatest hit, Birdland, deserves its fame and remains an irresistible joy on many levels.
Compositional duty is almost entirely the preserve of Zawinul and Shorter. But Pastorius’ lovely waltz Three Views of a Secret is a highlight of CD3; and his instrumental dexterity comes to the fore on Shorter’s Port of Entry, which is also notable for the work of percussionist Robert Thomas Jr. The pairing of Victor Bailey and Omar Hakim gives real pizzazz to the selections from “Procession”, “Domino Theory” and “Sportin’ Life”, on which Shorter sounds rejuvenated. Face on the Barroom Floor is a late classic from a percussionless quartet. The closing, DJ Logic remix of 125th Street Congress – with added vocals – is incongruous and lacks the trippy charm of the 1973 original which appears on the first disc.
The DVD – recorded at the Offenbach Stadthalle, Frankfurt – makes a superb souvenir for anyone who heard the group in person. It’s certainly not perfect: the visual quality is variable; the audio synching is slightly awry; the gig probably took place the day after the date stated (28th September 1978), and the performance itself is surprisingly unpolished at times. But this edition of Weather Report may be one of the finest. Zawinul is typically studious, Shorter a bit edgy; Pastorius and Erskine are bursting with energy and toil shirtless for the last 30 minutes. Together they produce two hours of glorious music, including A Remark You Made and Teen Town: wondrous creations that do not surface elsewhere in the anthology.
The presentation of this set (which was originally issued in 2006) is good, once you get past the bizarre image on the cover and work out how the discs are retained in, and released from, their fiddly trays. With an introduction by Bob Belden, the 100-page booklet incorporates notes on the concert DVD by Erskine, an invaluable essay by Hal Miller and photos of the musicians and record sleeves.
Five hours of music could be too much for newcomers, and more experienced listeners might contend that this collection falls short of being a thorough retrospective. No matter. These gleaming sounds from the irreplaceable Weather Report will be a source of enduring pleasure for a wide audience.