Weather Report – Heavy Weather – Columbia Records/ORG Ltd. Edition 180-gram audiophile 45 rpm (2 discs) Original Recording Group 113 [10/18/11] ****:
(Joe Zawinul – piano, synthesizers, Rhodes piano, melodic; guitar, tabla, vocals; Wayne Shorter – soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone; Jaco Pastorius – bass, mandocello, drums, steel drums; Alex Acuna – drums, congas tom tom, hand clap; Manolo Badrena – tambourine, congas, vocals, congas, percussion)
Heavy Weather was the seventh release for Weather Report. It would prove to be their greatest commercial success, rising to No. 1 on the Billboard charts and earning the Downbeat Magazine Album Of The Year. The core of the prior ensembles was comprised of keyboardist Joe Zawinul (Cannonball Adderly) and saxophonist Wayne Shorter (Art Blakey). Both contributed to the electric reincarnation of the Miles Davis Quintet as a fusion jazz artist, and established themselves as superior jazz composers. For this landmark album, bassist extraordinaire Jaco Pastorius joined the group, creating a third “voice” in instrumental playing and composition.
Relying on the quirky bebop/fusion/pop structures, the album embodies the upbeat energy of ‘70s fusion. Side A opens with the iconic (and future classic) “Birdland”. Against a charging fretless bass and acoustic piano, a sustained rhythm pattern emerges. In hypnotic repetition, there is a bop break highlighted by Shorter’s brassy restrained tenor. The transition to a very melodic, expressive chorus brings the piece to a vibrant conclusion. Zawinul (who deftly integrates the Arp 2600 and Olberheim Polyphonic synths) has written something that rivals his earlier opus “Mercy, Mercy Me”, recorded with the Cannonball Adderly group. Another Zawinul number, “The Juggler” utilizes a varying tempo with idiosyncratic accents (again on synthesizer), as Shorter moves to soprano. A ballad, “A Remark You Made” features an effervescent solo on Rhodes and Pastorius’ artistic bass lines.
Shorter contributes two originals that pursue a different approach. “Palladium” lays down a Latin groove as the band executes an integrated cohesion. The soprano and synthesizer/electric piano riffs are infectious. The second composition (“Harlequin”) injects a romantic, ethereal theme, but maintains a solid underlying percussion. With synth and soprano, Zawinul and Shorter build a crescendo-filled repeat that is hypnotic and reminiscent of big band dynamics. Pastorius excels on “Teen Town (an original as well), doubling on bass and drums. This track has a pulsating beat that is launched by a fiery bass solo. Percussionist Manolo Badrena provides a deft touch on congas. A pulsating rhythm envelops the other Pastorius cut, “Havona”. The combination of fusion drum beat (courtesy of Alex Acuna) and up tempo funk with key shifts embraces the aesthetics of modern electric jazz. Acuna and Badrena are showcased on the self-penned Rumba Mama.
ORG has meticulously re-mastered the tapes to 45 rpm analog vinyl with dazzling results. Despite the electric nature of the instruments, the tones are rich and warm. The variety of synthesizer runs is rendered with pristine clarity. Whether an individual note or a textured overdub, the sound quality is distinctive and eminent. Shorter’s saxophone, and in particular the soprano, is subtle and without any shrillness. Pastorious’ bass has separation from the rhythm section, and is rendered with maximum detail. The overall mix is impressive as each instrument establishes an individual resonance with virtually no distortion.
Side A: Birdland; A Remark You Made
Side B: Teen Town; Harlequin
Side C: Rumba Mama; Palladium
Side D: The Juggler; Havona
This is another fine Jazz Dispensary anthology, just in time for Record Store Day 2022.