Weather Report – Night Passage (1980), Jazz Fusion Album

Night Passage‘ is the title of the ninth studio album released by the legendary American jazz rock/jazz fusion band Weather Report in 1980 through Columbia Records, the label with which they started in 1971 and ended their career later in 1986.

Night Passage (1980) by Weather Report, frontal cover artwork. Image source:

The LP was released in November 1980 and was recorded in June and July 1980 in two different places, namely a studio and a concert hall. For tracks 1 to 7, the recording sessions took place between 12 and 13 July at The Complex studios in Los Angeles, California whereas track number 8 was recorded on 29 June 1980 at Festival Hall in Osaka, Japan. The record has a total length of 48 minutes and 5 seconds.

The recording sessions which took place at The Complex studios in Los Angeles, California unfolded before a public of 250 people (some of which can be heard on several tracks). The novelty of this particular studio album by the band is that it introduces a new member in Weather Report’s line-up, more specifically American percussionist Robert Thomas Jr.

The album was produced by Joe Zawinul, the band’s frontman, keyboardist, and co-founder. It was also co-produced by extraordinary, highly talented, creative, revolutionary, and innovative bassist Jaco Pastorius. In production terms, it is also important to note the fact that the album had lost the over-done layers that other previous releases of Weather Report from the 1970s had (most notably the latest up until the release ‘Night Passage’, that is ‘Mr. Gone‘ from 1978). However, solo improvisation in a classic jazz style with a rock twist (which best define the jazz fusion genre after all) makes up for the lost over-done production layers to the ears of the listeners.

In terms of critical reception, the album favorably to very well received by such notable music publications as Allmusic (which gave it 4 out of 5 stars), The Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide (which gave it 4 out of 5 stars), The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings (which gave it 3 out of 4 stars), or High Fidelity (which gave it a ‘favorable’ mark). In stark contrast, Robert Christgau only gave it a mark of C+.

Additionally, reviewer Richard S. Ginell of Allmusic (who gave the album a 4-star ranking) stated the following on it:

All things being relative, this is Weather Report’s straightahead album, where the elaborate production layers of the late-’70s gave way to sparer textures and more unadorned solo improvisation in the jazz tradition, electric instruments and all.

Don Heckman, High Fidelity, mentioned that ‘Night Passage’ was:

one of the finest albums Weather Report has ever made.

Lastly, it is equally noteworthy to specify the fact that the album was nominated for the Grammy award in the category of Best Jazz Fusion Performance, Vocal, or Instrumental, but did not win it.

The track list of the album is as follows:

  1. Night Passage (composed by Joe Zawinul);
  2. Dream Clock (composed by Joe Zawinul);
  3. Port of Entry (composed by Wayne Shorter);
  4. Forlorn (composed by Joe Zawinul);
  5. Rockin’ in Rhythm (composed by Duke Ellington, Irving Mills, and Harry Carney);
  6. Fast City (composed by Joe Zawinul);
  7. Three Views of a Secret (composed by Jaco Pastorius);
  8. Madagascar (composed by Joe Zawinul).

With respect to track number 7, it must be mentioned that it was re-recorded for Jaco Pastorius’ second studio album entitled ‘Word of Mouth‘ which was released one year later, in 1981. Furthermore, percussionist Robert Thomas Jr., then the new member of the band, noted the following on the record:

The most incredible album Zawinul ever made. Nothing else comes close. Nothing.

The recording personnel was as follows:

  • Josef ‘Joe’ Erich Zawinul – keyboards and synthesizers;
  • Wayne Shorter – saxophones;
  • Jaco Pastorius – fretless bass;
  • Peter Erskine – drums;
  • Robert Thomas Jr. – percussion.

The technical personnel was as follows:

  • Brian Risner – engineer;
  • George Massenburg – engineer;
  • Jerry Hudgins – engineer;
  • Joseph Flutterer – art direction;
  • Richie Powell – art direction;
  • Nicholas DeVore III – cover photography;
  • Pete Turner – cover photography.

Below you can integrally listen to all of the songs on the album embedded in audio-video format via Youtube (plus previously unreleased bonus tracks). I truly hope you will like listening to all of them. All the best, much health, take care, stay safe, many blessings, and great peace your way! God bless you and keep on listening to jazz fusion!

Documentation sources and external links:

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