Weather Report were one of the greatest and most finest jazz fusion bands of their time (and even beyond, to our days), consisting, throughout their 16-year musical career (more specifically from 1970 up until 1986), of several line-ups which put forth a series of absolutely amazing, highly talented, phenomenal, charismatic, and tremendously technical musicians, ranging from the two co-frontmen of the musical group, more specifically Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter to otherwordly Jaco Pastorius on electric bass.
Weather Report was founded in 1970 in New York City, U.S.A. by Austrian keyboardist Joseph Erich Zawinul, American saxophonist Wayne Shorter, and Czech double bassist Miroslav Vitouš. Previously, Zawinul and Vitouš knew each other from their time when they were playing in a jazz contest in Europe before crossing the Atlantic to the United States.
Weather Report released their debut self-titled studio album in 1971. From 1971 and 1978, the band released one studio album per year as follows: ‘I Sing The Body Electric‘ (1972), ‘Sweetnigher‘ (1973), ‘Mysterious Traveller‘ (1974), ‘Tale Spinnin’‘ (1975), ‘Black Market‘ (1976), ‘Heavy Weather‘ (1977), ‘Mr. Gone‘ (1978). After a pause of two years, the band released their 9th overall studio album, more specifically ‘Night Passage‘ (1980) and after two more years their 10th studio album entitled once again ‘Weather Report‘, which caused confusion among consumers and retailers alike at the point of its release.
The 1982 ‘Weather Report’ album was the last studio release to feature bassist Jaco Pastorius and drummer Peter Erksine (although the latter would later return for the recording sessions for ‘This is This!‘). After this record, ‘Procession‘ came out in 1983 which was followed by ‘Domino Theory‘ in 1984, ‘Sportin’ Life‘ in 1985, and, last but not least, ‘This Is This!‘ in 1986 (which was issued because the band had to release one more record as per their contractual agreement with their label Columbia Records).
First frontman Joe Zawinul previously worked with Miles Davis before co-founding Weather Report in 1970 and stated in an interview that while the band was a joint effort initially, by the time of their second studio album it was his group, as it was also the wish of Wayne Shorter which led Zawinul hold the reins with respect to their overall musical direction to new horizons, heights, and plateaus yet to be discovered in jazz and jazz fusion history.
Throughout its entire existence, the band was a melting pot of world music, jazz, and rock with very successful and critically-acclaimed materials which won Grammy Awards and topped the Billboard Jazz charts. Last but not least, Weather Report are considered pioneers of the jazz fusion or jazz-rock (also known as jazz rock fusion) genre of music alongside other major bands of their time such as John McLaughlin’s Mahavisnu Orchestra, Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters, or Chick Corea’s Return to Forever.
Down below you can listen to a personal selection of most favourite songs from the discography of legendary jazz fusion band Weather Report. I’ll start off with a live performance of their staple song ‘Birdland’ (which was written by Joe Zawinul as a tribute to the Birdland nightclub in New York City).
In addition, I highly recommend watching the following two great documentaries (one from BBC Four the other from 3sat) focusing on the life and work of great Joe Zawinul:
Documentation sources and external links:
- Weather Report on www.wikipedia.org (in English)
- Weather Report on www.lastfm.ro
- Weather Report’s tribute website
- Weather Report: The life and times of the group on record by Bill Milkowski on www.jazzwise.com
- Weather Report’s profile on www.allmusic.com