Legacy Unveils Weather Report's 'The Legendary LiveTapes:1978-1981' in New 4-CD Box (REVIEW)

By Mike Greenblatt m.greenblatt@classicalite.com | Dec 05, 2015 04:18 PM EST
'Weather Report The Legendary Live Tapes: 1978-1981' (Photo : courtesy Legacy Recordings)

The Legendary Live Tapes: 1978-1981 (Legacy Recordings) of Weather Report is over four hours of previously unreleased concert moments on four CDs. The classic lineup of Viennese keyboardist Joe Zawinal [1932-2007], saxophonist Wayne Shorter, bassist Jaco Pastorius [1951-1987] and drummer Peter Erskine is joined by Robert Thomas, Jr. on hand drums for some magical concert moments.

Formed in 1970 when Zawinal (who added so much to In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew by Miles Davis, after achieving fame with Cannonball Adderley) teamed up with Shorter (the 10-time Grammy winner who also played with the second great Miles quintet and served as chief composer with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers) to create a revolutionary ensemble who forever changed jazz-rock fusion. No less than 30 musicians ultimately walked in and out of Weather Report during its 16-year run from '70 to '86.

"We don't fuse nothin'," Zawinal famously snapped. "We just play from the heart." That quote leads off drummer Erskine's illuminating liner notes for this set...which is nothing short of revelatory. Still, when you have a bassist like Jaco who would channel his Fender electric bass through a digital delay so he could actually accompany himself, you're upping the standard for all who follow. On opener "8:30," Jaco even plays drums on the intro.

Shorter's "Sightseeing" precedes "Brown Street" wherein Jaco takes a breather as the song usually was played at shows after an elongated bass solo. (The bass is produced by Zawinal's left hand on the keys.) Zawinal's "The Orphan" acts as an intro to "Forlorn." You can listen to this one a million times and it still seems as if its melody is in a different key than its chords. Zawinal adds to the confusion with a series of strange sounds from a siren to a woodpecker.

Zawinal's son, Tony, meticulously put this all together with drummer Erskine to key in on each individual's brilliance, rather than the ebb and flow of a singular show, so their biggest hit, "Birdland," is sandwiched in-between a Joe/Wayne duet and a drum solo. In Jaco's Philadelphia hometown, they fuse two favorites--"Continuum" and "River People"--into one amazing performance that drummer Erskine, in his liner notes, didn't even remember. "Gibralter" is over 21 minutes of rarity: only bootleg tape traders or those who were in Australia at the time have ever even heard it.

Add their Ellington tribute "Rockin' In Rhythm," Shorter's "Elegant People" from Tokyo, Jaco's "Teen Town" from Reading, PA and Erskine's mind-blowing Osaka, Japan drum solo and you still have more in store. This box grabs and doesn't let go.

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