Victor Bailey, RIP

It is with sadness that I report that Victor Bailey passed away today. I first had the opportunity to speak with Victor in February 2014. I had been trying to connect with him in order to do an interview for some time. I’m not sure what finally caused him to respond to this stranger pestering him about Weather Report, but after he did we had a good hour and a half conversation. Back then he was still in relatively good health. His legs were failing him, so he used a scooter to get around on. I found him to be an extremely articulate and passionate man. When we talked, I initially joked that he was probably tired of talking about Weather Report. “No, actually, not in this day and age,” he said. “I’m a professor at Berklee College of Music and it needs to be talked about. You’ve got a generation of kids now who say they are fusion fans, and they don’t know who I am. They don’t know who Weather Report is. Some of them know who Jaco is. A couple of kids know “The Chicken.” It’s like playing saxophone. You learn some Coltrane, or you learn some Charlie Parker. If you play bass guitar, you learn something by Jaco. Kids don’t know who that is, don’t know who Weather Report is.”

Of course, Victor came into the band following Jaco’s departure. Those were big shoes to fill for sure, but he looked at it differently. “I don’t think I every really looked at it like I was filling somebody’s pair of shoes,” he once said. “I felt like I was making a new pair of shoes.” I always considered Victor to be a combination of Alphonso Johnson and Jaco. I mentioned that to him and he said, “Absolutely. Thank you for saying it. Nobody ever says that. Everybody always, when they mention influences, says Jaco, but Alphonso is in fact just as much an influence on me as Jaco. And he was an influence on Jaco himself. A lot of what Jaco did, with the fretless, with effects, with chorus and delay and distortion, some of the phrasing… a lot of the things that he did, Alphonso was a direct predecessor to it, and it never gets mentioned.”

Victor was one of Joe’s favorites and he’s the only musician with the distinction of playing in all of Joe’s bands: Weather Report, Weather Update, The Zawinul Syndicate, and the WDR Big Band with Joe Zawinul. When I spoke with him in 2014, he said, “Oh man, listen, I’ve had a blessed life. I’m not even religious at all, but if there’s a god and people are blessed, I’m blessed. I’ve done exactly what I wanted to do my entire life and continue to do so. And nothing anybody says changes anything. No criticism, no… anybody… I have always done and continue to do exactly what I want to do. I’m a really lucky guy.”

Below is a video Victor made a few months after he told me that. He will be missed.

The Health Of Alphonse Mouzon

Today Alphonse Mouzon, Weather Report’s original drummer, revealed that he is suffering from Neuroendocrine Carcinoma, a rare form of cancer. His Facebook post, reproduced below, provides the details. His family has set up a gofundme page to solicit donations for treatment. I encourage you to donate, if you can.

Meanwhile, Victor Bailey continues to fight a form of muscular dystrophy called Charcot Marie Tooth disease. It has advanced to a life-threatening stage. At last report, he is being cared for by his sister and family members in Virginia. As previously reported, a youcaring campaign has been set up to help defray his medical expenses. Please beware that fake fundraising campaigns have been created in Victor’s name. Only the youcaring campaign is legitimate.

Facebook statement of Alphonse Mouzon:

PLEASE HELP SAVE LEGENDARY JAZZ-ROCK FUNK-FUSION DRUMMER ALPHONSE MOUZON”S LIFE!!!

On September 7, 2016, I was diagnosed with Stage 3-4 Neuroendocrine Carcinoma, an incredibly rare cancer. On October 10, 2016, I went to Kaiser Permanente for a scheduled appointment with my Oncologist – but I was immediately admitted into the hospital because my lab test results revealed that my kidneys were failing. I was told by my Nephrologist that if I went back home, I would die. I was hospitalized for 13 days straight and was finally released from Kaiser Permanente on October 23, 2016. While I was hospitalized, my surgeons tried to place stents in my left and right kidneys but were unsuccessful because of size of my malignant pelvis mass. They instead performed a nephrostomy on my left kidney on October 11th and on my right kidney on October 18th. I currently have catheters coming out of my back to drain the urine from my kidneys into two external bags. On top of this, I was told that I suffer from Anemia (you couldn’t tell from my drumming), borderline diabetes, and that my 2006 Prostate Cancer has returned. Well, I’ve known about the prostate cancer since March because my PSA rose up to 63. I’ve been taking injections every three months to bring down my PSA level, and luckily it has gone down to 6. As for my Neuroendocrine Carcinoma cancer, my Oncologist and Nephrologist aren’t giving me a chance to survive, but my faith in God is strong and I know that anything is possible through Him! My kidneys are too weak for the doctors to perform chemotherapy, but I know that through God’s grace, I will beat my rare cancer and I will soon beat my drums again. The renown C.H.I.P.S.A. Gerson Therapy Hospital in Mexico specializes in natural cancer treatments and boasts a 95% cancer treatment successful rate, but I must raise enough money ($32,000) for these natural treatments. With the financial support of strangers, fans, family and friends, I know that I can overcome this battle. I want to be around for my beautiful children, grandchildren, family, friends and fans! I’ve started a GoFundMe campaign at to raise money for my rare Neuroendocrine Carcinoma cancer treatments. Please keep me alive by donating as much as you can to my GoFundMe campaign. https://www.gofundme.com/AlphonseMouzon No amount is too big or too small, and your prayers are greatly appreciated. Thanks a Million for your support.

Sincerely,
Alphonse Mouzon

John Kelman on Jaco and The Legendary Live Tapes

John Kelman at All About Jazz has written a lengthy and excellent article/review about the new Jaco documentary and The Legendary Live Tapes. If you want to know what these releases entail, you can’t do better than John, who has always had a sympathetic ear when it comes to Weather Report.

I haven’t seen Jaco yet, but I stopped by my local record store yesterday and actually found one copy of The Legendary Tapes on the shelf. I’m an old school guy and I like physical media. Besides, The Legendary Tapes comes with a nice booklet with lengthy notes written by Peter Erskine. I grabbed it, although the $59.99 sticker price gave me pause, considering that I could have ordered it at Amazon for $15 less. But I like supporting the local record store, so I forked over the cash (well, I handed them my credit card). I listened to the first two tracks on the way home thinking, “This is great! Fascinating takes on familiar favorites.” I parked the car and hit the eject button on the CD player and… the CD got stuck. Argh!

Victor Bailey

For several years Victor has suffered from a form of muscular dystrophy that has affected his legs. If you’ve seen him perform in recent years, you saw him sit on a stool on stage and use a cane (and later a motorized scooter) to move about. Recently, his condition took a significant turn for the worse, which he announced on his Facebook page on October 30:

To everyone who has been wondering why you haven’t seen or heard from me, it’s time for me to let you know what’s going on. Quite simply, I am just not in the best of health. I have been dealing with a form of muscular dystrophy called Charcot Marie Tooth disease for the last 25 years. You’ve all seen me using a cane as my legs are getting weaker. Now it is affecting my upper body. My arms and hands are very weak and at this point in time too weak to perform. I need help with all daily living activities, so for the past three months I have been living at an assisted living facility in Newton, Massachusetts. I have taken a leave of absence from teaching at Berklee College of music and from touring. Right now, I could use your prayers and positive vibes. I will be keeping you guys updated on my condition. It is possible that I can get stronger again, so please send me positive energy. I’ll keep you posted.

Victor later indicated that he had suffered a “mini stroke” that affected his breathing. On November 10 he wrote, “I’m finally out of the hospital. Can’t say I’m ‘better.’ My breathing is better but I still have a long way to go. I’m now in a rehab facility and will be working on my strength and stamina for as long as it takes.”

A fundraising campaign has been set up at YouCaring to help Victor with his medical expenses. I encourage you to give what you can. I wish Victor the best and hope for a recovery that allows him to resume performing and teaching.

The Jaco Documentary is here!

Jaco: The Film

My guess is that most Jaco Pastorius fans are aware of the Jaco Pastorius documentary that has long been in the works. I think there were some aborted efforts at this years ago, but when Metallica bass player and Jaco fan Robert Trujillo got involved that this project really picked up steam. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s here. The documentary has been screening in select theaters, and later this month the DVD and Blue-ray will be released. All the reports I’ve seen indicate that the filmmakers have done a great job. A friend of mine saw it in Seattle earlier this week and said, “I loved this movie. I also wish I could go back in time and save Jaco.” I’m sure that’s a sentiment that we all share.

You can pre-order the DVD or Blu-ray from Amazon, or pre-order it direct from the filmmakers here. There is also a companion soundtrack album scheduled for release at the same time. The release date is November 27, which is also Record Store Day (and “Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving.) That means, hopefully, that you’ll be able to find the documentary in your favorite record store if you prefer the old-fashioned experience of actually going to a record store, like I do. :-)

The Legendary Live Tapes: 1978-1981

Hey, we have something new from Sony Legacy! I know that Peter Erskine has long had an interest in seeing some of this material get released. Thanks to Tony Zawinul’s efforts, representing the Zawinul Estate, to get Sony on board, there’s a treasure trove of previously unreleased live music in store for us Weather Report fans. The Legendary Live Tapes: 1978-1981 is a four-CD set of live recordings of the Jaco-Erskine band, primarily culled from soundboard recordings by Weather Report’s live sound engineer, Brian Risner. It’s due for release on November 20, but you can pre-order it on Amazon here.

Here’s the official blurb:

Weather Report’s The Legendary Live Tapes features four discs of sensational unreleased performances all “completely, totally, unapologetically and insanely live” recorded by the legendary jazz group from 1978 to 1981.

Formed by one-time Miles Davis sidemen Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter in 1970, Weather Report defied categorization in the 15 years they recorded together. Inspired by their “electric” collaborations with Davis, Zawinul and Shorter would lead Weather Report into unpredictable territory, from free-jazz to structured but sprawling multicultural jazz-rock. Though Zawinul would reject the “fusion” genre the band are so often associated with “We don’t fuse nuthin’, we just play from the heart,” he once said their music would serve as a landmark for jazz revolution and evolution in the 1970s and 1980s.

The dramatic addition of electric bass virtuoso Jaco Pastorius to the lineup in 1976 led to an even more energetic and daring Weather Report, who would even score a crossover hit in 1977 with “Birdland.” A year later, drummer Peter Erskine joined the fold, creating one of the band’s most notable lineups; that lineup would expand to a quintet with the addition of percussionist Bobby Thomas, Jr. in 1980.

These two lineups, responsible for some of Weather Report’s most important moments, are chronicled in this four-disc set, sourced from never-before-heard soundboard tapes recorded by longtime live mixing engineer Brian Risner. Produced by Erskine and executive produced by Joe Zawinul’s son Anthony, this package uniquely showcases Weather Report’s extensive prowess as a band, opting not to replicate the ebb and flow of a standard Weather Report set at the time, instead offering a uniquely curated experience that captures the dazzling directions the group took at the arguable height of their powers.

Here’s the track listing:

CD 1
1. 8:30
2. Sightseeing
3. Brown Street
4. The Orphan
5. Forlon
6. Three Views Of A Secret
7. Badia / Boogie Waltz
8. Wayne Solo
9. Jaco Solo (Osaka 1980)

CD 2
1. Joe And Wayne Duet (Tokyo 1978)
2. Birdland
3. Peter’s Solo
4. A Remark You Made
5. Continuum / River People
6. Gibraltar

CD 3
1. Fast City
2. Madagascar
3. Night Passage
4. Dream Clock
5. Rockin’ In Rhythm
6. Port Of Entry

CD 4
1. Elegant People
2. Scarlet Women
3. Black Market
4. Jaco Solo (Osaka 1978)
5. Teen Town
6. Peter’s Solo (Osaka 1978)
7. Directions

Bruce Lundvall / Bob Belden

Last week, Bruce Lundvall and Bob Belden died on back-to-back days, May 19 and 20. Lundvall was 79 years old; his death was due to complications of Parkinson’s disease. Belden was just 58. He suffered a massive heart attack earlier in the week and was on life support systems until his death three days later.

Lundvall’s career in the record business spanned more than fifty years. In his youth he was a frustrated saxophonist, and after serving in the Army he wanted nothing other than to work in the music business, specifically jazz music. He managed to obtain an entry level position at Columbia Records in 1960, and by the mid-seventies he ascended to the presidency of the label, overseeing its operations during Weather Report’s heyday. His love of jazz lead him to sign Natalie Cole, Wynton Marsalis and saxophonist Dexter Gordon, resulting in Gordon’s late-career renaissance. He also signed Herbie Hancock, whose second Columbia album, 1973’s Head Hunters, became the biggest selling jazz album up to that time.

In 1979, Lundvall spearheaded the Havana Jam, a three-day series of concerts in Havana, Cuba featuring American and Cuban musicians. Weather Report led off the first night’s concert. Lundvall later started the Elektra Musician label and then moved to Blue Note, where he presided for 25 years and revitalized the historic but then-dormant label. By all accounts, Lundvall was beloved by musicians of all genres.

Bob Belden was a saxophonist, producer and historian. With respect to Weather Report, he is probably best known for producing the Forecast: Tomorrow boxed set, as well as remastering and reissuing several Weather Report titles for Sony Legacy. Belden also produced the Miles Davis The Complete In A Silent Way Sessions and The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions boxed sets. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of Miles’ recording sessions, as well as a deep appreciation for Cannonball Adderley, Joe and Wayne. (He also produced the Cannonball Adderely compilation Cannonball Plays Zawinul for Capital.) Those of us who are fans of Weather Report, Cannonball and late-sixties/early-seventies Miles Davis have lost a true champion and scholar of their work.

Belden also composed and recorded his own music, notably the ambitious Black Dahlia–probably his signature work–and his collaborations with trumpeter Tim Hagans and keyboardist Scott Kinsey. Most recently, he performed in Iran with his group, Animation, playing tunes by Miles, Herbie Hancock, and Belden himself. It was the first time an American had played in Iran since 1979.

RIP, Bruce Lundvall and Bob Belden.

B.B. King

[Cross-posted from Zawinul Online]

B.B. King died on Thursday at the age of 89 years old. He was a true legend in American music, claiming the mantle of King Of The Blues for six decades. He was also one of the hardest working men in the music business–something that Joe must have appreciated. It is said that in 1956 King performed an astonishing 342 one-night stands. He maintained a vigorous touring schedule well into his eighties.

There are two connections between King and Weather Report that I am aware of. Back in the early days of Weather Report, the band would sometimes open for popular acts such as The Ike & Tina Turner Revue, Frank Zappa and the Mothers Of Invention, or Fleetwood Mac. Their music didn’t always go over well with these audiences, who were there to see the headliner and not some “spacey” jazz band, as so many reviewers referred to Weather Report.

B.B. King and Weather Report

In the summer of 1973, Weather Report performed as the middle act on bill that included The Climax Blues Band and the headliner, B.B. King and his nine-piece band. Having won a Grammy in 1970 for his recording of “The Thrill Is Gone,” King was very popular at the time; in fact, he was the most popular blues artist there had ever been. More than 3,500 fans came to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center to see him, but had to sit through the opening acts first. According to one review, by the time King hit the stage, the audience had “first been rocked into a frenzy” by the U.K. based Climax Blues Band, but was “bored to varying degrees” by “The Weather Report,” who played songs that were “much too long and featured soloists who were imaginative, but often out of reach of their audience.” Eric Gravatt was “a very steady drummer,” and Dom Um Romão “looked like an overly ambitious Swiss bell ringer as he performed a continuous shake-along with the rest of the group.”

The second connection has to do with Earl Turbinton, who turned in such a beautiful performance on soprano sax on Joe Zawinul’s 1971 eponymous album. Turbinton hailed from New Orleans, where Joe got to know him while he was a member of Cannonball Adderley’s band. I wrote about that here. As I said in that article, Turbinton–who died in 2007–often said that he was asked to be a part of the original Weather Report, but turned down the offer in favor of touring with B.B. King–a gig that would have been more steady and financial secure. The Weather Report story is highly improbable, but it wouldn’t be surprising at all that Joe and Earl talked of forming a band after recording Zawinul in August 1970.

RIP, B.B. King.

Jaco Pastorius and Record Store Day

Jaco Pastorius Record Store Day Poster

Tomorrow, April 19, is Record Store Day, and Jaco Pastorius figures prominently.

First up, we have a new Jaco Pastorius album release, available tomorrow only at participating independent record stores. I have no idea if the stores where I live will participate, but I’ll be checking it out.

The new release is Modern American Music… Period; The Criteria Sessions. The album contains the demo tracks that Jaco made in 1974 at the age of 22, which have either never been officially released, or previously released only in edited form. These tracks — with drummer Bob Economou, pianist Alex Darqui, steel drums players Othello Molineaux and Sir Cederik Lucious and percussionist Don Alias — led to Jaco’s first album, and you hear the early “demo” versions of many of the songs that Jaco later recorded. John Kelman of All About Jazz has a lengthy review.

In addition, Metallica bass player Robert Trujillo’s long awaited documentary about Jaco is the official film of Record Store Day, although it isn’t expected to be completed until late this year. You can hear Trujillo talk about Jaco and the documentary in an NPR interview that was published today. You can also follow the progress on the film at their Facebook page.

And finally, Jaco is the subject of the official Record Store Day poster (pictured above), which will be given away at select stores while supplies last. For more information, see the Record Store Day news release about Jaco.

Update: My local record stores did participate, and I saw both the CD and vinyl album at the stores. Didn’t see any posters, although by the time I made the rounds they may have already been taken.