“Weather Report is the leader in a field of one.”
– Joe Zawinul
|Original Release:||Columbia 83670|
|Date Released:||August 1979|
|Assistant Producer:||Wayne Shorter|
|Recording Engineer:||Ray Thompson|
|Second Engineers:||Russell Schmitt, Steve Hirsch, Paul Black.|
|Mixing Engineers:||Kim King, Warren Dewey, John Haeny.|
|Touring Crew:||Alan Howarth, keyboard technician; Michael Knuckles, production manager; Brian Risner, sound engineer; Harvey Schaps, tour manager; and Michael Wiehofen, stage technician.|
Recorded November 28, 1978 at the Terrace Theatre, Long Beach, California, and other locations in late 1978.
Mixed at Devonshire Sound, North Hollywood, California.
|Josef Zawinul:||Prophet-5, Keyboards, ARP Quadra bass, Korg Vocoder|
|Wayne Shorter:||Soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone|
|Jaco Pastorius:||Bass, drums on “8:30″ and “Brown Street”|
|Peter Erskine:||Drums and percussion|
|Erich Zawinul:||Percussion (“Brown Street” only)|
|West Los Angeles Christian Academy Children’s Choir:||Vocals (“The Orphan” only)|
With Peter Erskine brought into the fold at the end of Mr. Gone, Weather Report entered its most stable period in terms of personnel, with Erskine and Jaco remaining until the end of 1981. In concert the band was a jaggernaut, ripping through the Weather Report repertoire with stunning chops and power. Indeed, many fans remember the Erskine-Pastorius edition of Weather Report as their favorite, a feeling shared by Joe Zawinul. “8:30 was one of my favorite records that we ever made! I love this record!” Zawinul exclaimed in the 1994 8:30 CD reissue liner notes. “I think at that point we had reached the height..that ‘live’ tour…every night was an event.” He went on to add, “For four people to play ‘live’ like that…I don’t think there is too much around today to compare to that.” [ET94]
In addition to introducing Erskine as a full-fledged member of the band, 8:30 captured Weather Report pared down to a quartet–a configuration dating back to the pre-Mr. Gone days when Zawinul fired percussionist Manolo Badrena and Alex Acuña manned the drum chair sans percussionist. Asked why the band no longer needed a percussionist, Zawinul said, “It’s making everyone play that much better, and the harmonics can be heard much better. The congas can interfere with the contra alto range of the bass and can devastate part of the piano, too. If the drummer and percussionist are not perfectly synchronized, the music can become chaotic.” [DB78b] “They never mattered all that much anyway,” he later said. “There was always a certain quality missing when we used them. Now we focus much more on melody and harmony. We all play percussion ourselves. It’s much better that way. The sound isn’t as crowded as it used to be.” [LAT78] “We have four percussionists,” Shorter explained. “Each of us will play percussion at some point in the evening, and sometimes I play tenor like percussion. See, we can change hats.” [RS282] We need to take those comments with a grain of salt, however, since Weather Report soon went back to a percussionist and Joe’s own later bands never went without one.
In November of that year Down Beat‘s Larry Birnbaum asked Jaco and Zawinul how it felt to work as a quartet:
Zawinul: It’s a little more focused. It helps the bass player.
Pastorius: There’s a certain timbre in some of the percussion instruments that takes away a lot of the midrange, midrange and below. Joe and I might be playing and we can take more space and not have to force our way through. [DB79b]
Following the release of Mr. Gone, the band embarked on a tour that took them to Europe, Japan, and South America, before culminating in a sweep of the U.S. in late 1978. It was from this tour the that live material for 8:30 was recorded. In fact, most of it comes from the November 24, 1978 concert at the Terrace Theater in Long Beach, California. According to Zawinul, “We recorded four concerts and the very first concert where the guy who recorded it didn’t have a clue was the best. Ninety per cent of the music on the 8:30 album was from the very first concert in Long Beach which was magic.” [IM81] Peter Erskine remembers, “The live recording engineer actually wanted to save tape and record over the Long Beach performance because he felt it wasn’t so good and the band would play better. Of course, everyone in the band thought that was a bad idea!” [PE]
Dennis Hunt, in his Los Angeles Times article promoting the Long Beach concert, made the mistake of suggesting that Weather Report was a fusion band. “It’s all crap. Fusion is all crap,” retorted Zawinul. “I hate it. There is no fusion. What’s fusion? Can you tell me what it is? I think most fusion music stinks and to be put in the fusion category is an insult. It’s the writers who are putting us in this category because it’s easy and there’s no other place to put us. In Europe they have the right idea. They say Weather Report is the leader in a field of one. There’s nobody like us. We don’t play rock ‘n’ roll or jazz-rock or whatever that crap is. We play our own original music and that’s that.” [LAT78] Glad we got that straightened out!
Thanks to the success of Heavy Weather–and Mr. Gone, which reached No. 52 on the Billboard charts–the concerts were marked by higher production values than before, with a smoke machine and fancy lighting backdrop. “That was the beginning of our most successful period, as far as mass appeal,” Zawinul recalled. “The success of Heavy Weather opened up things we hadn’t been able to afford, like the lasers and full production we took on the 8:30 tour.” [KB84]
But the music remained paramount according to Zawinul. “We had finally reached a level of performing that surpassed most bands I’ve ever heard,” he recalled. “Over the years we had always had great bands, but sometimes on stage we had a tendency to play a little bit too long. There was a period in jazz where everybody played real long; I think it was almost an illness. There was a lot of swimming going on. We tried to reduce the swimming somewhat and get more to the point. What we ripped off on the 8:30 album as a quartet, I think, was incredible! It was all live and there was very little overdubbing. The only overdubbing was done just to clean certain things out, like a hiss, a buzz, or something like that.” He went on to say that “the 8:30 tour was actually the best tour Weather Report has ever done.” [KB84]
|Weather Report performing in Germany, September 29, 1978. Photos courtesy Rockpalast Archiv. Used by permission.|
Nevertheless, amid the band’s rock act popularity, there were also signs of excess. Clint Roswell wrote a scathing description of Weather Report’s appearance at the 1979 Montreux Jazz Festival for Musician Player & Listener magazine. “The festivities at Montreux were inspired,” he wrote, “except for Weather Report, who stepped all over the traditions, the management and the fans.” In particular, Roswell added fuel to the notion that Shorter was being pushed aside by Zawinul and Pastorius. “At one point, during a duet that Shorter tried to sound in on with his tenor sax, the music abruptly changed course so that Shorter put his tenor down for the alto. Once again the music soon changed keys. Shorter, anxious to blow, put it down for his tenor. He didn’t get a note in, and finally left the stage.” According to Roswell, “The next morning Shorter told journalists that after eight years of playing with Weather Report, ‘we really had no place to go.’ Shorter then said he was leaving Weather Report in about three months and the group would disband. A live album [8:30] would be released, but the group would not play together again after the summer.” [MUS79a] Shorter stayed, of course, and Weather Report’s next album, Night Passage, would see the band eschew excess in favor of flat out blowing.
In Brian Glasser’s Zawinul biography, In A Silent Way, Peter Erskine explained that originally all four sides of 8:30 were going to be live, but an engineer’s error forced the band to record new studio material for the fourth side:
We had a live version of the tune “Mr. Gone,” which was really killing, and we wanted to include it on 8:30–we’d played “River People” and “Young and Fine,” which were great, really smokin’–because it was going to be a double album. They edited two nights together, and the edit was done, and we were having trouble with engineers on the album, and they brought in a different guy, a hotshot guy. And he sat there looking like a hotshot–he definitely had some attitude. They had done the edit on the two-inch, 24-track master tape, and the only thing Joe wanted to get done this particular morning was to erase something from the Phoenix show which he had played on one of the synths, so they had to erase that one synth track on one side of the edit. This was before automation, so you couldn’t program in a mute–you would literally erase the one track to clean up the edit.
So it’s Joe and myself and the engineer in the room at Devonshire Studios, and the guy really nonchalantly presses the Record button. The assistant had aligned all the tracks and left the machine in Ready. The engineer didn’t check that, so when he hit Record intending to erase one channel, the whole console lit up like a Christmas tree and the room was silent. I saw it happen, and the engineer blanched immediately, lunged and hit Stop. Joe was wandering around and had his back to all of this. The guy’s just done the ultimate sin an engineer can commit, so he doesn’t say anything, and Joe’s just walking around. So we lost the tune, the only version we could have used. It was a blessing in disguise, in my opinion, because the commitment was made that day to go in the studio and finish the album. [IASW, pp. 213-214]
Other tracks from the ’78 fall US tour have appeared in later CD releases. A live version of “River People,” recorded November 28, 1978 in Phoenix, Arizona, was released in 2002 on Live and Unreleased, and is included on the version of Mr. Gone that is part of the 2012 boxed set Weather Report The Columbia Albums 1976-1982. The live medley “In A Silent Way/Waterfall,” recorded November 28, 1978 in Phoenix, Arizona, is on the same albums.
1. Black Market (Zawinul) 8:28
The live concert was preceded by the playing of Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero”–once dubbed “the world’s longest musical crescendo”–broadcast over the house P.A. system. At its climax, the lights dimmed, and the auditorium was filled with what sounded like howling monkeys, as can be heard on 8:30 just before the start of “Black Market.” According to Alan Howarth, Zawinul’s keyboard tech from 1977 to 1980, the sounds came from “a monkey cage that Jaco recorded in Australia, a whole baboon community dialog thing.” [IASW, p. 237]
Peter Erskine recalls that “‘Black Market’ on 8:30 is not edited to the best of my knowledge. The take is identical to the one on Havana Jam, because the version we played in Havana sounded pretty crappy. Since the band was in the middle of mixing 8:30 at the time, the decision was made to just send CBS the version which was already mixed from the Long Beach concert. Completely identical, despite some reviewers’ contrasting analyses of the two performances.” [PE]
2. Scarlet Woman (Alphonso Johnson/Shorter/Zawinul) 8:24
This track was omitted from the US compact disc release in order to fit the material onto a single CD. The Japanese double CD release includes all of the tracks from the original double LP. It is also restored on the version of 8:30 that is part of the 2012 boxed set Weather Report The Columbia Albums 1976-1982.
3. Teen Town (Pastorius) 5:50
Another live version of “Teen Town” can be heard on the compilation album Havana Jam 2. (Or is it the same version as this one? I don’t have Havana Jam 2.)
4. A Remark You Made (Zawinul) 7:40
5. Slang (Pastorius) 4:32
Stuart Nicholson in his book Jazz-Rock: A History wrote that “Slang” “demonstrated Jimi Hendrix’s influence by segueing Charlie Parker’s ‘Donna Lee,’ John Coltrane’s ‘Giant Steps,’ and Hendrix’s ‘Third Stone from the Sun.’” [JR, pp. 178-179] Bill Milkowski, in his Pastorius biography, describes a typical Jaco solo showcase like this:
During Joni [Mitchell's] road show, Jaco was featured in a solo bass spot every night. Using the repeat function of an MXR Digital Delay, he would lay down an ostinato, loop it, and then play solo lines on top of the repeating riff. As he played, he would–of course–slide around the stage on the baby powder sprinkled beneath his feet, and he would often get the crowd to clap along with the beat while he danced and strutted his James Brown moves. As the solo gathered speed, Jaco would turn up the built-in fuzz tone of his Acoustic 360 amplifier full blast and launch into an explosion of feedback, quoting from Jimi Hendrix’s “Third Stone from the Sun” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” along the way. He would then climax his showcase by laying his bass down on the stage (pickups still howling), climbing on top of his amp, and jumping onto his instrument. Sometimes he would mockingly whip the bass into submission with his guitar strap, like some sort of comical Marquis de Sade. [JACO, p. 92]
Though Milkowski’s book says the looped, repeating phrase was made with an MXR Digital Delay, Jaco himself said in 1984 that he used “an old makeshift fuzztone” effects pedal. “There’s no brand name on it at all. You can hear a good example of it in action on the title cut from the Word of Mouth album, my last studio album. It’s got a built-in delay that I can put on infinite repeat whenever I want to lay down some kind of track to play on top of in concert.” [GP84a] (See the notes below about the track “8:30″ for Jaco’s comments on his use of the MXR unit.)
Unofficial recording collector Andy Forward notes that this is an edited performance, as Jaco’s solos during this period typically ranged from nine to twelve minutes.
6. In A Silent Way (Zawinul) 2:31
“In A Silent Way” was one of several pieces Zawinul wrote during a return trip to Austria in the winter of 1967. “I wrote ‘In A Silent Way’ in Vienna, in a hotel room overlooking the park,” Zawnul explained in 1978. “My kids were off with my parents, and my wife was asleep. The snow was falling down, and I looked out the window to the park, and took out the paper and wrote the whole thing in a few minutes.” [DB78b]
Of course, Miles Davis used it as the title track for his seminal 1969 album, In A Silent Way. Zawinul recalled to Paul Tingen, “I met Miles for the first time in 1959, when I was playing with Dinah Washington. We became good friends, and during the late 1960s I didn’t live far away, and we often spent two, three hours fooling with music. I wrote so many tunes, and he liked my music a lot at that time and he used some of it. I’d played him ‘In A Silent Way,’ and he told me he wanted it on his record. Actually, Nat Adderley gave the title when we played it at a soundcheck in the band I had with Cannonball Adderley. Nat said, ‘Oh, man, that’s so beautiful, it sounds like ‘in a silent way.” There was some conflict going on, because Cannonball wanted to record the tune, but I said, No, I gave my word to Miles that he could use it. One morning Miles called me and asked me to come to the studio, and a few minutes later he called me back and said, ‘Bring some music, and bring that nice tune.’” [Mojo01]
Miles altered and shortened Zawinul’s composition, using only the last part. “I don’t know what [Zawinul] was looking for when he wrote that tune,” Miles once said, “but it wasn’t going to be on my record.” [MB, p. 61] A short time later Zawinul recorded the entire song as he originally conceived it for Zawinul. The liner notes of that album say that “In A Silent Way” was inspired by Zawinul’s boyhood experiences in the Austrian countryside. Down Beat writer Ray Townley asked Zawinul how he conceived the tune, its textures and rhythms. “This I don’t know,” replied Zawinul. “I just took a pencil and a piece of paper and wrote it, within a minute and a half. There was no stopping. The concept was clear from the very beginning. And there was never any change, except for the last eight bars. Miles stayed on the tonic, while I on my recording changed the bass notes.” [DB75a]
On this version Zawinul relied on the Sequential Circuits Prophet-5 for his string sounds, telling Keyboard magazine’s Greg Armbruster, “I have a fantastic string sound on the Prophet-5, unequaled by any other synthesizer.” Even better than the E-mu Emulator (a new instrument introduced in the early 1980s that played digital recordings of actual instruments), asked Armbruster? “Yes, and I’ll tell you why,” Zawinul replied. “On the Emulator I can get a solo string sound that’s real good. You can record a solo sound that’s going to be as total as anything you ever want to have. But the moment I play a chord and there are four or five voices moving, it loses it, and I don’t know why. You don’t program the Emulator; you feed it the sound [from a floppy disk] and there it is, exactly what you put in there. With the Prophet-5 I can program the sound while playing chords, and then I can tweak it–that’s what I like about the Prophets.” [KB84]
“In A Silent Way” was an oft-used duet vehicle for Wayne and Joe, so it is fitting that for their last performance together — which took place weeks before Joe’s death in 2007 — they returned to it once again. It can be heard and seen on the 75 CD/DVD set.
“In A Silent Way” has been recorded numerous times, including a version by Carlos Santana on his album, Dance of the Rainbow Serpent (which also includes “This is This” from Weather Report’s final album). The Davis version is featured prominently in the 2000 theatrical film, Finding Forrester, along with another Zawinul composition recorded by Davis, “Recollections.”
7. Birdland (Zawinul) 6:34
Asked about the difference in style between this version of “Birdland” and the one on Heavy Weather, Peter Erskine says, “As I remember it, when I first joined the band I played it like Alex [Acuña] did on Heavy Weather (his drumming on the entire album is AMAZINGLY GREAT), and I think that any tapes of the band from that first tour of Japan in 1978 reflect that. But at some point Joe said that he didn’t like ‘that Bossa Nova beat’ and could I play something else? Again, as I recall, I came up with the shuffle idea, though I wasn’t convinced that it was such a great idea, and we experimented with how much and where to put the shuffle, etc. So, I’m happy and comfortable to take the credit or the blame for the beat, but as in most things Weather Report, there was a lot of group energy/synergy and input re: most everything the band did.” [PE]
In his 1984 Keyboard magazine interview, Zawinul acknowledged that “Birdland” was perhaps the toughest Weather Report tune to play live (and one can marvel at the dexterity required to play it live as heard on 8:30). “For a long time ‘Birdland’ was a hard one. It’s always been interesting, because it’s one of the hardest tunes I’ve ever had to play, as far as hand independence is concerned. When we did it in the studio, I overdubbed all the parts, even the solo, but then I realized what I had done. You don’t want a record that can beat your performance, or not be able to play the tune on the stage, so I had to really practice ‘Birdland’ to get everything to sound like the record, and it wasn’t easy. I have to switch octaves in unison, operate the foot pedals for the Oberheim, play the entire accompaniment with the left hand while the right hand plays a different rhythm. I have to play all the counter-melodies in the solo, and for a while that was a hell of a challenge for me.” [KB84]
8. Thanks For The Memories (L. Robin/R. Rainger) 3:21
“Thanks For The Memory” is best known as the signature song of the comedian Bob Hope. It was written in 1938 for the movie The Big Broadcast of 1938, starring W.C. Fields, Martha Raye and Dorothy Lamour. In the movie, it is sung by Bob Hope and Shirley Ross, backed by Shep Fields and his orchestra. It won an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
9. Badia/Boogie Woogie Waltz Medley (Zawinul) 9:28
Pairing “Badia” (from Tale Spinnin’) and “Boogie Woogie Waltz” (Sweetnighter) was something Joe returned to time and again over the years. In addition to performing it in Weather Report concerts, it was a staple of Joe’s later band, the Zawinul Syndicate, whose live performances can be heard on 2005′s Vienna Nights, and on Joe’s final album, 75. Zawinul also recorded a live version with the WDR Big Band on Brown Street.
10. 8:30 (Zawinul) 2:55
“8:30″ was the first recording on which Zawinul used a vocoder. Asked about it in 1984, he said, “I’ve done a lot of things with [the vocoder] over the years. The whole melody on ’8:30′ was a vocoder melody. And, for instance, on ‘Procession’ the didgeridoo-type sound is all done with the vocoder, as well as the ‘chipmunk’ voices on ‘Two Lines.’” The vocoder he used was the newly introduced Korg VC-10, a standalone device that included a small keyboard, a simple synthesizer, and a goose-neck microphone attachment. The idea was to impart the timbral character and articulation of speech onto a synthesized sound generated by the VC-10 itself or from an external sound source. (According to Zawinul keyboard technician Jim Swanson, Zawinul generally used the synthesizer in the VC-10 as opposed to an external synthesizer.) If you used a bass sound as the audio source, for instance, then the vocoder made the bass “talk.” The VC-10 was part of Zawinul’s live set-up at least through 1984, when he actually had two VC-10s, one of which was modified by Swanson by detaching its keyboard so that it could be placed on top of one of Zawinul’s keyboard stacks. He eventually replaced the VC-10s with a Korg DVP-1 voice processor, which was introduced to the market in 1986 and was still a part of Zawinul’s set-up as of 1997. [Mus97]
About the making of “8:30,” Erskine told Glasser, “At one point, Jaco sat down at my drums and started playing–which was a little threatening to me at the time–and started playing something, and Joe joined in, and that became the tune ’8:30,’ the opener on the studio side. And I ran and got the engineer and told him to come back and record it properly.” [IASW, p. 214]
Regarding the short wave radio segment preceding the tune, Erskine said “They came up with that because they said, ‘We need something to get into the tune,’ so Jaco found somebody that had a short wave set-up and he recorded it on a cassette. And he brought it in, and we listened to about 45 minutes of him turning the knob, some accordion, the BBC voice and then, bam!, they cut into the cassette version. Then… you hear the whole thing come into this full-blown thing in stereo. By that time they’d finally got the two-inch multitrack going, because I’d gone and got the engineer. So it was the same take, just different machines. As with a lot of Weather Report edits, it would be masked because we’d overdub a cymbal crash right at the edit point.” [IASW, p. 214]
11. Brown Street (Zawinul/Shorter) 8:36
“‘Brown Street’ was recorded right here at home,” Zawinul recalled in 1984. “Jaco was supposed to come to the rehearsal, but he had been arrested. So Peter Erskine, Wayne, my son Erich, and I just started playing and it was ‘Brown Street.’ It was originally recorded on a cassette, but we put it on the record and the naturalness always remained.” [KB84]
Erskine told Glasser, “We came up with ‘Brown Street’ at Joe’s house, which we just had on cassette. So we took the cassette track, put it on two tracks of a multitrack and Wayne relearned a lot of what he’d played and overdubbed to get a better sound.” [IASW, p. 214]
Years later, Joe recorded a live version of “Brown Street” with the WDR Big Band using an arrangement by Vince Mendoza that hews closely to the original here. It is preserved on the album Brown Street.
12. The Orphan (Zawinul) 3:14
Like “Unknown Soldier” from I Sing The Body Electric, this song has to do with Zawinul’s experiences as a child in Austria during World War II. Joe often related tales of this time in interviews; it clearly left an indelible mark.
He explained to Hal Miller, “It’s about the kid who loses his parents and had to do with the situation where I grew up in the war and so many kids around me lost their parents. And I know how they had to struggle to get over this, mentally and emotionally. But what this song is really about is no more war. It was about war and those few survivors, so I hired a school of orphans to sing and they were wonderful. (“No more, no more, no more.”) They came in and we had cookies and all kinds of little toys for them because they were very young. They had a field day! The kids were really cool and they had a wonderful choir leader. The way they learned the music, it was very nice.” [FT, page 64]
13. Sightseeing (Shorter) 5:34
“Everyone agreed that this one sounded like somebody flying through a place as a tourist and they’re just going sightseeing,” recalled Shorter. “Part of that was the movement… not stopping at any one place, not being chained to one place. Moving in the vehicle itself is a sight that’s seen.” [Laughs] [FT, page 69]
Peter Erskine once recalled that this tune “was my favorite track I ever played with the band. The thing with Jaco playing the didgeridoo, the antique cymbals and cortales, and that kind of funny funk thing it goes into, we came up with that after we cut the tune. We were just fooling around, to create an interlude.” [DB01]
Jaco once cited “8:30″ as an example of the sound he achieved with the MXR Digital Delay, but he was most likely referring to “Sightseeing,” which was combined with “8:30″ in concert. The effect he describes can be heard during the bass break near the recorded version of “Sightseeing.” [JS]
As Jaco described the effect, “I’ve got an MXR Digital Delay, which I put through one amp, leaving the other amp clean, to cause a natural sort of vibrato. I’ts almost like an organ Leslie [rotating speaker] effect or flanger. A good example of that effect is the title cut from the 8:30 album, or the tune ‘Continuum’ from the live Invitation album. I also used that effect a lot on the Joni Mitchell records, particularly on ‘Coyote’ and ‘Hejira’ on Hejira, or ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’ and ‘God Must be A Boogie Man’ on Mingus.” [GP84a]
– Douglas Clark, Down Beat, December 1979
– Ian Penman, New Musical Express, September 29, 1979
– Neil Tesser, Jazz, Winter 1979
– Michael Shore, Musician Player & Listener, November 1979
Grammy, Best Jazz Fusion Performance, 1979
Best Jazz Group, 44th Annual Down Beat Readers Poll
Billboard chart peak: Jazz Albums, 3; Top 200 Albums, 47.