Mr. Gone

Mr. Gone

“Anybody who gives this record one star has got to be insane.”
– Joe Zawinul

Track Listing

Side One

1. The Pursuit Of The Woman In The Feathered Hat (Zawinul) 5:01
2. River People (Pastorius) 4:47
3. Young And Fine (Zawinul) 6:50
4. The Elders (Shorter) 4:18

Side Two

5. Mr. Gone (Zawinul) 5:19
6. Punk Jazz (Pastorius) 5:06
7. Pinocchio (Shorter) 2:25
8. And Then (Zawinul/Guest) 3:19

Bonus Tracks

(9.) River People [Live] (Pastorius) 6:57
(10.) In A Silent Way/Waterfall [Live] (Zawinul) 5:46

Credits

Original Release: Columbia 35358
Date Released: September 1978
Producer: Zawinul
Co-Producer: Jaco Pastorius
Engineer: Alex Kazanegras
Second Engineer: David Mancini, Jr.
Mastered By: Allen Zents
Illustrations: Lou Beach
Design: Nancy Donald
Special Thanks: Harvey Schaps, Michael Knuckles, Paul Bruno, Laurel Rudd and Melody
Exclusive Representation: Cavallo-Ruffalo Management, Beverly Hills, California

Recorded 1978 at Devonshire Sound, North Hollywood, California.

Mixed by Alex Kazanegras, Joe Zawinul, and Jaco Pastorius at Devonshire Sound, North Hollywood, California.

Personnel

Josef Zawinul: Rhodes 88 electric piano (modified by Alan Howarth), two ARP 2600 synthesizers, Oberheim polyphonic synthesizer, Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 synthesizer (programmed by Alan Howarth and Josef Zawinul), Mu-Tron Bi-Phase and Mu-Tron Volume Wah effects, kalimbas, thumbeki drums, sleigh bells, melodica, high hat, voice, acoustic piano
Wayne Shorter: Tenor and soprano saxophone, voice (track 1)
Jaco Pastorius: Bass, drums (tracks 1 and 2), voice (tracks 1, 2 and 5), timpani (track 2)
Peter Erskine: Drums (tracks 1 and 7), hi hat (track 3)
Tony Williams: Drums (tracks 5 and 6)
Steve Gadd: Drums (tracks 3 and 8)
Manolo Badrena: Voice (track 1 only)
Jon Lucien Voice (track 1 only)
Deniece Williams Voice (track 8 only)
Maurice White Vocal (track 8 only)

Overview

“Weather Report has done to jazz in the ’70s what Paul Whiteman did to it in the ’20s.” So began Down Beat‘s one star review of Mr. Gone, possibly the most controversial review in the magazine’s history. “Like Whiteman,” the review continued, “Weather Report took progressive jazz out of the clubs and into the concert halls, exposing millions of people to its brand of music. Zawinul, Shorter, et al have made the controversial music a commercial product; unfortunately, also like Whiteman, Weather Report has over-orchestrated its sound. Where Whiteman’s band made hot jazz saccharine, Weather Report has made experimentation sound processed.” [DB79a]

Down Beat MagazineDown Beat, February 8, 1979.

Two issues later Weather Report was on the magazine’s cover, under the title “Weather Report Storms Over ‘Mr. Gone.’” “We really care, you know?,” Zawinul told Down Beat‘s Larry Birnbaum. “Hey man, Down Beat is my favorite magazine. You know why? Because I grew up with it, it was my connection to America and it brought me into jazz music.”

“But there is no way in the world that a record like this could get a one star review,” he continued. “I have seen many reviews of this record. People like Conrad Silvert, Len Lyons, Robert Palmer, Ken Anderson, Bob Blumenthal, all thought it was a great album. You know what one star means? It means this is a poor record. This band has never put out a record that we didn’t believe in, and there’s no way in the world that anybody was ever involved in a one star album. This is a heavy thing, man. I mean, even if somebody doesn’t like the record, just for the compositions alone it’s got to be five stars. We played it very well; we worked hard on this record. Anybody who gives this record one star has got to be insane.” [DB79b]

The following exchanges give you an idea of the mood of the band during the interview:

Birnbaum: I queried the band about changes in their music.

Zawinul: Well, it’s developed and it’s grown but a human being is a human being and you can’t change that much.

Pastorius: Your personality doesn’t change, it just grows.

Shorter: Your name was the same when you were a baby, too.

Birnbaum: Well, there have been different personnel in the band also.

Zawinul: But it’s the same constitution.

Birnbaum: Hearing the band live last night I was really struck by the heavy rock feel, especially in the bass and drums.

Pastorius: Well then you got a total misconception of the music…

Zawinul: I think so.

Pastorius: …because if there’s a heavy feel, it’s r&b, not rock. There’s a difference between rhythm and blues and rock ‘n’ roll. I grew up playing nothing but colored music all my life and that’s it.

Zawinul: That’s the difference, we don’t play no white music, because rock ‘n’ roll is a white music.

Birnbaum: What about Chuck Berry?

Zawinul: That ain’t no rock ‘n’ roll, Chuck Berry, that’s r&b.

Pastorius: I don’t play nothing but r&b. It ain’t no rock ‘n’ roll.

Zawinul: English music is rock ‘n’ roll.

Pastorius: Yeah, if we did an album with “Penny Lane” on it you could say we were playing rock ‘n’ roll. [DB79b]

Down Beat wound up printing letters from its readers for months to come. Years later, that review still stuck in Zawinul’s craw. “I was angry about it, not because somebody gave it one star. That is totally a reviewer’s right and privilege. What I didn’t like is that it was such a good production. A lot of effort went into that, and we’re no dumb motherfuckers, you know? We tried to do something a little different. Maybe it didn’t come off yet as well as it did later. That is also a point. But, to give somebody one star is just outrageous. Therefore, I was mad at the time, and I am getting mad now.” [DB01]

But back to 1978. Understandably, expectations were high for Weather Report’s follow-up to the very successful Heavy Weather, and Mr. Gone quickly went gold, reaching Number 52 on the Billboard chart. [JR, p. 178] Zawinul told Conrad Silvert of Down Beat that he viewed the album as a kind of sequel to Mysterious Traveller, which he considered to be Weather Report’s best album up to that point. “[Mr. Gone] is our most complex album but also the most accessible. The magic is happening all the way through–even the overdubs are magic. The music is happy, sunshine–I can’t really describe it–it’s like a Mediterranean feeling, not necessarily rich but a lot of fun.” [DB78b]

Zawinul thought Jaco’s “Punk Jazz” could be a potential hit. “There are three or four others on the album that could be hits, too. Man, I am a pop musician and a jazz musician. I think jazz is great because it is the music with the most spark, the most freshness. I think jazz is the pop music of the future. I just want to see the mediocrity gotten out of the business, to upgrade the standards. We will keep trying to make our albums and our performances better and better.” [DB78b]

“I want to keep the music complex, but put enough of a hook in there to reach the people, without diluting anything. On the new album [Mr. Gone] there are up to five different counterpoint lines at the same time, each with its own melody and direction from beginning to end. But they work together–in fact, it even sounds simple, it’s easy to feel, but if you want to be an analytical musicologist there is a lot to check out.” [DB78b]

Mr. Gone AdMr. Gone advertisement.

Conrad Silvert wrote, “In many ways, Zawinul’s personal progress with Weather Report has kept exact pace with his acquisitions of and growing expertise with synthesizers. As of last year, his set-up, aside from the acoustic piano, consisted of two ARP 2600s, the Rhodes electric piano, and a 16-voice Oberheim Polyphonic synthesizer. One reason why Zawinul feels Mr. Gone may be his best album yet is his newest instrument, a synthesizer called ‘Prophet,’ invented by two Californians, Dave Smith and John Bowen.” [DB78b]

The Prophet 5 was introduced in January 1978 by Sequential Circuits — a small, self-funded company in San Jose, California. The Prophet 5 featured five voice polyphony, meaning you could play five notes at once. There were other polyphonic synthesizers at the time, most notably the Oberheims that Zawinul had been using since Black Market, but the Prophet 5 was the first one in which every single parameter could be stored in computer memory, allowing sounds to be recalled instantly. Zawinul liked it immediately.

“It’s a great ensemble instrument,” he told Silvert. “The touch feels good, a lot of resistance. And the sounds are amazingly accurate. The trumpet sounds exactly like brass–on this album it’s like I have a big, swinging orchestra.” [DB78b]

“This Prophet keyboard is an incredible machine; it has what I’ve always needed to make the music come off. I have forty-four different programs, including a string sound that you will not know isn’t a symphony orchestra. It hasn’t changed the way I write music, it just means there’s no limitation.” [RS282]

In the end, though, Mr. Gone is generally viewed as a flawed album. Recorded in the absence of a working band — drummer Alex Acuña had moved on to a Los Angeles studio career and Manolo Badrena was let go for non-musical reasons — and largely the work of Zawinul’s personal studio efforts — he had planned to use much of the material for a solo album — even Zawinul admits it isn’t his favorite Weather Report album. “It’s a different kind of album,” he said in the 1991 CD re-release liner notes. “I wouldn’t compare it to the others. It was a novelty kind of thing, an exercise in discovering sounds. And it was fun to do. It’s not my favorite, but so what? I still like it for what it is.’” He said much the same thing in Stuart Nicholson’s book, Jazz-Rock; A History: “I feel that Mr. Gone was my solo album with Weather Report. I was after new sounds, discovering new sounds, so it was a different kind of album to the others.” [JR, p. 178]

Explaining the circumstances of the album, Zawinul said, “We had to do another album, but because Wayne was doing a lot of music outside the band, he didn’t have much music for us. I was working on a solo album at the time, so we used most of this material for Mr. Gone. This was the first album I cut at home. It was an experimental album for me. Steve Gadd and Tony Williams played drums on it, and we cut it on eight tracks.” [KB84] In fact, four drummers played on Mr. Gone, including Jaco on two tracks and newcomer Peter Erskine, who would join the band for its subsequent tour and stay on through three more albums, a period that many consider to be Weather Report’s finest.

At age 23, Peter Erskine, was already a veteran big band drummer, having played with Stan Kenton for three years and Maynard Ferguson for two, with a brief back-to-college break sandwiched in between. His entre to Weather Report came via an introduction to Jaco Pastorius, as Erskine told A. James Liska in the August 1981 issue of Down Beat.

“Ron Tooley, a trumpet player on Maynard’s band, had worked with Jaco in Florida and invited him to come hear the band. He told Jaco he ought to check out the drummer,” Erskine recalled. “I’d been listening to Jaco’s album and, of course, I’d been listening to Weather Report. I was in high school when their first album came out, and each one had been a kind of revelation.

“Anyway, Jaco came down to one of our gigs and I didn’t know it. After a set–I was feeling real playful because the band was sounding good and it was just one of those real hot nights in a jazz club–I went up to Ron. he was standing there talking to somebody, and he had his trumpet under his arm, with the mouthpiece facing the back. I went up and blew in it. He turned around and said, ‘Hey, Pete, I want you to meet Jaco Pastorius.’

“I looked up and there’s this guy with a Phillies baseball cap, real long hair, clear-framed glasses that looked like Army-issue, and a striped shirt with a button down collar. The top button was buttoned. It just didn’t look anything like the guy on the album cover, you know, so I just looked up at him and said, ‘No shit.’”

Jaco told Erskine that he would call. “I didn’t think much of it, I guess,” said Erskine. “I was on the road with Maynard and one day Jaco called. He told me the band was working on Mr. Gone and that I should come out and audition. There was only one day I could do it, and we were in Wichita, Kansas, where it was snowing. I figured it was dumb to spend the day in a studio, and I decided it wasn’t the right time. I didn’t want to quit my job with Maynard as I really didn’t have enough confidence.”

A few weeks later Jaco called a second time, and Erskine made the move. “I figured this time, screw it. I quit Maynard and said I’ve got to got for it. It was a chance I couldn’t pass up. I got to the studio real early that first day, and they all showed up hours late. I had a new drum set, and I wanted to make sure the drums sounded cool. After that, I walked all over Hollywood burning off energy. The rest of the band finally got there, and they were pretty cool. Joe Zawinul started messing around with his keyboards, and then Jaco ran out to get some beer or something. By that point I wanted to play, and when Joe started playing, I just ran over to the drums and started with him. I was pretty fearless at that point and I just charged in.” [DB81b]

Erskine also recounted the story to Bill Milkowski for his Jaco Pastorius biography:

I got to S.I.R. Studios on time and started setting up my drums. I was very eager to meet everyone and start playing. Meanwhile, these guys kept calling in to say they were running late. The rehearsal eventually started about five hours later than it was supposed to. Joe came in first and was very cool. He just kind of sauntered over and shook my hand. Wayne was friendly. Jaco bopped in, said hi, and then ran back out to get a six-pack of beer.

I was so impatient, having sat around all day waiting for them, that when Joe started noodling on the synth, I jumped up and started playing along with him. Finally, Jaco came back in with a six-pack of Heineken, and he looked up to the stage where we were jamming. He had a big smile on his face. He ran up and grabbed his bass, and we just started jamming before going into “Gibralter.” When we finished, it was like we had just done a show or something, the vibe in the room was so high. I remember Joe and Wayne and Jaco were all slapping hands, and they included me in on that, which really made me feel like I was a part of the band. So the next day I asked Joe, “Can I tell my friends I’m in the band?” I was really excited and wanted to go public with this. And Joe said in that gruff manner of his, “You can tell your friends you’re going to Japan.” [Jaco]

“Peter had the goods,” Zawinul said in 1996. “He was a wild, crazy kid, but he had the goods! Peter was great!” [JR, p. 178] In Josef Woodard’s 2001 Down Beat Weather Report retrospective, Zawinul added, “He can really play very loose and relaxed, and being a big band drummer helped us a lot. He had some big band chops. It was one of the best periods. Erskine is a hell of a musician, man.” [DB01] “Peter plays like an octopus,” Zawinul said in 1978. “Peter didn’t have to be broken in. He did like we did. When Wayne joined Miles he never had a rehearsal. When I joined Cannon, the record company just sent all of his albums over and I learned the music.” [RS282]

The criticism that Zawinul’s ever-growing dominance of the band had caused Shorter’s role to diminish with every new album reached a crescendo with Mr. Gone. (Some critics went so far as to suggest that the title was an apt description of Shorter’s contribution.) Bob Blumenthal touched on this in a Rolling Stone article he wrote after catching a Weather Report concert in late 1978:

Shorter, who played ferocious tenor sax on the [concert] opening “Black Market,” continues to maintain a low profile. For those who recall his prolific output with the Jazz Messengers, with Miles Davis and on his own Blue Note albums, Shorter’s reticence is an endless disappointment. Drummer Jack DeJohnette has even written a tune about it (“Where or Wayne,” on his New Directions album). But if you ask Shorter why he isn’t playing more, you get an enigmatic answer.

“You asked me something just now, but I was thinking about the tenor sax. I found someone after all these years who fixed the whole thing. Now I can play the low notes… all that other time something was missing. There was a barrier between me and the tenor–kind of a half a sound, a lot of air. Now you can hear the bottom. It’s warm.” Shorter seems quite involved in parts like the soprano sax line he repeats throughout ‘River People’; he was pleased when I mentioned that, until hearing the piece live, I thought the part had been played on synthesizer. “It doesn’t sound to me like a saxophone,” he says. “It sounds like a voice from out there, a very vocal quality. That’s what I’m trying to do. I want to spread the tone.”

If Shorter’s priorities seem odd, we can only assume that when he chooses to play and write more, he will. Part of the problem may be that he has done it so often before. “You know I’m forty-five years old,” he says, as if he still can’t believe it himself. “In five years I’ll be fifty! Fifty!” [RS282]

In retrospect, Zawinul once said, “In the beginning let’s say Weather Report was a joint thing. Then, after the second album there’s no question about it, it became more and more my group. Wayne wanted it like that, but we were always ‘partners in crime.’ No Wayne, no Weather Report.” [JR]

In recent years, Mr. Gone has experienced a bit of a critical revival. In his Down Beat retrospective, Woodard remarked, “Heard in hindsight, Mr. Gone may be among the band’s greatest projects, with its experimental verve, collage-like complexity–mirroring the jacket artwork–and several plainly infectious tracks.” [DB01]

And in Brian Glasser’s Zawinul biography, In A Silent Way, Zawinul noted, “You know what, man? The other day I talked to a guy, a smart guy. He said, when Mr. Gone came out, it was really a studio thing; but then he said he listened to it a couple of weeks ago and it knocked him on his ass, it was sounding so good. So when I come home, I don’t even know if I even have the record, but somehow I want to hear it, because he said back then he didn’t like the record, because it was a little too studiotised, but now…! And I talked to John McLaughlin a few times, and he said, ‘Joe, this is the record I’m listening to. Check it out again.’ I definitely will, because I’m not sure.” [IASW, p. 205]

Regardless of one’s perception of Mr. Gone, one thing Weather Report had no interest in doing was repeating itself. Following the highly successful Heavy Weather, most expected a follow-up album along the same lines. Even the band’s management thought that way. “When they first heard [Mr. Gone] they were scared because there was no ‘Birdland’ on it,” Zawinul recalled during the follow-up tour that resulted in 8:30. “I was shocked. I said, ‘What the hell is this?’ To imitate yourself is really a joke.” [LAT78] “That was one thing about this album that I really love us for–that we did not try to jump on the bandwagon of ‘Birdland.’ Because that was suggested to us. ‘Hey man, write another ‘Birdland’ and you’ll sell a million fuckin’ records.’ Fuck you, man–we’re gonna do what we’re gonna do.” [BMJR78]

“Every time you take step it’s easy to step in shit,” Zawinul said while on tour after the release of Mr. Gone. “Since ‘Birdland’ was a successful piece of music, a lot of people thought we would do something on the next record just like it. We didn’t. We did something different but just as powerful. That’s the whole secret, man. I think I’d give up if I couldn’t think of anything new to play.” [RS282]

Side One

1. The Pursuit of the Woman in the Feathered Hat (Zawinul) 5:01

Josef Zawinul: Arranger, keyboards, kalimbas, thumbeki drums, sleigh bells, voice
Manolo Badrena: Solo voice
Jaco Pastorius: Drums, bass, voice
Peter Erskine: Drums, voice
Wayne Shorter: Soprano saxophone, voice
Jon Lucien: Voice

This tune’s title was originally going to be the title of the album as well. Zawinul described it to Silvert as a sectional piece, “deceptively simple-sounding at first.” [DB78b] “Pursuit,” “Mr. Gone,” and “And Then” were tunes that Zawinul composed in his house in the summer of 1977, and along with “Mr. Gone,” were intended to be used on his next solo album. [BMJR78]

2. River People (Pastorius) 4:47

Jaco Pastorius: Arranger, drums, voice, timpani, bass
Wayne Shorter: Soprano saxophone
Josef Zawinul: Keyboards, ARP and Prophet solo

This tune was written by Pastorius “when I was bass fishing in the Everglades about four years ago, at sunrise. It just came to me, and I sang it into a cassette.” [RS282]

Pastorius told Clive Williamson of the BBC, “I have a tune, ‘River People’, and I wanted a certain kind of feel, so I decided to play drums on it. We were in a transformation period, I broke my right wrist and we had some time off, and just Joe and I were in the studio. So we did ‘River People’ that way, building the tune up on the spot. It was all written out, so all Joe had to do was play his parts, and I played mine, and it just all gelled together, and I did some overdubs. In fact, we played the bass parts together ’cause he got this synth sound–sort of a little twang, almost like a little guitar on the top–with my bass rolling on the bottom. So we just played to the click track, and I went back and overdubbed the drums with that, as opposed to ‘Teen Town’ where I played the drums first, and overdubbed the bass part afterwards.” [BBC78]

Urged by Williamson to talk more about “River People,” Jaco continued:

‘River People’ I wrote in the Everglades, where I was bass-fishing four years ago. It’s an older tune, about a day with the river people, like they get their feet right in the mud there; so the bass part: I sang the bass part (sings and claps time) ‘mm-maa, mm-maa, hmm; mm-maa, mm-maa mm-aa umm’, like a lot of people down in the mud at the river, yeah? And then these chords, the way they come in, it sounds like the sunrise – bang! – like this incredible light, and then the whole day passes, and at the end you start roaring, you start having a little fun, like you kind of party out at the end into this New Orleans feeling, y’know? I was in the Everglades fishing, but I was feeling a lot like I was in Louisiana when I wrote the song! It was weird.

I had a bit of a composition I’d started on piano, but I actually got it together when I was fishing out on this boat with a couple of buddies. All day we were just sitting there goofing off, drinking beer and fishing and just having fun. Rainstorms, the whole thing–it’s a fun piece of music. Joe takes just the greatest solo at the end, starting off with this trombone-sounding thing, then goes into this organ thing. I like the song! (laughs) [BBC78]

3. Young And Fine (Zawinul) 6:50

Josef Zawinul: Arranger, keyboards, melodica, high hat, voice
Steve Gadd: Drums
Jaco Pastorius: Bass
Wayne Shorter: Tenor saxophone
Peter Erskine: High hat

“Young and Fine” was sampled and used by the hip-hop band A Tribe Called Quest, on the cut “Butter” on their album The Low End Theory. A lengthy live version was recorded by the band Steps (aka Steps Ahead) in 1980, and can be heard on their album Smokin’ in the Pit: Live!.

4. The Elders (Shorter, arranged by Zawinul) 4:18

Wayne Shorter: Tenor saxophone
Jaco Pastorius: Bass
Josef Zawinul: Arranger, keyboards

Silvert wrote that this tune “became a trio improvisation in the studio, with Jaco setting up what Wayne calls ‘a strumming mandolin-like rhythm–there are three independent melodies. Joe told me he thinks it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve written since we started Weather Report.’” [DB78b]

Jaco described his sound on this track to Bill Milkowski: “There’s a sound I get, a percussive kind of sound, almost like a conga. I get it by hitting the strings with my right palm, getting a rhythmic thing going, and then just quickly sliding my palm down the neck, from the bridge down to the nut. It adds some meat in appropriate places. I used that at the end of ‘John And Mary’ from the Word Of Mouth album. And you can hear it on ‘The Elder’ [sic] from the Mr. Gone album.” [GP84a]

Side Two

5. Mr. Gone (Zawinul) 5:19

Tony Williams: Drums
Wayne Shorter: Tenor saxophone
Josef Zawinul: Arranger, keyboards, Oberheim bass
Jaco Pastorius: Bass

For the 1991 CD liner notes, Zawinul told Bill Milkowski, “That funny bass line I came up with on ‘Mr. Gone’ is something that came to me at home while I was fooling around with different ideas on an 8-track recorder. Actually, that’s how most of the material for this album was developed, by improvising on the 8-track and then going back over the tape to find out what worked, writing down note-for-note those parts that interested me and editing them into some kind of coherent song form.”

Jaco told Williamson: “Yeah, that’s the Oberheim bass. That’s down to Joe: it’s really the main sound. In fact, I don’t even play on ‘Mr. Gone’ until much later in the tune. I just come in as a cushion to the Oberheim bass at the end, it just gives it a little bit of roundness, you know, coming in with the fretless an octave higher, but almost the whole tune is Oberheim bass.” [BBC78]

While on tour in 1978, Zawinul explained the difficulty of getting the drum part right to Bill Henderson of Black Music & Jazz Review. “First of all I did the introduction, then I had the bass track on my sequencer–I did it at home on an eight track machine. Then I got Al Mouzon to do the drums. He could not do it. Then I got Sonship [Theus] to do it. It was not right. I got Alex Acuña to do it. It was not right. Jaco tried–Jaco’s a very good drummer. He could not do it. Then I played drums. And this stayed for a while, ’cause this was the best. I asked Steve Gadd and he said, ‘no Joe, you play it.’ ‘Cause I mean, it was my tune–and I really played it good. But then I said, let’s get Tony Williams to do this. And we flew Tony Williams out. And Tony Williams played it but it didn’t take. So we still had my track there. Then, all of a sudden, Tony called and said, ‘I’m gonna fly down on my own money. I want to get another shot at this.’ And that was it–one take. ‘Cause the second time when he came he was so ready to do it, ’cause he really didn’t do it right and he knew it.” [BMJZ78]

6. Punk Jazz (Pastorius) 5:06

Mr. Gone Ad
Jaco Pastorius: Arranger, voice, bass
Tony Williams: Drums
Wayne Shorter: Tenor and soprano saxophone
Josef Zawinul: Keyboards

Jaco once said of this tune, “It’s about a kid on the street snapping his fingers and wiping his nose with one hand, a baseball mitt on the other, being belligerent and sticking to his guns.” [CW79]

Asked by Williamson for his favorite cut on Mr. Gone, Jaco said, “Personally I like ‘Punk Jazz’ because it’s the last piece of music I wrote, and I wrote it specifically for the album, as opposed to ‘River People’ that I had four years ago. It’s a satisfaction thing, like ‘I came up with the goods,’ so you feel like you did your work and it was done specifically for the album… It’s just a really well-orchestrated tune: a lot of work went into it.” [BBC78]

A little later, Jaco adds, “Like I got this tune, ‘Punk Jazz’, man, and at the beginning, look out, because this is some stone jazz, and we come in sounding like a symphony, but it’s just Joe and me playing. It’s unbelievable. Then Tony [drummer Tony Williams] comes in, and he’s smoking, and Wayne takes one of the all-time classic soprano saxophone solos. But all that ensemble work is written out and we’re grooving, and whatever talking we’re doing is within the framework, so we’re still completely improvising. I was really proud of Joe because he really got his calligraphy together for this album. (laughs) Usually they just throw you a piece of paper with a couple of marks on it, y’know, and you gotta work it out! This was a lot easier to read this time!” [BBC78]

A big band version of “Punk Jazz” can be heard on Jaco’s The Birthday Concert album, a live recording of the concert Jaco staged on the occasion of his 30th birthday on December 1, 1981.

7. Pinocchio (Shorter) 2:25

Wayne Shorter: Arranger, tenor saxophone
Josef Zawinul: Acoustic piano, Oberheim synthesizer
Jaco Pastorius: Bass
Peter Erskine: Drums

A Wayne Shorter tune originally recorded in 1967 by the Miles Davis Quintet for the Nefertiti album. This was Peter Erskine’s first recording with the group. In Woodard’s retrospective, Erskine recalled, “Whenever I think of the way Tony played that with Miles [on Nefertiti],” Erskine says, “there was so much finesse and it was so slippery. Ours was definitely a harder, electronic version of it. So I was crestfallen when they went in to listen to the way it sounded and said, ‘Hey, we’re done. Let’s just use this.’ I was, ‘Wait, wait…’ And Jaco turned to me and said, ‘You have to join the band the same way I did, with the first take.’” [DB01]

Erskine told much the same story to Brian Glasser: “One of the first things we did in the studio was ‘Pinocchio,’ which was actually just a soundcheck for the engineer–it was the very first thing we put on tape that morning, and I was dismayed during playback because I was playing all over the place, partly just to give the engineer variety. I was certainly a little self-conscious that this would be my take on the great ‘Pinocchio’! And then Jaco turned to me and said, ‘Let’s just use this,’ and I was, ‘No, no!’ And he said, ‘Well, you have to join the band the same way I did: first take,’ because, of course, his first take was ‘Cannonball.’ And I said, ‘Okay, fair enough.’” [IASW, p. 211]

8. And Then (Zawinul, lyrics by Sam Guest) 3:19

Josef Zawinul: Arranger, keyboards
Wayne Shorter: Tenor and alto saxophone
Jaco Pastorius: Bass
Steve Gadd: Drums
Deniece Williams: Voice
Maurice White: Vocal

Zawinul explained the making of this tune to Bill Henderson of Black Music & Jazz Review:

“I was inspired by Gertrude Stein. Gertrude Stein was on her death bed. She was asked, ‘I mean, after all, what is the answer?’ And she said ‘and then…’

“So when I had this tune I improvised–all my music is improvised–I thought it would be great just to have somebody say, ‘And then… What then?’ I mean, what is going to be happening, man?!

“And then this guy–who is a genius–I had this melody, I gave him the ideas. He was singer Sam Guest, he’s a very good singer. I called him out to my house from Virginia and I told him what lyrics I want. He’s a lyricist. I’m not a lyricist but I have the ideas.

“I told him I wanted to say something of that sort, like: ‘Man’s future is plain to see/Our love for abundance will always be/So blind is he.’ I mean, after all, let’s not forget. Y’know, just a little moral.” [Joe pronounces it "morale."]

Initially, Joe was going to use a singer called Alison Mills, but she turned out to be a Jesus freak and refused to do it, so it was sung by Deniece Williams and Earth, Wind & Fire’s Maurice White. [BMJR78]

Bonus Tracks

(9). River People [Live] (Pastorius) 6:57

Shorter: Saxophone
Zawinul: Keyboards
Pastorius: Bass
Erskine: Drums

This live version of “River People” was recorded November 28, 1978 in Phoenix, Arizona. It was originally 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.

(10). In A Silent Way/Waterfall [Live] (Zawinul) 5:46

Shorter: Saxophone
Zawinul: Keyboards
Pastorius: Bass
Erskine: Drums

This live version of the medley “In A Silent Way/Waterfall” was recorded November 28, 1978 in Phoenix, Arizona. It was originally 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.

This track is interesting because it shows that the band played this medley at times, while at other times Wayne and Joe performed only “In A Silent Way,” as preserved on 8:30. Peter Erskine recalls that they didn’t play “Waterfall” often, saying, “we struggled with it and so it was not always included in the shows during that tour as I recall.” [PE13]

In addition to the tracks released on Mr. Gone, Conrad Silvert described a tune called “Cigano,” written by Wayne Shorter. It didn’t appear on Mr. Gone, but a live version can be found on Live And Unreleased. Shorter told Silvert that “Cignano” was “something I wrote last August [1977] in Portugal. Cignano means gypsy. It’s got a strong, driving rhythm but with special colorations, because Roberto Silva played it together with Gadd. Their styles are opposite, but put them together, and you say, ‘Hey, these cats are related!’” [DB78b]

Review Excerpts

“Where earlier Weather Report records possessed a sense of adventures, Mr. Gone is coated with the sterility of a too completely preconceived project. While Weather Report was innovative and pivotal in its first experiments, the members now seem out of touch with their basic responsibility as musicians: to communicate. By not taking chances they have nothing to lose, but conversely they have nothing to gain. Weather Report’s status has shifted over the years from a combo of premier jazz-rock innovators to a super-hip rock band with jazz overtones. This LP should prove disappointing to those Weather Report fans who still remember the genuine excitement of its earlier efforts.”

– David Less, Down Beat, January 11, 1979

“Weather Report are suffering an identity crisis which has completely mitigated the potential of Mr. Gone. Their unwillingness to pursue the avenues of progression opened up by Sweetnighter, Mysterious Traveller and Tale Spinnin’ has curtailed the cerebral in favor of the repetitive, simpler statements of recent years… Musically, Mr. Gone is infuriating, not willfully obscure but trivial. It revolves around a concept I’ve yet to fathom though the gist of it is contrast, the idyll and the jungle, concrete or otherwise. The cover gives you some idea of this light and shade. Too bad the notes can’t keep the promise.”

– Max Bell, “Not So Hot,” New Musical Express, October 21, 1978

Mr. Gone is a remarkable record because, rather than being a renunciation of commercial values, it is an attempt to combine profundity with performing music that is as enjoyable for the listeners as it is for the accountants.”

– Harry Sumrall, Washington Post, November 8, 1978

Awards

Best Jazz Group, 43rd Down Beat Readers Poll

Billboard chart peak: Jazz Albums, 1; Top 200 Albums, 52.

3 thoughts on “Mr. Gone

  1. Earnie Simms

    Compostition and stunning performances aside, I feel that the original mix and mastering really hurt this record. While the previous LPs had lots of air around the instruments and the mixes were fairly rich in fidelity for the times, Mr. Gone sounds thin and over-compressed-almost perhaps harsh by comparison. The LP just sounds horrible on todays gear. Even the Japanese Mastersound pressing is an odd brew of mids and high end. A remix and remaster of this project would be a miracle and a true gift!!

    Reply
  2. Wayne Williams

    Earnie,
    I was thinking the same thing this morning: Sony should ask Bob Belden to remix and remaster “Mr. Gone,” and add “Cigano.” There is a 3 star album in there somewhere…

    Reply
  3. Mark F. Turner

    I still love this record. A total departure from the mega-hit Heavy Weather and totally outlandish and ahead of it’s time with Zawinul’s use of electronics and the band’s work. It swings yet creates some wild moods and tones that are still enjoyable.

    Reply

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