Mysterious Traveller

Mysterious Traveller

“The baddest shit on the planet!”
– Alphonso Johnson quoting Joe Zawinul

Track Listing

Side One

1. Nubian Sundance (Zawinul) 10:39
2. American Tango (Zawinul/Vitous) 3:39
3. Cucumber Slumber (Zawinul/Johnson) 8:20

Side Two

4. Mysterious Traveller (Shorter) 7:21
5. Blackthorn Rose (Shorter) 5:00
6. Scarlet Woman (Johnson/Shorter/Zawinul) 5:43
7. Jungle Book (Zawinul) 7:22

Bonus Tracks

(8a.) Miroslav’s Tune (Vitous) 5:29
(8b.) Cucumber Slumber [Live] (Zawinul/Johnson) 11:39
(8b.) Nubian Sundance [Live] (Zawinul) 13:05

Credits

Original Release: Columbia KC 32494
Date Released: March 24, 1974
Produced by: Wayne Shorter and Josef Zawinul
Sound: Ron Malo, Tim Geelan (“Cucumber Slumber”)
Studio: Devonshire Sound, North Hollywood, California
Personal Management: Robert Devere Associates
Special Thanks: Brian Risner / Also: Arma Andon, Sean Hart, Bruce Heigh, Mark Spector
Album Design: Teresa Alfieri
Front Cover Art: Helmut K. Wimmer, The American Museum, Hayden Planetarium
Back Cover Photographs: Norman Seeff

Recorded November 1973-March 1974 by Ron Malo at Devonshire Sound, North Hollywood, California.

Personnel

Josef Zawinul: Electric and acoustic piano, synthesizer, guitar, kalimba, organ, tamboura, clay drum, tac piano, melodica
Wayne Shorter: Soprano and tenor sax, tac piano
Alphonso Johnson: Bass
Miroslav Vitous: Bass (track 2 only)
Ishmael Wilburn: Drums
Skip Hadden: Drums (tracks 1, 4 and 8a only)
Dom Um Romão: Percussion, drums
Ray Barretto: Percussion (track 3 only)
Muruga: Percussion (track 1 only)
Steve Little: Timpani (track 6 only)
Don Ashworth: Ocarinas and woodwinds (track 7 only)
Isacoff: Tabla, finger cymbals (track 7 only)
Edna Wright: Vocalists (track 1 only)
Marti McCall: Vocalists (track 1 only)
Jessica Smith: Vocalists (track 1 only)
James Gilstrap: Vocalists (track 1 only), misidentified as James Gilstrad on some CD releases
Billie Barnum: Vocalists (track 1 only)

Overview

Mysterious Traveller was another step, somewhere else,” Zawinul once said. [RS282] Indeed, it was. With Mysterious Traveller, the transition that began on Sweetnighter was completed. Zawinul summarized Mysterious Traveller for Greg Armbruster of Keyboard magazine:

“That fourth album was a breakthrough for us … I wrote my compositions right here in my home. The first pieces I wrote in this house were ‘Jungle Book,’ ‘Nubian Sundance,’ and ‘American Tango.’ Wayne wrote beautiful music for this album too, and it was a hell of a record. That’s when we made the change with the bassist. Sure, we had three albums out, and the third album did sell much better than the first two, but the recording company was not all that interested. They knew they had a prestige band and had faith in us, because we won Record of the Year awards in different countries, and so on. However, at that time, they didn’t know what to do with us. Mysterious Traveller was another kind of story. All of a sudden we were a power band. I feel that when we came up, musically we were the top band; but there were other bands that had a lot of power, like [guitarist] John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra. There was a beautiful band. They had a lot of power but they ran out of gas because there was not that much there to sustain it. We were not in a hurry to do that, because we knew we were going to have a lot of stuff up our sleeves that we could stretch out with, and have room to do new things we hadn’t done before.” [KB84]

Was there a temptation to add a guitar player, like other fusion bands of the time? “There is a certain chemistry in the band which would be destroyed by adding another melodic instrument,” Zawinul said in 1973. “We would all have to hold back more so as not to get in each other’s way. In order to make good music you can’t have everybody just burn all the time… you’ve got to be relating… and the more people you’ve got, the harder it is to relate. Actually, I just haven’t found a guitar player that I’d like to have in my group, if you know what I mean.” [RS73]

The title Mysterious Traveller, Shorter explained, “meant that comet Kohoutek [the overhyped celestial event of 1973/74], which was a mysterious visitor–so we had that cover of a comet over Madagascar. It was a mystery about where was it born, and that means our life too, here we are: all mysterious travelers. The title also came from a radio show that came on every Friday when I was growing up: this guy got on a train and told you a story.” [JT02]

Down Beat writer Tim Logan interviewed Shorter during the recording of Mysterious Traveller, at which point the saxophonist had this to say about the new album: “As I hear it, working on it, it’s beginning to mean many more things than the other three [albums]. It’s more kaleidoscopic. In many ways, there’s more of a tendency to share something in this album, rather than to show something. There’s a kind of allness, a spirit of sharing, in this one which includes everybody in the group.” [DB74a]

As Zawinul alluded to Greg Armbruster, in-home studio technology had developed to the point that he was able to do multi-track improvisations at home. “I’m an improvising musician,” Zawinul once said, “so what I play I write down note for note and edit later. The Mysterious Traveller album was the beginning of this.” [DB84] In 1978 Zawinul explained his composing technique to Down Beat‘s Conrad Silvert:

“I rarely sit down and compose. I just turn on the tape recorder and play my instrument, and when a moment of inspiration comes I keep playing, and transcribe from the tape later on. You don’t concentrate on one little element or another; just open up and let it all come through you. A modern man is one who is involved with many things, and everything that has happened in your life is already recorded in your brain. It’s just a matter or hittin’ those little inputs, those switches, certain feelings.”

Zawinul’s method, roughly, is to improvise first, and then edit the transcription into a workable length. Then comes the translation into parts for saxophone, bass, etc.; the overdubs, substitutions, tempo alterations continue until the musical poem, so to speak, is finally completed. “The improvisation and the composition are usually the same thing. In concert we don’t change the music from the records too often, although we’re always sure to improvise something totally new each night, like an interlude, some free playing.”

Mysterious Traveller marked the end of co-founder Miroslav Vitous’ tenure with the band, an inevitable result as Zawinul moved the band toward more funky, grooving rhythms. Drummer Greg Errico, a founding member of Sly and the Family Stone who toured with Weather Report after Sweetnighter, explained things this way: “[Miroslav] loved funk, and he tried to play it, but he wasn’t a funk player. It wasn’t where he came from. He didn’t connect up with how to go there. He could listen to it, talk about it, and he admired it, but that’s not what came out of him, so that was something that held back where Joe wanted to go at the time I was with them. Melodically and rhythmically, Miroslav was great; what he did do, in terms of where I was coming from, was very unique. Miroslav was still playing acoustic, and it was an odd kind of a funk. It was very… interesting!” [IASW]

Replacing Vitous was Alphonso Johnson, who was then part of the Chuck Mangione Group. Johnson explained to Down Beat, “I met Weather Report at a gig that we [the Chuck Mangione Group] and they did together in Philadelphia [Johnson's hometown], the night before we went to London [in October 1973]. Joe Zawinul liked the way I played and when we got back to the States, I flew out to L.A. to audition for the band.” [DB74a] After the audition, Johnson was asked to play on Mysterious Traveller and to join the band.

“When we hired Alphonso Johnson,” Zawinul said in 1978, “it was a great improvement because he could play a lot of different things; he could play funky. Not that we were looking forward to playing all kinds of funky music, but he had that drive, man–that basic kind of feeling where you can groove.” [BAM78] “Alphonso Johnson had a lot,” Zawinul recalled years later. “He was young, he was bright, he was disciplined and he could lay down a groove that hurt and that’s what I wanted.” [JR, p. 171-172] “When we first heard Alphonso,” Shorter recalled in 1983, “he had a very mature style and we didn’t want to touch it, so we wrote it into the music.”[BAM83]

Vitous ultimately accepted that he could not and should not be a part of the band’s new direction. Years later, he told Shorter biographer Michelle Mercer, “Number one, I couldn’t play the black funk, and number two, I was not supposed to. I am an innovator and a pioneer and an advanced musician, and I am right on the edge of developing new music. How can you put me in a black funk band trying to make some money? It’s not me.” [FP, page 161] But there was also the business side of things: He, Wayne and Zawinul were equal partners in Shoviza Productions, the corporation that produced each of Weather Report’s first three studio albums. (The name derives from the founders’ names, Sho-rter, Vi-tous, Za-winul.) Initially cut out of the business as well as the music, Vitous, according to Mercer, eventually threatened legal action over royalties and the use of the band name, resulting in monthly payments for a period of years. [FP, page 161]

Not long after Mysterious Traveller was released, Down Beat writer Ray Townley suggested that Mysterious Traveller was “earthier” and warmer than previous albums, and asked Zawinul how he saw the difference in bass players:

Well [long pause], there was something that Miroslav couldn’t provide us with. The warmer, earthier feeling has a lot to do with the bass. That is something we tried to have pretty much from the beginning, and not to have it was alright, too, because it added something else at the time.

Miroslav is a fantastic bass player, too, but there’s a certain cultural experience that if you don’t get it early in your life you have to get it later, but you cannot do without. And that is something that is here in this country only. You cannot learn it in Prague or in Vienna or in Tokyo, nowhere. You see what I’m saying? Miroslav does not have a bass player’s mind. He no longer plays bass because of that. He’s gonna do some other kind of things. He’s writing a lot. And he had an instrument built with guitar and bass on two necks. I’m convinced he’s gonna come up with some very valuable stuff, but as far as working with this band and growing with this band, he couldn’t provide us with that, unfortunately.

There was something he had that Al doesn’t have, but there’s a lot that Al has for this band which is very, very important: a base. Everything has to have a base, a root, a bottom; you cannot play, man, without a bottom. And Miroslav was traveling in high speed, with great dexterity and all that, but his mind was changing that quickly and that doesn’t set things up right. This is just a concept, it has nothing to do with someone being any better than anyone else. But I think the band has been much more successful… I don’t even care that much about all the success, but just from the standpoint of getting the music across, there’s a certain discipline required. Like the Catalonian painter, Miro says, ‘If you want to make a big jump, you have to have your feet firmly on the ground.’

We are actually freer now, because we have a certain… we don’t fly away, we don’t take off. So we can allow ourselves to move around a little. [DB75a]

With Johnson more than capably filling the bass chair, the remaining problem was the drums. Greg Errico, the former drummer for Sly And The Family Stone, toured with the band after Sweetnighter, but he declined an invitation to sign on as a permanent member. Thus Zawinul and Shorter turned to Ishmael Wilburn, who was recruited by Vitous according to a 1978 article. [BAM78] Until 2000, Wilburn had no other recording credits in the All Music Guide. However, it appears that he remains active in the Philadelphia area music scene. Joining Wilburn on “Nubian Sundance” and “Mysterious Traveller” was a second drummer, Skip Hadden. In addition to playing drums with various ensembles and well-known jazzmen, Hadden is a professor of percussion at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, and has authored several books on drumming. His web site is http://www.skiphadden.com.

While Zawinul had used the synthesizer sparingly on I Sing The Body Electric and Sweetnighter, the instrument played a prominent role on Mysterious Traveller, establishing Zawinul as one of the premier practitioners of the instrument. He his credited with playing synthesizer on four cuts. Curiously, the only brand name that is specifically mentioned on the album’s inner sleeve liner notes is EML. Electronic Music Laboratories, Inc. was a small firm in Connecticut that manufactured the line of Electro-Comp synthesizers throughout the 1970s. Based on the liner notes, we must conclude that Zawinul had one of these synthesizers and used it on “Cucumber Slumber.”

Nevertheless, it was the ARP 2600 that was Zawinul’s main synth. He acquired one in 1972–see the I Sing page for information about Zawinul’s first experiences with the 2600–but it was initially relegated to studio use. For the road, Zawinul used a Rhodes electric piano and a Farfisa organ. That changed in 1972 or 1973. “We were doing a New York club gig and he said he’s got the synth,” recalled Brian Risner, Zawinul’s first keyboard technician. “Why doesn’t he bring it down and see if we can use it? And that was it. It never went back!” [IASW, p. 236]

By 1974 Zawinul owned two 2600s. The initial rationale was to have a back-up in case one broke down, but Zawinul soon had Risner figure out how to connect them together so he could play them both at the same time. He explained how he used the 2600s to Ray Townley of Down Beat magazine:

I use two ARPs, two 2600s, just for the convenience of setting things up because they’re not as fast as the Moog. [The Moog Mini-Moog was a popular synthesizer at the time, played by Chick Corea and Jan Hammer, among others.] You have to constantly move, therefore I use two. I can work better that way. Certain sounds are already setup and I can stop mixing them up. I also play the Fender Rhodes with all the relatives, you know, phase-shifter, echoplex, way-way pedal.

I like the ARP because of what I can do with it. I hear the Moog, it’s immediately the Moog. With the ARP I can do things that will fool the heck out of you. I can hide between voices, I can do all kinds of things. To me it’s a much more natural sound. The variety of colors is greater, too. Woodwind sounds . . . if you have the right ear, you can really get it. But it takes time and work–like if you’ve got the coordinations of a fighter, getting those combinations together–it’s the same here, you get your moves together so that you can perform with it. [DB75a]

By “moves,” Zawinul was referring to the need to swiftly and accurately change the settings on the 2600s during a live concert performance in order to modify their sound character. This was necessary because the 2600s, like other synthesizers of the time, had no way to save the settings for a particular sound. With the 2600, the sounds were programmed by moving sliders and changing patch cords. The Mini-Moog had a simpler, fixed architecture that relied on knobs. Eventually Alan Howarth, Zawinul’s second keyboard technician, modified the 2600s by hard-wiring Zawinul’s favorite patches into them–thereby eliminating the need for patch cords–and adding switches to the front panels so Zawinul could change oscillator waveforms with the flick of a switch. [IASW, p. 238]

Townley asked Zawinul if he approached the synthesizer mainly as a keyboard or electronic instrument. “I’m not really thinking like that,” Zawinul replied. “I don’t read books about it because I would get completely confused and it would take me so long. I just find what I want to hear by doing it and coordinating it. Sometimes, if I make a funny move with my left-hand–because out there on the stage everything happens so quickly–and make some sound that I didn’t intend, my right-hand will make something out of that other sound. One hand washes the other. As far as melodic concept, I think it has nothing to do with the synthesizer. It’s just a matter of certain people having different concepts.” [DB75a]

ARP Instruments advertisement, circa 1975-76.

In the ARP endorsement ad pictured above, Zawinul commented:

I want orchestral sounds from a synthesizer; the kind of realism beyond imitation. I can make the 2600 sound like Coltrane, just like Coltrane… or change it to soft, haunting flutes. My first 2600, ‘Eins,’ is my soft synthesizer, with a clear, clean sound I have never heard on any other. ‘Zwei,’ my second 2600, gives me a harder edge, so they are complementary.

Our sound engineer, Brian Risner, has built an unbelievable sound system for my ARPs. I run each 2600 through its own Echoplex and phase shifter and get a brilliant sound. I don’t like studio overdubbing, I hardly every do it, so it’s easy to make my music sound exactly as it has been recorded. Having two ARPs lets me play one keyboard while I set the controls on the other. Lately, I’ve been inverting the keyboard, which is like playing upside down with my right hand, while I play rightside up chords with my left. It’s a real head trip.

I have my own “magic book” of sounds I’ve created on the 2600. Melody lines from “Black Market,” “Scarlet Woman,” and lots of music and sound effects from other albums I’ve done. I tape some nice stuff just playing around. With the 2600, you never have to listen to the same sound twice, if you don’t want to.” [ARP]

Side One

1. Nubian Sundance (Zawinul) 10:39

Josef Zawinul: Vocal, pianos, synthesizer, percussion
Ishmael Wilburn: Drums
Skip Hadden Drums
Dom Um Romão: Percussion
Muruga: Percussion
Wayne Shorter: Tenor and soprano saxophone
Alphonso Johnson: Bass
Edna Write: Vocalist
Marti McCall: Vocalist
Jessica Smith: Vocalist
James Gilstrap: Vocalist
Billie Barnum: Vocalist

Zawinul told Jazz Forum magazine, “‘Nubian Sundance’ is a complete improvisation of mine which I taped at home. Then I took the music from the tape and orchestrated it. So, as a matter of fact, you have an improvisation which was worked over later in such a manner that you never lose this feeling of purity–this remains an inspiration.” [JF76]

He told journalist Conrad Silvert, “I ain’t scared of Beethoven or nobody when it comes to composing. I wrote ‘Nubian Sundance’ in ten minutes, and it’s a smoker–every bassline, every statement was originally improvised.” Zawinul went on to describe the piece at length: “It was originally a 22-page score written down from my improvisation. I had just moved to California, and my parents were visiting, so it was a good time to compose. The music isn’t about Nubia, really–it’s a wedding dance. You can hear the man’s voice calling Godinia, and later on she calls him, Accru. And then you hear the people cheering and applauding, that’s like a toast, a certain ritual. The moral of the story is that if you meet the right person in your life, you always know from the very beginning.” [DB78b]

2. American Tango (Zawinul/Vitous) 3:39

Wayne Shorter: Tenor and soprano saxophone
Auger James Adderley: Vocal
Josef Zawinul: Rhodes piano and synthesizer
Miroslav Vitous: Bass
Alphonso Johnson: Bass
Ishmael Wilburn: Drums
Dom Um Romão: Percussion

“‘American Tango’ was improvised in the studio,” Zawinul told Jazz Forum magazine. “Mirsoslav Vitous had a little background but no melody to go with it. After some time, we began to feel a little frustrated. Now, I remembered a melody I had written long time ago. I added it to Miroslav’s background and, in the studio, we improvised on it. This is the origin of ‘American Tango.’” [JF76]

3. Cucumber Slumber (Zawinul/Johnson) 8:20

Josef Zawinul: Electric piano and EML synthesizer
Wayne Shorter: Soprano and tenor saxophone
Alphonso Johnson: Bass
Ishmael Wilburn: Drums
Dom Um Romão: Percussion
Ray Barretto: Percussion

“‘Cucumber Slumber’ was a jam,” Johnson told Zawinul biographer Brian Glasser. “We were recording in a studio in Connecticut, and I just came up with [sings the famous bassline]. All of a sudden, the drummer started playing, and it just took off from there. It was a total improvised jam. I’d have to say it was one of the best tracks for me. Not just because of that bassline–that was a stroke of luck–but when I listen to Wayne and Joe’s solos, they’re like, the perfect solos. Every note, all the phrasing, is just perfect, and I marvel at that. Even now I listen to that track and I go, ‘God, how’d they do that?’” [IASW, p. 164]

“I’ll let you in on a little secret, Johnson continued. “We kind of knew the three sections we’d done, and we were doing another take of it. At one point, Joe’s playing, and I went to what you might call the bridge and I looked over and Joe’s headphones had fallen off, so he was still playing the previous section. Then all of a sudden his radar went up and he just shifted gear, and it was brilliant, really amazing. It’s still there, if you listen, because when they mixed the record back then, the big thing was quadraphonic sound, so they couldn’t lose it.” [IASW, p. 164]

“Cucumber Slumber” has been extensively sampled by rappers in the late 1980s and 1990s, a practice that often included no remuneration to the original artist. This led to some legal action, which was the subject of a 1992 article by Fred Shuster, which talked about a recent Federal court decision which determined that unless authorization is given by the copyright owner of the original material, the resulting new recording is against the law. In the article, Zawinul said the first responsibility of an artist is to give credit where credit is due:

“If you steal something, steal it and play it yourself,” Zawinul said. “In the case of sampling, some type of money should be paid depending on what is being used.”

Rapper M.C. 100 Ft. Jesus appropriated 16 measures of the Weather Report tune “Cucumber Slumber” for the track “Truth Is Out of Style,” Zawinul said, “and they never even got in touch with us.”

Maureen Woods, owner of Mizmo Enterprises, which administrates Zawinul’s music publishing, said that her company had contacted I.R.S. Records, which represents M.C. 100 Ft. Jesus, but that there had been no reply so far.

“Usually, you work out something to do with royalties or a fee or something,” Woods said. “If worse comes to worst, you go to court.” [LADN92]

Side Two

4. Mysterious Traveller (Shorter) 7:21

Wayne Shorter: Tac piano, soprano saxophone, tenor, sea shell
Josef Zawinul: Rhodes piano
Alphonso Johnson: Bass
Ishmael Wilburn: Drums
Skip Hadden: Drums
Dom Um Romão: Percussion

In Glasser’s book, In A Silent Way, Zawinul says, “This was one of Wayne’s tunes, which I arranged. The end of it I more or less put together. We just played the wonderful keyboard line with that rhythm at the beginning, and Wayne is very particular about his writing–everything is written out. We practiced this tune very hard. I felt now when it’s happening there should be a little more, so we just carried on and built it up a little bit.” [IASW, p. 163]

Alphonso Johnson told Glasser, “There were two distinct drummers [on this track], one of whom was Skip Hadden, who played a kind of swing beat against Ishmael Wilburn, who played a straight-ahead rock/funk beat. It was the combination of the two drums that came up with that pattern. It was too complicated to explain to get one drummer to play that way. I think they lucked out because they had the drummers play separate, and when they brought the tracks together it worked perfectly. It wasn’t like anybody had planned that pattern.” [IASW, p. 163]

For “Mysterious Traveller,” Zawinul took advantage of Risner’s modifications to the ARP 2600s so that he could create a much fuller sound. “What I always liked about them,” Zawinul once recalled, “was the way they were coupled together, so that I had six oscillators instead of three. On ‘Scarlet Woman,’ the melody chords would have been impossible to play without coupling the 2600s and detuning the oscillators.” [KB84]

“Mysterious Traveller” also appears on the Weather Report compilation album This Is Jazz, Vol. 10 and various artists compilation Meltdown: The Birth of Fusion.

5. Blackthorn Rose (Shorter) 5:00

Wayne Shorter: Soprano saxophone
Josef Zawinul: Acoustic piano, melodica

“‘Blackthorn Rose’ has something to do with elves and fairies,” Shorter explained in 2005. “There’s a book that talks about the Blackthorn Rose fairy who was very, very beautiful. This fairy was under some bushes that had thorns. If you don’t see the thorns, you’ll get all cut up. Don’t mess with the Blackthorn Rose fairy.” [FT06, page 51]

6. Scarlet Woman (Johnson/Shorter/Zawinul) 5:43

Wayne Shorter: Soprano saxophone
Alphonso Johnson: Bass
Josef Zawinul: Rhodes piano, synthesizer
Dom Um Romão: Percussion, drums
Steve Little: Timpani

Zawinul described the creation of “Scarlet Woman” in 1976: “‘Scarlet Woman’ was conceived this way: Al Johnson brought the melody in, the first melody (sings it). That’s the only thing he brought in. I put in the harmony, the bridge and I arranged it, and Wayne Shorter played the beautiful solo on it. So we just created it out of this first line. In my mind I could see the Himalayas, the mountain; and the great Welsch writer, Aleister Crowley, he called his wife ‘Scarlet Woman.’ He was in Tibet a lot, so I felt this kind of atmosphere. I saw people trekking, camels, shepherds, man, I saw the shepherds.” [BE76]

Another description from a 1978 interview: “The atmosphere of this tune was set in the title. I was reading a book by Aliester Crowley, a famous Welsh mystic, and also a famous mountain climber. He was talking about being in Nepal, up on a mountain cliff in the Himalayas with his wife, whome he called ‘the scarlet woman.’ We have the cold wind in the beginning to set this atmosphere. Mystic. He called himself 6-6-6, the reincarnation of the devil. He was talking about the fourth dimension and all of this.” [BAM78]

Wayne put it simply: “[T]he three of us got together and collaborated on that, that’s why it came out with three different dimensions.” [JT02]

Alphonso Johnson told Glasser, “‘Scarlet Woman’ was a song that I wrote, and I’d conceived it totally differently to the way it turned out! Joe, in his infinite wisdom–and Wayne too, actually–he was the one who said a lot of times, when he was with Miles, he would bring in a chart and Miles would just play the intro, and that became a great song. So that’s kind of what they did: they took that [sings descending four-note melody], and they eliminated the other three-fourths of my song. I like their version better. I’ve never even recorded the rest of the song. What they did was perfect.” [IASW]

7. Jungle Book (Zawinul) 7:22

Josef Zawinul: Vocal, piano, guitar, clay drum, tamboura, tac piano, kalimba, maracas, organ
Don Ashworth: Ocarinas and woodwinds
Isacoff: Tabla, finger cymbals
Dom Um Romão: Triangle, tambourine, cabassa

“Jungle Book” was an improvisation that Zawinul recorded in his home studio. “It’s taken over on the record exactly the way I played it at home for the first time!,” Zawinul told Jurn Solothurnmann for Jazz Forum. “This is an improvisation which I could never reproduce in that way! Later, I overdubbed various instruments, but the main tape is from hime, with the laughing and crying of my children. I recorded it just with a cassette tape recorder, an improvisation from the first to the last note. It’s my favorite piece, not because of structural or suchlike reasons but because it’s nearest to this higher energy source!”

“The piano was slightly out of tune. You know, my piano is unique, as also is my house, for recordings. It happened in a big room with almost no furniture because we had just moved. While playing, my youngest son always bugged me: he wanted me to read to him from the ‘Jungle Book.’ I didn’t respond and he started crying. Later on, I went to the studio and cleaned out the tape a little bit. And then I made many overdubbings with instruments I play myself: the kalimba, the guitar, the tabla, the sitar and many more.” [JF76]

Bonus Tracks

(8a). Miroslav’s Tune (Vitous)

Wayne Shorter: Tenor and soprano saxophone
Josef Zawinul: Rhodes piano and synthesizer
Miroslav Vitous: Bass
Ishmael Wilburn: Drums
Skip Hadden: Drums

“Miroslav’s Tune” appears as a bonus track on 1997 Sony Master Sound release of Mysterious Traveller that was released in Japan.

(8b). Cucumber Slumber [live] (Zawinul/Johnson) 11:39

Josef Zawinul: Electric piano, synthesizers
Wayne Shorter: Tenor saxophone
Alphonso Johnson: Electric bass
Chester Thompson: Drums
Alex Acuña: Percussion

This live version of “Cucumber Slumber” was recorded November 27, 1975 at the New Victoria Theatre, London. It was originally released in 2002 on Live and Unreleased, and is included on the version of Mysterious Traveller that was released in 2012 as part of the boxed set Weather Report The Columbia Albums 1971-1975.

(9). Nubian Sundance [live] (Zawinul) 13:05

Josef Zawinul: Electric piano, synthesizers
Wayne Shorter: Tenor saxophone
Alphonso Johnson: Electric bass
Darryl Brown: Drums
Dom Um Romão: percussion

This live version of “Nubian Sundance” was recorded December 8, 1974 in Chicago. It was originally released in 2006 on Forecast: Tomorrow, and is included on the version of Mysterious Traveller that was released in 2012 as part of the boxed set Weather Report The Columbia Albums 1971-1975.

Review Excerpts

“Electronics can be cold. At high volume levels those nuances of phrasing and texture which have always communicated the essence of jazz, from Armstrong to Parker to Coltrane, tend to blur or disappear altogether. In the beginning Weather Report seemed to be an unusually cold band, programming textures and rhythms from an immense distance, sculpting impressive lines but from solid ice. Mysterious Traveller is different. It’s about the triumph of feeling over technology… Mysterious Traveller reintroduces human proportion into the mix and is far and away Weather Report’s most complete and perfect statement.”

–Bob Palmer, Rolling Stone, 166

“Besides being a pair of the finer releases of the year [Shorter's Moto Grosso Feio, recorded three years earlier, was paired with Mysterious Traveller for this review], these albums showcase the steady growth of Wayne Shorter into the most authoritative soprano sax force since Coltrane. The amazing thing about Shorter is that he has such an accurate sense of economy. As part of Weather Report, his playing has often been overshadowed by the formidable keyboard presence of Zawinul, yet he, more than anyone else in the unit, is responsible for the band’s individual personality… Zawinul seems to be steering Report into a landscape of his own imagination, something that may not ultimately be compatible with Shorter’s lyrical abilities. One thing is indisputable: both men show no sign of creative stagnation and, because of this, Weather Report remains one of the most seminal small ensembles of the day.”

★★★★

–Marv Hohman, Down Beat, November 7, 1974

“From the moment the first track, ‘Nubian Sundance,’ explodes out of the speakers, it’s clear that Weather Report have traveled mysteriously to a country–a whole continent, in fact–which has yet to figure on any map (and it’s certainly not Nubia, nor Africa). It is a thrilling land of delicacy, power, color, light, and seemingly unending, unexpected, unsurpassable delights of all shapes and sizes, a land that has eluded all other explorers to this day.”

–Brian Glasser, In A Silent Way, 2000

Awards

Jazz Album of the Year, 39th Down Beat Readers Poll

Jazz Group of the Year, 39th Down Beat Readers Poll

Billboard chart peak: Jazz Albums, 2; R&B Albums, 31, Top 200 Albums, 46.

5 thoughts on “Mysterious Traveller

  1. Earnie Simms

    Hey brother, great site! One typo: Male singer on Nubian Sundance is James “Gilstrap”, a much recorded singer, and not “Gilstrad”.

    Reply
    1. curt Post author

      Thanks, Earnie. The singers are not credited on the original LP, and the 1971-1975 boxed set identifies him as James Gilstrad. Must be a typo.

      Reply
  2. Philip Donovan

    I’m very happy to have come across this. Jungle Book has always held this mysterious enchantment to me. As a musician, I’ve always been perplexed by the strange ambient textures that surround the instruments especially the piano. This shed a lot of light on how Joe went about developing the tune. Its a great insight. I will always still be enchanted by that song. Thank you,.

    Phil Donovan

    Reply
  3. Luc

    Wonderful site.

    Thanks so much for making it.

    I remember when my friend John put this album on and being blown away. The first and last tracks still send shivers up the spine. Thank you.

    Reply

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