Sweetnighter

Sweetnighter

“The first hip-hop beat ever recorded!”
– Joe Zawinul

Track Listing

Side One

1. Boogie Woogie Waltz (Zawinul) 13:01
2. Manolete (Shorter) 4:49
3. Adios (Zawinul) 7:23

Side Two

4. 125th Street Congress (Zawinul) 12:12
5. Will (Vitous) 7:46
6. Non-Stop Home (Shorter) 4:50

Bonus Tracks

(7.) 125th Street Congress Remix (Zawinul) 5:04

Credits

Original Release: Columbia KC 32210
Date Released: April 27, 1973
Produced By: Shoviza Productions
Engineer: Phil Giambalvo
Cover Design: John Berg
Cover Art: Dick Hess
Photography: Columbia Records Photo Studio

Recorded February 3-7, 1973 by Phil Giambalvo at Connecticut Recording Studio, New Haven, Connecticut.

Special thanks to Billy Rose and Connecticut Recording Studio.

Personnel

Josef Zawinul: Electric and acoustic piano, synthesizer
Wayne Shorter: Soprano and tenor sax
Miroslav Vitous: Electric and acoustic bass
Eric Grávátt: Drums (tracks 2, 4 and 6)
Dom Um Romão: Percussion
Muruga: Percussion
Andrew White III: Electric bass (tracks 1, 4 and 6), English horn (tracks 3 and 5)
Herschel Dwellingham: Drums (tracks 1, 2, 3 and 6)

Overview

“I don’t know what the next record will be,” Josef Zawinul said in the summer of 1972, “but it’ll be something else! We’ve been learning every night, and we’re still growing.” [MM72]

Indeed, Sweetnighter was something else. Zawinul began to assert greater control of band, steering it away from the collective improvisation that marked its live performances toward more structured compositions emphasizing funk and groove. This was exemplified by the album’s two dominant tracks, “Boogie Woogie Waltz” and “125th Street Congress,” as well as the closer, “Non-Stop Home.” Other tracks were reminiscent of Weather Report’s previous albums, making Sweetnighter a transition from the band’s first phase to what one might call its mature phase.

Zawinul has since spoken often of the motivations behind this change. On the one hand, there was the desire to end the “swimming” and “searching” that characterized the live band to that point. “I was not superbly happy with either one of these [1971 and 1972] bands,” Zawinul explained in 1978. “One night we played like the best musicians in the world and other nights we couldn’t get off the ground. Many nights it was incredible, but if the magic wasn’t on it was a catastrophe.” [DB78b] He said much the same thing in a 1984 interview: “On the first two albums we all had lines of eight bars, and the rest was just played by the band. Sometimes we just had four bars, and we went off. That was tiresome because when the magic was there, it was great, but more often than was comfortable, you have nothing because the connection wasn’t there. You’re just swimming around and playing a long time.” [DB84] And in 1996: “Sometimes we were very creative, but often it would happen that if we were not totally on, absolutely nothing! I didn’t want that. I didn’t want to search, the composition’s got to be there.” [JR, p. 169]

On the other hand, there was the need to be more successful financially. “On the second album [I Sing The Body Electric], side two was a live recording from Japan. Eric Grávátt was in the band and we were cooking already. But we realized that even though it was a good record, we had to make a living. I have a big family and Wayne has a big family. Somehow we had to survive. I had come out of Cannonball’s band, and naturally, I wanted to play a little funkier than we were playing at the time.” [KB84] And, “In the beginning, Weather Report was almost a completely improvisatory band, and I wanted a little more structure. And we weren’t selling enough records. So I wrote ‘Boogie Woogie Waltz’ to get us off the ground.” [DB78b]

“The first two records were investigation,” Zawinul once said. “‘What can we do?’ By the second record we realized what we could not do, and that’s what we wanted to do on the third album. Wayne and I were always pretty much on the same wavelength, especially in trying to make decisions as to what we wanted to do. But I realized that if I did not step up with a totally different force, we were going to disappear. Wayne was writing beautiful music, but it was more romantic, Brazilian influenced. It didn’t bother me, but I knew we could not build on that. From an ego standpoint, we had tasted the success of being poll winners and respected in the music world. How long did we want that?” [KB84]

Miroslav Vitous summed it up this way: “Improvisation was the mark of the band, but Joe Zawinul wanted to get more commercial, in a sense. It’s a questions of money in the U.S., and what the music business is doing to music. The band had to change–it was in a bad financial situation. It moved into a steady rhythm section, black funk type of thing.” [IASW]

Collective improvisation was the mark of the band, but two Down Beat concert reviews illustrated the hit-and-miss nature to which Zawinul referred. Jim Szantor wrote of a 1972 concert:

Since the band’s music (like all music, but here especially so) is beyond description, the usual Caught play-by-play yields no opinion, analysis, reaction. Not without justification, as a post-mortem discussion with Zawinul indicated that the magic, brought about by inspired interplay and so plentiful and joyous the previous (opening) night, was most elusive this night. And with a group like Weather Report, if the rabbit doesn’t appear, all you have left is an interesting-sounding hat.

But those who have heard their second album or who were fortunate enough to have attended opening night (when the music was evoking stand-up screams) know that the magic can be pretty heady stuff. When it’s lacking though, said Vitous, the band lets it be, remains calm (their definition) and waits for it to come around again. Then they caress it, beat and kick it, wanting it to stay, knowing it won’t. [DB72c]

Just a few months later Down Beat‘s Bob Protzman caught one of those “magic” nights, writing, “Now I’m going to say it. Weather Report, a five-piece band with roots in jazz but ideas in the universe, gave one of the greatest concerts I’ve ever heard.” [DB73a]

“I wanted the band to get stronger rhythmically,” Zawinul said in describing the band’s new direction. “Even stronger than Cannonball and Miles and all those. But there was just one thing, I just didn’t like the backbeat, that two and four backbeat, it destroys any sensibility of rhythm because it is not rhythm, it is time, and time and rhythm in music are two different things. A groove is a groove, but time doesn’t give you a groove, time gives you a certain exactness. ‘125th Street Congress’ is a groove and that is what I wanted–I come from Cannonball, I come from Dinah Washington, everything I ever grew up with and liked about jazz is in there. That beat we use there, and on ‘Boogie Woogie Waltz’, I taught the two drummers, sitting with them for hours and taught them how to play it and those very recordings are sampled on rap and hip-hop records now–it was the first hip-hop beat ever recorded!” [JR, p. 170]

In order to realize his musical vision, Zawinul brought in a different bass player and drummer. “Miroslav, being a great bass player in one way, was not the bass player for other things we wanted to do. I had written a few pieces like ‘Boogie Woogie Waltz’ and ‘125th Street Congress’ for the third album [Sweetnighter] which required a little more versatility. Eric Grávátt was not the drummer on these tunes; not that he couldn’t have done it, but with him it was a mental thing. He just didn’t have his heart in it. As a plain jazz drummer, I think he’s the greatest we have ever had, with perhaps the exception of Peter Erskine or Omar Hakim. So we had to hire a drummer and a bassist to play the grooves we wanted. it was an awkward situation. Here we had a band and we had to hire outside musicians to play instruments which were already supposed to be played by the members of the band–it started getting weird.” [KB84]

In fact, it was the beginning of the end of Grávátt’s tenure with the band. “Miroslav accepted that he couldn’t play funk,” Zawinul recalled in 1978, “but it really hurt Grávátt. I wasn’t getting a chance to solo because I had to play so much bottom to make the music come out–it wasn’t decisive enough rhythmically. Grávátt was a great jazz drummer, but you can’t play 4/4 all the time.” [DB78b] “I think Eric Grávátt was a genius,” Zawinul reminisced years later, “but he had such a small little bass drum, we couldn’t play the things I wanted to play. That’s what broke that up. It wasn’t that he didn’t play good enough. He was a bad dude, man. From the jazz side, Eric Grávátt was my favorite of them all.” [DB01]

Expanding on that thought, Zawinul added, “He couldn’t remain in the band because when we went into the studio to do the third album, I wanted to have what’s today called the hip-hop beat. You hear it on ‘125th Street Congress.’ And ‘Boogie Woogie Waltz’ was a hip-hop in 3. But I needed a low bass drum. Eric had one of those long small little things, that went ‘boop’. That didn’t make it, so I had to hire another guy who had that bass drum sound. When Eric saw this guy in the studio, he kind of freaked out and his spirit was not there anymore. That, unfortunately, changed a lot of things.” [DB01]

Grávátt left the band shortly after Sweetnighter. He said he was going to quit music, but then he got a call to work with Minneapolis’ best known jazz group at the time, Natural Life. He moved there in 1974, where he resided for nearly 30 years, raising his family, working as a prison guard, and playing occasional gigs in the Twin Cities area. He became disillusioned with the music industry. “People keep offering me novice fees to come out of the house with 350 pounds of drums and three adult human beings (his sidemen),” he said in 1996. “I can’t do it, man. They want to pay me $50 a night. I was making $100 when I was 16. I have a mortgage, I don’t get free gas, and my children have to be educated. I have a life. I can’t spend it chasing down $50 gigs.” In a 1996 interview he was asked if he was bitter toward the music industry. “I don’t feel that I’m bitter,” he said. Angry? “I don’t feel particularly angry.” Frustrated? “No, if it was that, I’d be out in the street.” Disappointed? “That’s closer, I guess. But only with the business side of jazz.” [SPPP96] Nevertheless, Grávátt continued to maintain a presence in the Twin Cities jazz scene, teaching and performing with his band Source Code. In 2004, Grávátt reunited with McCoy Tyner, touring with his big band. In 2005, Grávátt returned to his native Philadelphia, and has been performing with Tyner and bassist Charnett Moffett to rave reviews.

The other drummer Zawinul hired was Herschel Dwellingham. He started his career while in high school in Louisiana, and upon graduation attended the Berklee School of Music. He started his first record label while in Boston, and he moved to New York in 1973, where he became a top session drummer and honed his producing and arranging skills. (Helva Records and boguemagicityrecords.com.) His drumming credits include work with Mongo Santamaria, Fats Domino, The Escorts, Stephanie Mills, Harry Chapin, and Johnny Mathis.

The bass player brought in was Andrew White III, who had played English horn on I Sing The Body Electric. A multi-instrumentalist whose main instrument is the saxophone, White was playing bass guitar with the Fifth Dimension when he caught Zawinul’s attention. White told Zawinul biographer Brian Glasser, “Wayne called me, and I don’t exactly remember now, but I think Joe told Wayne to call me because Joe had seen me on television with Fifth Dimension, with whom I was bass player at the time, and I was quite animated and all. I’d already played with Stevie Wonder before that and the American Ballet Theater as principle oboist. Of course, I’d known them both for years. Oh yeah, I’d known Joe from his Cannonball days and Wayne from the Art Blakey days, and I happened to be free when he called.” [IASW]

The musician on Sweetnighter credited simply as “Muruga” is Steve “Muruga” Booker, a drummer and percussionist who has played with a range of musicians and styles, perhaps most notably George Clinton and P-Funk All-Stars. It is possible that Muruga came to Zawinul’s attention through folk singer Tim Hardin. Muruga performed with Hardin at Woodstock in 1969; Zawinul, Vitous and Weather Report’s original drummer Alphonse Mouzon all played on Hardin’s 1971 album, Bird On A Wire. So far as I know Muruga never performed with Weather Report live, though he did return to the studio to record “Nubian Sundance” on Mysterious Traveller.

Shorter offered his take on Sweetnighter in a 1974 Down Beat article: “Sweetnighter was a kind of getting down. We sort of half-intentionally wanted to stay away from the ethereal, or in even more broken down terms, selfish. Traditionally selfish–‘I’m playing for me.’ We’ve seen a lotta sitting down in nightclubs. So years and years of seeing people sit, it’s time. The third album was more, y’know, let’s see some people dance. As soon as it came out, we started to see people dance.” [DB74a]

The 1973 Down Beat Readers Poll named Weather Report Jazz Group of the year. Nevertheless, the band had its detractors, as can be seen by the contrasting opinions of Down Beat’s unusual double review of Sweetnighter. Will Smith complained, “One might request at least a few more connected solo moments instead of the bits and pieces of fragmented soprano, keyboard and bass lines.” Journalist David Rensin put forth the case of Weather Report’s detractors directly to Zawinul:

Some people claim that Weather Report is less than listenable, that the music is rambling and thoughtless. “I don’t talk to those idiots, man,” snapped Zawinul. “We just play what we feel inside, and this is really the first chance any of us has had to do that. We are members of our own band, we do exactly as we want to and we’re so much the better for that.”

“Our music is especially relevant to young people because it is so young itself. It’s always fresh,” Zawinul added, “Young people feel more than they think, so they’re not always going ‘I don’t understand it.’ Who gives a fuck who understands it? I mean, people understand so much and they still can’t live in peace. Everybody understands everything and don’t feel nothing.” [RS73]

Rensin also asked Zawinul if he thought he’d left Miles Davis behind. After taking a moment to consider the question, Zawinul said, “No, I don’t think we’ve left Miles behind. We are just somewhere else, man. Another entity that grew out of him. He’s the father and we are the sons, and even when you are small and you stand upon the shoulders of the father, you are going to see further than he. That’s what we are doing, and one day I hope to have many sons of my own.” [RS73]

Side One

1. Boogie Woogie Waltz (Zawinul) 13:01

Josef Zawinul: Synthesizer, electric piano
Wayne Shorter: Soprano and tenor saxophones
Miroslav Vitous: Acoustic Bass
Andrew White: Electric Bass
Dom Um Romão: Bell, tambourine, chucalho
Muruga: Moroccan clay drums
Herschel Dwellingham: Drums

Zawinul has called “Boogie Woogie Waltz” “a hip-hop in 3.” Long before “hip-hop” entered the vernacular, he described its structure to Jazz Forum magazine. “There are only five sentences. There is an introduction, an interlude and a dance at the end. And in between, everything is free.” [JF76]

He has also said that former Sly And The Family Stone drummer Greg Errico played ‘Boogie Woogie Waltz’ better than anybody. [DB01] Errico manned the drum chair for Weather Report between Sweetnighter and Mysterious Traveller, but never recorded with the band. He told Glasser, “[Zawinul] still tells me that to this day! He was talking about that song ‘Boogie Woogie Waltz.’ He said, ‘I finally stopped playing that song because I could never get someone to play it like that once you left the group!’ It was in 3/4, but not in the traditional way. I mean, it was in three but I would play four against it, and played it aggressively.” [IASW, 157]

2. Manolete (Shorter) 5:50

Wayne Shorter: Soprano saxophone
Josef Zawinul: Electric and acoustic piano, synthesizer
Miroslav Vitous: Acoustic Bass
Eric Grávátt: Drums
Herschel Dwellingham:   Drums
Muruga: Moroccan clay drums, tympani, splash cymbal

3. Adios (Zawinul) 2:56

Josef Zawinul: Electric piano
Wayne Shorter: Tenor saxophone
Andrew White: English horn
Miroslav Vitous: Electric Bass
Muruga: Roller toy

Side Two

4. 125th Street Congress (Zawinul) 12:12

Josef Zawinul: Electric piano
Wayne Shorter: Soprano saxophone
Miroslav Vitous: Acoustic Bass
Andrew White: Electric Bass
Eric Grávátt: Drums on intro
Herschel Dwellingham:   Drums
Muruga: Israeli jar drum
Dom Um Romão: Pandeiro, cuica, tamanco, chucalho, gong, tambourine, cowbell

5. Will (Vitous) 6:13

Andrew White: English horn
Josef Zawinul: Electric piano
Wayne Shorter: Tenor saxophone
Miroslav Vitous: Electric Bass
Dom Um Romão: Cachichi, wood block, chucalho

Vitous recorded another version of “Will” on the 1978 album Rypdal, Vitous, DeJohnette with guitarist Terje Rypdal and drummer Jack DeJohnette.

6. Non-Stop Home (Shorter) 4:50

Wayne Shorter: Soprano saxophone
Eric Grávátt Drums
Herschel Dwellingham:   Drums
Josef Zawinul: Synthesizer, electric piano
Andrew White: Electric Bass
Dom Um Romão: Percussion, vaibis-stone, Chinese tom-tom, cymbal, castanhola, gong, wood block, caxixi, wood flute, tambourine

In a 1976 article, journalist Sebastian Clarke asked Shorter about “Non-Stop Home.” “Well, you know I wrote that for my grandmother. She used to belong to the Baptist church, the Black Baptist church, and that was like her church’s song. If you take the rhythm off and let the melody play, that’s her song, man.” [BE76]

White told Glasser, “I just went in and did ‘Non-Stop Home.’ There was a sketch, but there was no line–all the music, all that you hear me play on there, that’s mine. And I’ll tell you this, just for the record: the track ‘Non-Stop Home’ was not the final cut, as it appears on the album–that was my audition cut. The first thing I did was ‘Non-Stop Home,’ and that was the test track. They were so impressed with that that they used it. Evidently, there was something about the whole spontaneity of a funk player coming in that they captured it on that test cut. Herschel was brought in for exactly the same reason as me, to funk it up.” [IASW]

(7). 125th Street Congress Remix (Zawinul, DJ Logic Remix) 5:04

Josef Zawinul: Electric piano
Wayne Shorter: Soprano saxophone
Miroslav Vitous: Acoustic Bass
Andrew White: Electric Bass
Eric Grávátt: Drums on intro
Herschel Dwellingham:   Drums
Muruga: Israeli jar drum
Dom Um Romão: Pandeiro, cuica, tamanco, chucalho, gong, tambourine, cowbell
Carlos (Omega) Caberini Vocal

This remix of “125th Street Congress,” by DJ Logic in 2005, was originally released in 2006 on Forecast: Tomorrow, and is included as track 7 on the version of Sweetnighter that was released in 2012 as part of the boxed set Weather Report The Columbia Albums 1971-1975.

Review Excerpts

“Weather Report isn’t the first band to try the multi-percussion trip but so far it has been the most successful. The Grávátt-Dewllingham-Romão-Muruga team plays more than polyrhythms. It blows percussion with the same inventiveness and crispness that Shorter brings to his horns, Zawinul to his keyboards, Vitous to the bass. Perhaps to even the number of melody players versus percussionists, Andrew White has been added on English horn… One interesting thing about Weather Report is that this is a band that lives between categories. There are things here, as on the previous albums, that will grab a jazz audience, a rock audience, or an audience that is into classical music. And yet Weather Report is of none of these worlds–truly a band for which there is no pigeon hole.”

★★★★★

— Joe H. Klee, Down Beat, 1973

“It’s funky and it’s slick and somehow the whole thing doesn’t really have a great deal of meaning. Here’s a group that had great advance notice, a sort of jazz supergroup. Yet, though the group’s first two albums got awards and critical acclaim they didn’t say very much. Nice records, but hardly great. It’s the same here, just different. A nice record, grooving, but… There’s no doubt that the group has its own bag. But there’s not that much in this bag.”

★★★

— Will Smith, Down Beat, 1973

“In the year since I Sing the Body Electric, Weather Report has added an ethereal electronic quality to its acoustic soundscape. Their music is now colored by eerie synthesized qualities, haunted by saxophone lyricism and nervous South American rhythms. Musical thoughts are as much implied as real, likewise the suggestions of foreign places are both geographical and neurological. Thus, Sweetnighter is strictly a travelogue of the Seventies… Weather Report’s true musical peers are groups like the Mahavishnu Orchestra and the Herbie Hancock Sextet. Like them, they fuse rock, jazz and electronics into a descriptive music that is brilliantly innovative and accessible. In this they seem to me the epitome of a significant avant-garde trend.”

— Jud Rosebush, Rolling Stone, 141

Awards

Jazz Group of the Year, 38th Annual Down Beat Readers Poll.

Billboard chart peak: Jazz Albums, 2; R&B Albums, 41; Top 200 Albums, 85.

5 thoughts on “Sweetnighter

  1. Zane Trow

    It may be worth saying that Adios, which is such a simple and beautiful track, was used as the audience playout music at the end of live performances for years. It was always such a great way to leave the concert, I saw the band many many times, and each time this track was played. It kinda grounded you back into the world, and also gave long term fans a wave to their long term listening I think. In the later concerts I would hazard that many in the audience didn’t even know that they were still listening to Weather Report as they left their seats.

    Reply
    1. John

      Zane,
      I remember that well, and think of it almost every time I listen to it. It had that effect on me as I left the concert halls back then.
      I also remember mentioning it at the time, and you’re right, many people weren’t aware of it.

      I always loved that track, but Manolete, and Will, are two tracks that I kind of missed on back then.
      Manolete stays in my head for days, and nights, after I listen to it. I never fully appreciated this album until revisiting it the last several months.

      Cheers

      Reply
  2. Pingback: Catching Up With Herschel Dwellingham | The Weather Report Annotated Discography

  3. Giovanni Principe

    Sweetnighter has been the first Weather Report album I listened to in my life.
    I think my dad brought it home right after it came out and he put it on the turntable.
    I was a kid and that music entered my mind and my soul immediately: along the years I got all of Weather Report’s albums and I also met the band.
    I like all Weather Report’ music but Sweetnighter will be my favorite, also because it reminds me of my childhood.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>