“Weather Report is sleeping... When Wayne and I decide to do something together again, it will awaken.”
– Joe Zawinul
|Original Release:||Columbia Columbia FC 40280|
|Date Released:||June 1986|
|Produced by:||Josef Zawinul|
Recorded December 1985-January 1986.
|Mino Cinélu:||Percussion, vocals|
|Omar Hakim:||Drums (track 6 only)|
|D. Siedah Garrett:||Vocalist|
This Is This, Weather Report’s final album, is universally considered to be the band’s weakest. Its leaders–Josef Zawinul and Wayne Shorter–believed they had already fulfilled their Columbia contract with their previous album, Sportin’ Life, and had disbanded the group in favor of working on individual projects. But somewhere along the line Columbia wrangled one more record out of them, and so, “This is This was a contract record that we had to do,” said Zawinul in 2001. “Wayne was already on the way out, doing other things. So was I. So we just did boom-boom-boom, a little bit here and a little bit there. ” [DB01]
The story behind This Is This, and the demise of Weather Report, began with the completion of Sportin’ Life. At the time of its release Zawinul and Shorter declared that Weather Report was taking a break, allowing each them to pursue personal projects. (In fact, Shorter was already recording his new album, Atlantis.) Nevertheless, Zawinul expected the band would get together again. “As for the status of the band,” he said in March 1985, “it’s still Weather Report, with Omar Hakim, Victor Bailey, Mino Cinelu, Wayne and myself, still existent. We’re still going to make records with this band; however, momentarily, we will not travel with the band… There is nothing changed except that we’re not going to tour with this record immediately. Next year we’ll come out with a Weather Report album, but the only thing we’re not doing is going right out with our bags, so that the moment [Sportin' Life] hits the streets, we’re in Cleveland. (laughs).” [Mus85]
After Sportin’ Life the band members went their separate ways. Omar Hakim joined Sting’s band, explaining to Zawinul biographer Brian Glasser, “I was always very busy away from Weather Report; it was not my only thing. I was traveling all over the world doing dates. And while recording Dire Strait’s Brothers In Arms in 1984 I met Sting, and he was telling me about his project, so I figured this was a good time to jump ship and take my career to another level. My career was just naturally evolving and growing. We didn’t even have a discussion of my activities. It was just a natural flow.” [IASW, pp. 249-250]
Victor Bailey toured with Steps Ahead. “The first Steps Ahead band I played with was a killer!” he recalled. “Michael Brecker, Mike Mainieri, Chuck Loeb, Peter Erskine. That was one of the few bands I’ve played with where I was totally ready to go out on stage every night, and knew we were going to kill. It was just one of those groups where the chemistry was just right. It’s the only thing I’ve done that comes close to the musical highs I used to get with Weather Report, aside from my own band.” [IFS01b]
That summer Zawinul toured Europe as a one-man band, and subsequently completed his long delayed solo project, Dialects. Meanwhile, Shorter appeared in the Bertrand Tavernier film ‘Round Midnight, starring Dexter Gordon. In the fall he put together his own band to tour the United States and Europe in support of Atlantis.
The San Diego Union-Tribune‘s George Varga caught up with Shorter in early October 1985. The occasion was the first performance of Shorter’s new band, which consisted of flutist Kent Jordan, Gary Willis on bass, Tom Brechtlein on drums, and Tom Canning on keyboards. It is clear that by this time Shorter’s thoughts were far from Weather Report. Varga asked Shorter if Zawinul was responsible for his diminished Weather Report participation:
No, no. There’s a limelight of superficiality, and there’s a deep kind of existence, like an infrared ray. For a long time in Weather Report, I abstained. I elected not to do things. At the same time I was cultivating many other aspects of my life. I was building inner resources that can’t be seen. You might say I was building an inconspicuous bank account of stairsteps to wisdom that can be used when the time comes. All the good things I can do inwardly allow me to forge ahead, as I am now, and be a strong and reliable example for younger people. [SDUT85b]
About being away from Weather Report:
It feels good [to be apart], and there’s the possibility that a lot of other doors may open. There are a lot of things that don’t fit in the Weather Report format. I think people will get the best out of Weather Report when they get the best out of the individuals in the group. [SDUT85b]
Will Weather Report regroup, renewed and refreshed?
I’ve thought about that, but it seems like there would be no reason to get back together but to make new hits. The Beatles had more reason to get back together; a lot of groups have better reasons to get back together. People look sentimentally at [us] regrouping. It’s like not being on ‘Dallas’ or ‘Dynasty’ for a while. Reversing something that’s happened can be like, you know, trying to put on a pair of shoes you had when you were 6 after you’re grown up. [SDUT85b]
At some point in 1985, presumably after the October start of Shorter’s U.S. tour, Zawinul and Shorter resolved that they would have to produce one more Weather Report album. With Zawinul finishing up Dialects, and Shorter busy touring with his own band, the timing must have been awkward at best.
Asked if it was difficult getting everyone together for the album, Zawinul said, “I must give a lot of credit to my managers for having organized it. It was very difficult because everybody is working. Wayne has his own band, and he only was in town for a few days. Omar Hakim is working with Sting; we had to fly him in from London. Mino Cinelu and Victor Bailey we flew in from Japan. Peter Erskine flew in from New York. And all this during the holidays–it was a master job. We hadn’t played together in a year, and I think because of that, the feeling was so great, the enthusiasm. I think this one has more life than any of the last five, six albums. Mino Cinelu wrote a great song, and Victor Bailey wrote a great ballad which we recorded, and I wrote the rest of the music. Wayne didn’t have any music–he was too busy–but he came in with a spirit I have never seen. It was wonderful.” [EM86]
Hakim played on only one track, Victor Bailey’s “Consequently.” “I don’t even remember which [track] it was,” he recalled to Glasser. “I was already with Sting. I got the feeling that my track was an afterthought. It was a very unmemorable recording session, and I didn’t have the impression the track was paid much attention to. My recollection of the session was, ‘What am I doing here?’ But the albums I did when I was in the band and touring, I was really excited by those records. I’ve never heard This Is This.” [IASW, p. 258]
Peter Erskine, Weather Report’s drummer from 1978 to 1982, had recently left Steps Ahead when he was recruited by Zawinul for This Is This. “Along comes a phone call from Zawinul’s managers, and they ask me if I would like to come out and play on the new Weather Report recording–that was last Christmas  or so. So I go out to L.A. As it turned out, with Omar Hakim’s schedule conflicts I wound up playing on just about the whole record. In fact, I even wound up co-producing the album. All of a sudden I’m in a situation where my input was not only openly welcomed, I saw it going into effect.” [DB86b]
Foreshadowing Zawinul’s post-Weather Report bands was the use of guitarist Carlos Santana. Asked what prompted him to get Santana involved, Zawinul said, “Well, this is a guy who can play a melody. The music always comes first and then the choice of who is going to play it. And he, I must admit, really surprised me to be a hell of a good musician, because I always thought he was not that trained of a musician, you know? But he had his own way of writing music. I played the melody for him on the piano–he had never heard it before or anything–and he took out a piece of paper and wrote it out in some different kind of language. I didn’t know what he was doing, but he learned this melody much quicker than I ever imagined he would. And on top of that, he played it with tremendous feeling, it’s great.” [EM86]
Shorter’s lack of involvement in This Is This–he contributed no compositions, and didn’t play on many of the tunes–can be attributed to the fact that he had just returned from a lengthy tour when the This Is This recordings were taking place.
“I didn’t write a thing,” Shorter told Down Beat‘s Scott Yanow near the end of the recording of This Is This. “I’d just come back from the road with my band a couple of weeks before, and it had been a tough physical tour. For example, after a week in Spain we played in Paris one day, then in New York the next. I just play on the Weather Report album, that’s all. On any future albums I want to have plenty of time so I can contribute some music.” [DB86a]
In his interview with Shorter, Yanow asked what caused him to form his own group outside of Weather Report:
I just said to myself that if I don’t do it now, I never will. Joe Zawinul and I first talked two-and-a-half years ago about how we should eventually play our own individual music. A year later we shook hands and agreed to go our separate ways for awhile. He wanted to work on a one-man band approach. Neither of us had done much recording or playing outside of Weather Report in a long time, despite a lot of invitations. Myself, I’ve only recorded with Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan, and just a few others over the past 14 years.
That’s not a lot of activity for that long a period. I’ve decided that it’s time for me to be more sociable as a musician and, with this new band, to get around more. People seem to be glad about what we’re doing. See, I’ve been hearing from everyone, ‘Get your own band!’ For years recording companies, letters in the mail, and other musicians have been telling me this. First, I needed to tend to other aspects of my life, especially my family. Tina Turner, who’s a good friend and stayed at our house for four months, once said something about first having to purify her life, and I guess it was similar with me. You meet a lot of resistance when you want to create something valuable, such as making a painting that’s a little different or a record that might not have big sales. I knew last April  that it was time. [DB86a]
Is Weather Report going to be part-time now or is it nearing its end?
We’ll see what happens. Right now my new group will be touring Japan, South America, taking a little time off to make a new record around June, play some American festivals, then Europe, and back to Japan. Somewhere along the way I’ll have to disappear awhile and write more music. We’re booked pretty well through ’86 and I can see this continuing through ’87. [DB86a]
If it sounded like Shorter had left Weather Report behind, he had. On February 28, 1986 George Varga wrote a story announcing that Shorter had left Weather Report, saying his “exit resulted when he decided to spend this summer touring with his own band instead of with Weather Report. Weather Report will now change its name to Weather Update since Shorter has refused to allow the group to continue using the original name.” [SDUT86a]
Meanwhile, Zawinul was bent on continuing. “I didn’t know until a couple of weeks ago that Wayne is booked so far ahead,” Zawinul told Leonard Feather a few days later. “I can’t wait another year for him to decide it’s time for us to tour again. So we’ll definitely go out–but there will be no saxophonist, because nobody can replace Wayne. He came in like a blockbuster and played as great as I’ve ever heard him on this new album, but for the tour we’ll have a guitarist, John Scofield, along with Victor Bailey on bass, Mino Cinelu on percussion and Peter Erskine on drums; and we’ll have to change the name, maybe to Weather Update or something.” [LAT86a]
The article went on to say, “Having devoted 15 years of his life to Weather Report, Zawinul says he has no intention of letting it fall apart. He and his family made many sacrifices, he claimed, and he had chances to do other things; it was because the group kept him so busy that he waited 15 years before making another solo album. And there is, he said, no animosity between him and Shorter. ‘Wayne and I are friends; it’s just that he’s had a taste of being a leader on his own, and he wants to be out there doing his thing. That’s fine; but with or without Wayne, with or without Columbia, we’re gonna keep going.’” [LAT86a]
Varga wrote a follow-up piece on March 9:
Peeved that his former bandmates will tour without him this summer, Shorter refused to allow the group to use their name. Goodbye Weather Report, hello Weather Update.
“I’m going to miss Wayne, but it’s the best for both of us,” said Zawinul of the unexpected split. “I would’ve preferred to keep the name Weather Report, but the way we’ll advertise our concerts people will know who we are.
“Wayne got his feet wet, and now he’ll learn to be a bandleader, which is something he never had to do when he was with Miles or Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. I didn’t know that he wouldn’t be available to tour with Weather Report until a few weeks ago, and I wasn’t going to wait around for him to finish his own tour. I won’t let 15 years of effort go down the drain.”
“I couldn’t think of anyone who could play like Wayne, so I didn’t even try to replace him (with another saxophonist). It’s time to change, and with John [Scofield] we’ll have a fresher sound,” said Zawinul. “I call myself a form improviser; I find a sound on the synthesizer and improvise on it,” he continued. “Wayne is the greatest at improvising off of forms. He can’t create forms, but he’s the best at improvising off them. I always wanted Wayne to play another instrument, because the moment his saxophone came into a song it immediately made it sound dated.” Shorter could not be reached for comment. Last fall, though, during an interview, he acknowledged that the creative chemistry between him and Zawinul was one they had never experienced with anybody else. “Something very special happens when we play together,” the saxophonist said. “Wayne and I can do things together that no one else can do,” agreed Zawinul. “We’ll always be open (to working together). There is more Wayne and me to come, I can guarantee that. You don’t find many people you can play with like him.” [SDUT86b]
In an uncredited UPI Story that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Zawinul concluded, “Everybody needs time to breathe. Wayne and I have been talking about this for years. We’re buddies for life. We were stuck with a little suffocation, business-wise. It was time to spread out a little bit.” [UPI86]
“Weather Report is sleeping, more or less. When Wayne and I decide to do something together again, it will awaken.” [UPI86]
1. This Is This (Zawinul)
This track can also be found on the Carlos Santana three-disc set, Dance of the Rainbow Serpent.
2. Face The Fire (Zawinul)
3. I’ll Never Forget You (Zawinul)
Written in honor of Zawinul’s parents, who died in the early 1980s.
4. Jungle Stuff, Part I (Cinélu)
5. Man With The Copper Fingers (Zawinul)
Zawinul: “‘Man With The Copper Fingers’ was hard. Carlos [Santana] played it with some good felling, but we had to rely on playing eight bars, then another eight bars and another four bars, putting it together like that. You just can’t hide that. On our former records, we never had to do that. We just played everything very freely, with a lot of confidence.” [DB01]
6. Consequently (Bailey)
“Consequently” was the only Victor Bailey composition recorded by Weather Report. In a 2001 Internet chat session, Bailey said the tune “was on the first demo I ever sent to Joe and Wayne. It’s the only song on all the Weather Report records that really sounds like me. After so many years of such a strong bass presence with Jaco they wanted a more functional role from the bass, but on my tune ‘Consequently’ you see that I’m much more than a groove guy.” [VB01]
7. Update (Zawinul)
3. China Blues (Zawinul)
– George Varga, San Diego Union-Tribune, July 13, 1986
– Francis Davis, Philadelphia Inquirer, August 1, 1986
– J.D. Considine, Washington Post, September 5, 1986
– Leonard Feather, Los Angeles Times, July 27, 1986
Billboard chart peak: Jazz Albums, 13; Top 200 Albums, 195.