“Now we've got a band and it's going to be for a while, I guarantee it.”
– Joe Zawinul, January 1981
|Original Release:||Columbia ARC FC 37616|
|Date Released:||January 1982|
|Assistant Producers:||Wayne Shorter, Jaco Pastorius|
Recorded 1981 by Brian Risner at Power Station, New York City; The Music Room (Zawinul’s home recording studio), Pasadena, California; and Soundcastle, Los Angeles, California.
Mixed by Joe Zawinul, Jaco Pastorius, and Brian Risner.
|Josef Zawinul:||Electric keyboards, piano, clay drum, drum computer, percussion, voice, horn, woodwind, string and brass sounds performed on electric keyboards|
|Wayne Shorter:||Tenor and soprano saxophones|
|Jaco Pastorius:||Bass guitar, percussion, voice|
|Peter Erskine:||Drums, drum computer, claves|
|Robert Thomas, Jr.:||Percussion|
In an interview published in January 1981, Joe Zawinul talked about the difficulty of putting together a good band. “Good musicians are a luxury, but it is something you have to find,” he said. “There are very few of us to run around, I guarantee you. If someone couldn’t handle it, he could never be in this band. It’s happened before. You have to find guys who can play. You see, the secret of having a great band and being able to write great is to be able to write for the people you play with, because everyone has a different sound. That’s why Duke Ellington was so great. Jaco’s bass is his own sound, his own personality. Now we’ve got a band and it’s going to be for a while, I guarantee it.” [IM81] Zawinul had no way of knowing it at the time, but by year’s end he and Shorter would be starting over.
Weather Report was the last album for the Pastorius-Erskine rhythm section. Recorded at the Power Plant in New York in the summer of 1981, most of the music had been played during the band’s spring tour, capped by a triumphant performance at the Playboy Jazz Festival in Los Angeles in June. “It was a late afternoon set, and we tore the place apart,” Peter Erskine recalled. “The band just came out and killed.” [Jaco, p. 107]
Explaining the circumstances leading up to the album, Erskine told Zawinul biographer Brian Glasser, “The [second] Weather Report album to me was a very big stepping stone to where Joe eventually wound up going. Compositionally, the tunes were that much more through-composed, and there was a lot more self-sufficient keyboard bass activity. Jaco was spending a lot less time in California than he had been. I was spending a lot of time with Joe at his house–it wasn’t on salary; we only got paid when we were on tour–and we’d work on these new tunes, and then Jaco came to L.A. to rehearse all that music. We premiered it in Japan, then we played it on the U.S. tour, the final U.S. tour we did. Then we went into the studio to record the album. Jaco had a boatload of music to learn, and they weren’t just tunes; they were all written-out things, complicated stuff, and he had a couple of resentments going on at the time.” [IASW, p. 223]
Jaco had begun work on his second album, Word Of Mouth, in August 1980. The project stretched out over a period of months, and was finally released in the summer of 1981. “There was a certain amount of tension between Jaco and Joe,” Erskine told Bill Milkowski in his book Jaco: The Extraordinary And Tragic Life of Jaco Pastorius. “I think Joe was getting tired of Jaco jumping around on-stage and doing his Hendrix stuff, and Jaco was frustrated having to play all these written-out bass parts that Joe was composing for this new thing he was conceptualizing. And it drove Jaco nuts that Joe was doubling the bass with synth bass. He really hated that. So Jaco started committing himself to projects outside of Weather Report.” [Jaco, p. 110]
Things came to a head after Weather Report postponed the release of its new album several months, delaying a planned late 1981 tour until the spring of 1982. “We were scheduled to tour in November that year ,” Zawinul recalled, “when Weather Report was supposed to come out. Peter had already signed with the Brecker Brothers [actually it was Steps Ahead] to tour in March ’82 and Jaco was going out in the spring with his group. But we couldn’t finish the album; it was very difficult for us. One time, Wayne and I were in the studio for 46 hours trying to finish it so that we could tour when the album finally came out. Our manager at that time, Joe Ruffalo, said ‘I’m going to cancel the tour and we’ll make this album right.’ And that’s what we did; we made a nice album and we canceled the tour.” [KB84]
Unfortunately, the delay disrupted everyone’s plans for 1982, as Zawinul told Milkowski:
“Wayne wanted to do something on his own, and I wanted to do a solo album myself. Jaco had been talking about taking a big band out on tour to play the charts he had been working on. So we said, ‘Fine, no problem.’ It was going to be our year away from Weather Report. Our plan was to regroup again in 1983 for another album and tour.”
“But then our management told use we had to change our plans and go out on tour in the spring of 1982, because people had put out a lot of money for publicity and for securing venues. Our managers had promised people, unbeknownst to us, that we would be back out on tour in April 1982, when we were all planning to take off that year. So we had to change our plans. Otherwise, Wayne and I would have had to pay penalties in excess of $70,000, just to pay people back. So we were stuck. We had to do the tour.”
But Jaco was already committed to tour Europe and Japan with his Word Of Mouth band. “We had no choice,” reasons Joe. “We had to find another bass player, which is how we got Victor Bailey into the band. Basically, Jaco went his way and we had to go ours.” [Jaco. p. 111]
As for Erskine, he had to choose between Weather Report and Steps Ahead, with whom he had already committed to a summer tour. He chose Steps Ahead. Robert Thomas, Jr. told Brian Glasser he didn’t even know he was out of the band, hearing about it secondhand from a friend. [IASW, p. 227] Thus ended what many fans consider to be the finest edition of Weather Report.
There’s been a lot written about the Zawinul-Pastorius relationship. The best sources are Milkowski’s Pastorius biography and Brian Glasser’s Zawinul biography In A Silent Way, both of which draw upon Pat Jordan’s article in the April 1988 issue of Gentlemans Quarterly magazine. According to Jordan, a journalist based in Jaco’s home town of Fort Lauderdale, “[Jaco] built a relationship with Zawinul that was more intense than any Jaco would ever have. Jaco looked upon Zawinul as a father; Zawinul called Jaco his twin brother, a reference to his own twin, who had died during childhood. They were inquisitive, passionate, athletic, boisterously macho men who both wanted to live life to its limits. With one difference. Zawinul, then in his early forties, was a mature man with an innate sense of life’s limits. Jaco, in his early twenties, was still a young man who thought life had no limits.” [GC88]
Jaco began drinking and using drugs in 1977, exacerbating (or perhaps attempting to cope with) his manic-depressive illness. By 1980, “Jaco was always angry and drunk,” Zawinul told Jordan. “He began to try to out-macho me. To outdrink me, like a competition. Sure, I drank and occasionally did a little blow, but I liked myself too much to hurt myself. Jaco did everything to indulgence. Then his music began to slip. It was still perfect, but it wasn’t fresh. It was like a circus act. Jaco relied on tricks he had done before.” Zawinul told Jordan that he intended to fire Jaco after the 1980 tour of Japan, but their relationship was such that he couldn’t bring himself to do it. “I could never fire the boy. Instead, I tried to keep him occupied all the time. By then, he was drinking heavily on the band’s bus. I tried to distract him with sports, pool, anything.” [GQ88]
Zawinul and Jaco saw little of each other after Weather Report was finished. When ask in 1983 if he thought Jaco would ever return to the band, Zawinul said, “No, because when you get divorced from someone you don’t marry them again. We’re still close. Jaco calls the family. He’s a great human being and a dear friend. Actually, we still hear from all the people we’ve worked with. We stay in touch, write, call.” [BAM83]
In an August 1984 cover story for Guitar Player magazine, Jaco said, “I never really left Weather Report. I am still promoting our music. And if those cats call me in a week or a year, if it fits, I’m back. But for now it’s just the timing of what’s going on that keeps us apart.” Of Zawinul, he said, “People always say, ‘Hey, you guys must hate each other or why else would you have left the band?’ That ain’t true at all. I love Joe Zawinul like nobody else in the world. But he won’t change. He doesn’t hear anybody else but himself, and his technological overkill sucks. But I wish people would just calm down and understand that there is no friction between us. Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter are the greatest, and that’s it. They are the two best men I know. And, of course, they are my biggest teachers to date.” [GP84a] The article did not reveal the true extent of Jaco’s physical and mental decline at the time.
John Francis “Jaco” Pastorius III died on September 21, 1987, from injuries sustained in a beating administered by a nightclub bouncer. He was 35 years old. His innovation and mastery of the electric bass was profound, influencing virtually every player of the instrument since. In fact, nowadays upon hearing Jaco’s albums for the first time, it can be difficult to truly appreciate his genius, a mark of just how pervasive Jaco’s influence has been since he burst onto the national scene in 1976. Not long after Jaco’s death, Zawinul told Joseph Woodard:
I loved Jaco. Every time I think of him, I smile. He was one of the nicest people I’ve ever known and he did things nobody ever did. When my parents had their Golden Wedding Anniversary, in the tiny village where I come from, he and Ingrid sent the biggest flower arrangement you’ve ever seen. He bought me an accordion one birthday. He was a very thoughtful human being. He had a good soul and good character. Something in his head was strange when he took alcohol and then, of course, drugs really made it worse.
The last time I saw him, I had my solo concert in Carnegie Hall and he was so helpful. He was healthy, in shape. He was running up to the second balcony to check my sound and work on the bass drum sound. He was a total gentleman, and I thought he was going to get it together. I miss the guy. [DB88]
1. Volcano For Hire (Zawinul)
“Volcano For Hire” was a popular tune in concert. Zawinul described Jaco’s playing on this tune to Bill Milkowski: “I have never seen another bass player have such stamina. He could play those 16th-note lines at super-fast tempos over and over and never slow down or stutter. We used to do this one tune called ‘Volcano For Hire,’ which is just burning 16th-notes, and every night [Jaco] would nail it. He was always on, always pushing the band. And that really kept all of us on our toes. Every band needs what I call a warhead–the driving force, the motor. And in this band, Jaco was the warhead.” [Jaco, pp. 80-81]
Zawinul told Keyboard in 1984 that “Volcano For Hire” was hard for him to play live. “My right hand has to move together with Wayne’s playing and the left hand is the orchestra. The right hand is in a totally different aspect of time, so you have to somewhat divide your head.” Asked if one could learn that kind of technique just by playing the piano, Zawinul responded, “I don’t think so, but I’ll tell you one thing: it’s made me a much better piano player.” [KB84]
2. Current Affairs (Zawinul)
3. N.Y.C.–Part One: 41st Parallel; Two: The Dance; Three: Crazy About Jazz (Zawinul)
4. Dara Factor One (Zawinul)
Erskine explained the genesis of “Dara Factor One” and “Dara Factor Two” to Brian Glasser: “The Dara Factors–that was one long jam. I remember they got this extra-large reel of tape, and when we were doing it they even ran a speaker out into the lounge so all the people working in the studio could hear it. We wanted to do a jam, and at one point I said, ‘Joe, how about something like this? This would be fun,’ and I played a kind of pocket groove. I thought it was cool. And Joe waved me to stop. He’s standing in the center of the room, I’m in my drum booth, and he says through the microphones, ‘What’s fun about that? I don’t hear anything fun in that.’ So that’s why Dara had that kind of ass-backwards beat, because he was always looking for something out of the ordinary.” [IASW, p. 226]
Brian Risner told Glasser, “Dara Factor was basically, ‘Hey, we got an hour left. What are we gonna do?’ And I was so efficient with the production on that record–we had two days booked, and we’d gone in and gotten two takes on everything, maybe three, and we’d gotten everything we wanted. So he had an interesting sequence pattern, probably on the Oberheim, and they jammed on that. There was a lot of work on post [-production] on it, because basically it was a groove and a basic melody, so we cut it and added a lot of the accents and stuff to make it work.” [IASW, p. 226]
5. When It Was Now (Shorter)
Shorter’s only composition on Weather Report. Like Mr. Gone, this album raised criticisms that Zawinul (and Pastorius) were squeezing the saxophonist out. George Varga put the issue to Shorter in a 1985 interview:
Beginning in the late ’70s, Shorter’s role in Weather Report diminished considerably, as did his participation in musical activities outside the group. Some observers blamed Zawinul for Shorter’s diminished group participation, contending that the domineering keyboardist had stolen the limelight from the saxophonist. Shorter, a thoughtful, eloquent man who is as soft-spoken as he is self-effacing, disagreed.
“No, no,” he insisted, at the start of a rare, in-depth interview last week. “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]
In his Down Beat Weather Report retrospective, Josef Woodard wrote, “Shorter’s tunes often came in as long scores destined for drastic editing.” But of “When It Was Now,” Erskine told him, “That tune had that feel when he brought it in. I think we borrowed a Linn drum machine for that, and I overdubbed percussion. We did that at Joe’s house.” [DB01]
6. Speechless (Zawinul)
7. Dara Factor Two (Zawinul/Shorter/Pastorius/Erskine/Thomas, Jr.)
J.D. Considine, Rolling Stone, Number 367, April 15, 1982
–Frankie Nemko-Graham, Down Beat, June 1982
Billboard chart peak: Jazz Albums, 5; Top 200 Albums, 68.