Errico replaced Eric Gravatt, who had been the band’s drummer since October 1971. Gravatt was a truly great jazz drummer, but with Weather Report’s third album, Sweetnighter, the band began moving in a funkier direction that demanded a different approach from the rhythm section. This was made clear by the fact that Joe Zawinul brought in an R&B drummer for the recording session, replacing Gravatt on several of the album’s tracks. That, coupled with some interpersonal issues with Zawinul, made it increasingly clear that Gravatt’s days with the band were numbered. He soldiered on for several months, but behind the scenes Zawinul began looking for a replacement.
Meanwhile, bassist Miroslav Vitous had been introduced to Errico by mutual friend Doug Rauch, who was the bassplayer in the rock group Santana. Miroslav and Errico got along well, jamming together when they had the opportunity, and even talked of doing an album together. So When Zawinul mentioned that he wanted to make a change, Miroslav asked Errico if he would be interested in going out with the band. He was.
“When Mirsolav asked me to join them, I think it was like a week or two before the tour was going to start,” Errico told me when I interviewed him for my book Elegant People: A History of the Band Weather Report. “They wanted me come back to New York and rehearse a little, meet everybody, meet Joe, and I said fine. I went back a couple of days early, and I remember Joe lived in a loft. So I went there and for the first time I met Airto and Flora [Purim]—they were hanging out with them. And Jan Hammer, met him. It was a whole different circle of people in relation to where I had come from. It was very refreshing and I enjoyed it. And we did a couple of rehearsals and we hit.”
Adding Greg Errico must have raised eyebrows within the jazz community—and the rock community, too. It would have been an unmistakeable signal that Weather Report was making a more overt effort to combine elements of rock and funk into its music. “Well, you know, there was a lot of that happening,” Errico told me.
Up to then, the jazz world had always been segregated. I remember growing up in San Francisco and there was a lot of jazz around here, and they had their own club, and that was it. But this time period [the late-sixties/early-seventies] was when Miles [Davis] got turned on to us [Sly and the Family Stone]. He came up to the Newport Jazz Festival and hung out with us the whole weekend. And so the jazz world wanted some of that new audience, that bigger audience. They wanted to reach out to bigger audiences and younger people to sustain, to continue to be. Because I think in the fifties and the early-sixties, they were the thing. They had the world watching there for a while, and they saw this new thing happening, these huge audiences, which was new for everybody, even in the rock world. It was like a phenomenon that was happening. The music changed the world, from the Beatles to Woodstock, and all these things that were happening socially all around the planet.
So they wanted some of that, and they started listening and looking, and finding things that they could connect with, to latch onto—like something they could grab onto to get catapulted and pulled into this thing. I mean, they didn’t just go get whatever pop tune that was number one for a week; they were looking for something valuable. And there were things. There was a lot of great writers and creative people, like Sly himself, the Beatles, the arrangements, and some of the things that were happening musically. It was real music. It wasn’t just Tinker Toys. So that was happening a lot during that time period.
Look at what Miles was getting into. And Herbie [Hancock]. I mean, there was a lot of passing the ball around, everybody trying out each other’s things and doing something with it. Those were very interesting times. The stuff that came out of the late-sixties and early-seventies still lives today, recreating itself through young audiences five generations removed. So there’s something there. Obviously, there are elements that connect with people that weren’t around then. And it keeps on connecting.
Errico’s tenure with Weather Report was relatively short-lived. He toured with the band for about four months, going to Japan and Europe, in addition to performing numerous gigs in the United States. Joe always said that Greg played “Boogie Woogie Waltz” better than anyone before or since.
“Musically, it was like he threw me the keys to the car, and I just had a lot of fun,” Errico told me. “It was challenging, but it all worked. The Chemistry was good. And sometimes Dom Um [Romão] would jump on the drum set, too. He was a percussionist, but he had a small set of traps up there and once in a while he would jump on them.”
“I really enjoyed traveling the world with them,” he told me. “Whether it be the musical experience or the exposure to different audiences, it was a whole different vibe, a whole different paradigm. I really enjoyed it.”