“History bores the shit out of me.”
–Joe Zawinul, Rolling Stone, 1973
Welcome to Weather Report: The Annotated Discography. Joe Zawinul’s comment above notwithstanding, one of my goals way back in 2001 was to get this discography up and running in time to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the recording of Weather Report’s first album. Though I barely made it, we’ve been online ever since.
This is one of those projects that started out with modest intentions, but got out of hand. At first I started making a bibliography of the Weather Report articles I had collected. Then I started compiling things that Zawinul and company said in them. And then I got the idea to organize their words in terms of record albums. Once I got started, it was hard to stop.
Rather than merely listing each album and their tracks and musicians–information that is easily obtained from the LP or CD liner notes–my aim with this web site is to describe each album in the words of the musicians themselves. To do that I pored over dozens of articles and interviews, culling comments made by the band members and reorganizing them by album and track. (I feel like the Teo Macero of Weather Report interviews.) I have also included excerpts of critical reviews of the albums to provide a sense of how they were received at the time of their release, and in some cases, many years afterwards.
My coverage of the first Weather Report album naturally includes the formation of the band, and I have reconstructed the events as told by the band’s founders. Likewise, the story of Weather Report’s last album, This Is This, is also the story of the band’s demise. (Actually, that story starts with the next to the last album, Sportin’ Life.)
This discography would not be possible without the many journalists that have interviewed Zawinul and company over the years. I hope they take no offense to my re-purposing the comments they elicited from their interview subjects.
Any study of Weather Report must begin with Brian Glasser’s excellent Zawinul biography, In A Silent Way. Not only is it well-researched and eminently readable, it also offers new insights into the band through the commentary of various sidemen through the years, as well as other important figures in the band’s history, such as Brian Risner and Alan Howarth. Naturally, some of this commentary was of interest to this project. I asked Brian (Glasser, not Risner) about that and he said, “Use my stuff with my blessing. That’s how info spreads.” Spoken like a true gentleman and scholar. Thanks, Brian.
I would also like to acknowledge the assistance of my friend Holly Thomason, a librarian at Stanford University; Thomas Kober for his English translation of a German Zawinul television documentary; Koji Tanaka and Atsuko Yamura for help with translation from Japanese; Peter Erskine; Ingrid Pastorius; John Sanna; Jim Swanson; and Andy Forward, a fellow San Francisco Bay Area resident whom I’ve only met via the Internet. Andy was kind enough to provide me with several articles from the UK, as well as various unofficial Weather Report recordings. Of the latter, Andy is an expert. And a tip of the hat to Marco Piretti, operator of the Joe Zawinul Unofficial Italian Fan Site, for allowing me to quote from his interviews with Zawinul and various former Weather Report band members.
I have generally refrained from injecting my own biases into the discography, but I will say that I was a teenager when I bought my first Weather Report album, Mysterious Traveller. My musical tastes were just beginning to develop and I wasn’t ready for it. At the time I was in the thrall of Chick Corea’s Return To Forever. But by the time of Black Market I had progressed to fully appreciate Weather Report, and I later came to view Mysterious Traveller as perhaps the finest Weather Report album of them all. (And it has stood the test of time better than those Return To Forever albums, in my opinion.) For my money, the four years that produced Mysterious Traveller, Tale Spinnin’, Black Market and Heavy Weather were the band’s creative peak in terms of record albums. After that, I would rate Night Passage, Procession and Sportin’ Life among my favorites. But nearly all of Weather Report’s albums find their way into my earphones on a regular basis.
I saw Weather Report in concert many times, the first being at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium with Alphonso Johnson and Chester Thompson. I was sitting at the very back of the auditorium and couldn’t see a thing! I saw the band kill at the Playboy Jazz Festival with Jaco and Peter Erskine, and surprise us another time by bringing out The Manhattan Transfer for the encore performance of “Birdland.” But two concerts stand out above the others. The first was at the Long Beach Terrace Theater in November 1978. Much of the material on 8:30 came from this concert. About twenty minutes before the band took the stage, Ravel’s “Bolero” began playing over the house P.A. system. I had never heard “Bolero,” and it seemed the perfect build-up to the actual concert. By the time it reached its climax and the house lights dimmed, we were ready. We then heard the howls of Jaco’s recording of a monkey cage in Australia as the band took the stage in the dark for what would be a perfect concert. No doubt my memory is all the more vivid because I had a sixth row view, but I’m pretty sure it was great no matter where you were sitting. And who can forget the first time they saw Jaco sliding around the stage on talcum powder? It still brings a smile to my face. The other performance took place at the Universal Amphitheater with Victor Bailey and Omar Hakim. It was sublime. That band didn’t have the bravura of the Pastorius-Erskine band, but in my view, it took a second seat to no one.
A word about references: I have referenced all quoted material using reference codes (e.g., [DB75a]) that can be cross-referenced to the bibliography. I remember one time a visitor to my Zawinul Online website asked me where I got the information that Zawinul used his ARP 2600s for the introduction to “Birdland.” Well the heck if I could remember. I still don’t know where I read that, or even if it is true. (Actually, I think he used the ARP Quadra.) Anyway, with this discography I resolved not to have that problem again; hence the references.
I welcome corrections and additions. You can contact me on the Contact page.
Finally, I leave you with a few words below about Weather Report to get things started. From there, feel free to dive in!
— Stuart Nicholson, Jazz-Rock: A History, 1996
“We had patience. We didn’t rush out there and knock everybody dead. It’s like a boxer: If you go and try to knock someone out with one punch it will never work, you will never find that opening.”
— Joe Zawinul, Rolling Stone, December 28, 1978
“Weather Report has influenced incredibly the world of music. I said at the time what we were doing then would become the folk music of the ’90s and it came to pass. It’s music the average guy can understand. You just have to have ears and it will touch you. Weather Report is still valid today. It doesn’t sound dated.”
— Joe Zawinul, Paris Free Voice, June 1998
“From this historical juncture, it’s reasonable to say that Weather Report is the finest jazz group of the last 30 years. They managed, better than anyone else did, a delicate balance of elements: improvisation and structure, electric and acoustic textures, melodic and atmospheric qualities. Unlike the retro bent of the post-Marsalis era, they had clear historical roots, but also a selective hook-up with extra-jazz music of the day. Though lumped in with the “fusion” scene, they weren’t really part of a movement, but were a movement unto themselves.”
— Josef Woodard, Down Beat, January 2001