Domino Theory

Domino Theory

“You can listen to the album from beginning to end and feel a completeness.”
– Joe Zawinul

Track Listing

Side One

1. Can It Be Done (W. Tee) 3:59
2. D Flat Waltz (Zawinul) 11:09
3. The Peasant (Zawinul) 8:13

Side Two

4. Predator (Shorter) 5:14
5. Blue Sound-Note 3 (Zawinul) 6:48
6. Swamp Cabbage (Shorter) 5:19
7. Domino Theory (Zawinul) 6:06


Original Release: Columbia Columbia FC 39147
Date Released: February 1984
Produced by: Zawinul
Co-producers: Wayne Shorter and Omar Hakim
Engineers: Bernie Fromm, Mitch Gibson, Tom Suzuki (Osaka, Japan)
Assistant Engineer: Larry Fergusson, Lions Share Studios
Recorded At: Kosei Nenkin Hall, Osaka, Japan; The Music Room, Pasadena, California; The Sound Castle, Los Feliz, California
Mixed At: The Sound Castle, Los Feliz, California, and Lion’s Share Studios, Los Angeles, California
Mastering By: Bernie Grundman, A&M Records
Special Thanks: Everyone at CBS / Sony Japan, Brian Risner, Howard Burke, Jim Swanson, John Bunker, Beau Halfon, Shirley Brooks, The Zawinul Family
Exclusive Representation: Corvalan-Condliffe Management


Zawinul: Keyboards
Wayne Shorter: Saxophones
Omar Hakim: Drums
Victor Bailey: Bass
José Rossy: Percussion
Carl Anderson: Vocals on “Can It Be Done”


Night Passage Press PhotoColumbia Records press photo for Domino Theory. Left to right: Hakim, Bailey, Zawinul, Rossy, Shorter. Photo: Bruce W. Talamon.
Night Passage AdColumbia Records ad for Domino Theory.

Domino Theory was the second album for the Hakim-Bailey-Rossy rhythm section, and Josef Zawinul spoke enthusiastically about it in the March 1984 issue of Keyboard magazine.

“It’s coming out in February,” Zawinul told Greg Armbruster. “We had so much fun making it that it was one of the easiest albums we’ve ever done. There are three live performances on it, and those were done after we had played 84 concerts. Then we went into the studio and recorded four more songs with this feeling from the live performances. On this album, we’re also dealing with a question; the first song is appropriately called ‘Can it Be Done?’, which is sung by Carl Anderson. We don’t have any answers, but we have questions. The next song, ‘D Flat Waltz,’ is eleven minutes long. After I wrote it, I analyzed it, and it’s more or less a Johann Strauss kind of form. There are different movements and there’s another melody every eight bars, and yet, altogether, it works well. The last song on Side A is ‘The Peasant.’

“Side B opens with ‘Predator,’ a Wayne Shorter composition, followed by ‘Blue Sound, Note Three,’ which my son Erich named. The third song is called ‘Swamp Cabbage,’ by Wayne. I use an accordion-type sound on that tune. The last song is the title cut, ‘Domino Theory,’ with the drum machine. The album has a strong feeling throughout, a certain musical reference that creates the whole feeling. For instance, part of the intro to the very first song is found in the intro to ‘Blue Sound, Note Three,’ on Side B. I did certain background lines on Wayne’s song which are continued on ‘Domino Theory.’ You can listen to the album from beginning to end and feel a completeness.” [KB84]

In a 1984 interview for Modern Drummer magazine, Robin Tolleson asked Omar Hakim about his co-producer credit. “Well, producer is such a vague word, but for me it did have a meaning. I was mixing the record. I have a great interest in studio stuff. All my friends know I’m a fanatic about that stuff… Joe knew I was a fanatic, so he brought me in and he trusted me a lot. I was very involved. It was actually hands-on for all of us. I mixed, and made some suggestions about effects, and made some arrangement suggestions occassionally. I learned so much from Joe and Wayne–just their sense of placing sounds in the music. What Joe would do is say, ‘You got it.’ He would leave the studio and so I would mix it the way I heard it. I would do a mix, Joe would come back and say, ‘Okay, see you later. Go get something to eat,’ and then he would do something. After that, we would work on it together. Then we would program things into the NECAM [a Neve computer system that could record certain mix settings], and do more things together. Then we would do panning, and set up echoes and delays. Like I said, I’m crazy about that stuff, so we had a lot of fun.” [MD84]

The August 1984 issue of Down Beat described Zawinul’s keyboard arsenal at the time of Domino Theory. Zawinul’s stage setup included seven keyboards: an Oberheim 8 Voice, an ARP Quadra, an E-Mu Emulator, a Rhodes Chroma, a Sequential Circuits Prophet 5, a Korg Vocoder with auxiliary keyboard, and a Prophet T-8. The T-8 was Zawinul’s newest instrument, an eight-voice synthesizer with a touch-sensitive keyboard. “I have as much control as you can have,” Zawinul said of the T-8. “It’s velocity- and touch-sensitive so when you touch down, you can get your own vibrato; you can preprogram your vibrato and speed.” In addition, Zawinul used a Linn LM-1 drum machine, a Sequential Circuits Polysequencer, and various harmonizers and digital delay units. [DB84]

Zawinul’s keyboard technician Jim Swanson, explained to Down Beat some of the modifications he had made to the Prophet 5. “There’s no other Prophet in the world like that,” he said. “The way it’s hooked up now with the MIDI is polyphonically. So when I throw [a] switch, it shuts off the audio of voices one through four, takes its own control voltage-out, and feeds it back to its control voltage-in so that voice one is making no noise but sending its control voltage and driving voice five. So that every new note you play, like on the Korg [Vocoder] up here, will trigger a note on the Prophet and jump it around so you get that flute-on-top-of-strings effect.” The article went on to describe the equipment in Zawinul’s home recording studio: “In his home recording studio he has an Amek 2016B 24-track mixing desk, an Ampex MM-1200 24-track tape recorder, and for mix-down an Otari MX5050 two-track machine. He listens to his music through Yamaha and Tannoy speakers. And despite his wealth of electronics, in the middle of it all, sits a Yamaha acoustic grand piano.” [DB84]

Side One

1. Can It Be Done (Willie Tee) 3:59

Willie Tee (Wilson Turbinton) was a pianist, singer and songwriter from New Orleans who Zawinul befriended when he was a member of Cannonball Adderley’s band. Tee’s brother Earl, a saxophonist, performed on Zawinul’s 1971 eponymous album. Ironically, Willie Tee passed away on the same day as Zawinul, September 11, 2007. (Earl died the previous month.) Both Willie and his brother lost their homes in the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. Weeks later, Willie joined Zawinul for a benefit concert called “Charity Event for the Lost Children of New Orleans” at Joe’s Vienna club, Birdland. Photographs from the event can be seen here. More background about Joe’s relationship with Willie Tee and other New Orleans musicians can be found in my article, “Joe Zawinul’s New Orleans Connection”.

On this track, Zawinul plays all of the instruments backing the vocals using his keyboards and electronic percussion machines. “It’s only keyboards, and I have the drum machine playing the hi-hat,” he told Down Beat. “The string sound is incredible. I have a nice bass sound on the ballad that’s from the Fairlight.” [DB84]

Domino Theory was the first album on which Zawinul used drum machines. “The drum machine is for composing music perfectly,” Zawinul explained to John Diliberto. “You can lay out a chord, and you always have that click track. If you listen to the ballad ‘Can It Be Done,’ it has a perfect hi-hat beat. It cannot be played better. And you can shape that note here and there. The bass drum on the Linn [LM-1 drum computer], you can tune to any note. And once I put it through the Oberheim, I get a sound you wouldn’t believe–BOOM!–like a big military drum. You can still play your little percussion instruments next to it, and it’s groovin’. You can overdub some real instruments later and leave it out, but for starting out it’s ideal.” [DB84]

Willie Tee’s own version of this composition can be heard on the compilation album Keys To The Crescent City.

2. D Flat Waltz (Zawinul) 11:09

This tune and “The Peasant” were ones Zawinul had originally earmarked for his long put-off solo album, which eventually became Dialects. “A lot of material–like on Domino Theory, a tune called ‘D Flat Waltz,’ and ‘The Peasant,’ and some other material from prior times, ‘Madagascar’ on the Night Passage album, things like that–I always had to take apart my solo concept so that we have enough for Weather Report.” [EM86]

3. The Peasant (Zawinul) 8:13

The E-Mu Emulator was the first affordable digital keyboard sampler, an instrument that could digitally record a sound and then play it back across the keyboard’s range, transposing the original sound’s pitch. Zawinul explained its use to John Diliberto: “Over the years I’ve collected hundreds of instruments. I’ve put those instruments I like, like the kalimba and pan flute, into the Emulator. Like in ‘Peasant’ there’s a high flute sound. It’s the pan flute my father had given me. I just put one note in there, and I play it [on the solo].” [DB84]

Side Two

4. Predator (Shorter) 5:14

In a 1984 interview, journalist Robin Tolleson, noting the “incredibly funky groove” on “Predator,” asked Hakim what Shorter told him about playing the tune. “Wayne hears those kinds of rhythms,” Hakim said, “so he handed me a little slip of paper one day and said, ‘Check this out.’ It had a different beat than that actually; I changed it up a little. Wayne will give you an outline and just say to play what you hear. Wayne doesn’t talk much about the music. He’s into the experience. You have to look at where he comes from and what it was like back then–those gigs with Art [Blakey] and Miles [Davis]. They were doing what I was talking about–going to the gigs and having an experience every night with the music. He likes to keep that in the music, and so does Joe. So we were in the studio jamming and we struck up this groove. Sometimes songs come about that way.” [MD84]

Asked in a 1984 interview about thumb playing or slapping, Bailey said, “I do it on my solo in our shows. But I really don’t see a need for it that much in Weather Report. I played a lot of that stuff, especially in sessions, and that’s what I grew up doing. It’s just something that’s natural; you’re a black kid growing up, and you hear Larry Graham and the Brothers Johnson. But not with Weather Report. I did it on the beginning of ‘Predator’ on Domino Effect [sic], but I don’t want to do it just to show people, ‘Hey, everybody, I can do that.’ I love that kind of playing, too. I really have to do my own record so people know what I’m about–not Victor Bailey with Weather Report or Victor Bailey with Hugh Maskela, but the real me, right there on tape.” [GP84b]

5. Blue Sound–Note 3 (Zawinul) 6:48

A concert staple of later versions of Joe’s post-Weather Report band, The Zawinul Syndicate. A live performance by the Syndicate can be heard on 2003’s Vienna Nights: Live at Joe Zawinul’s Birdland.

As mentioned above, Joe stated that his son, Erich, named this song.

6. Swamp Cabbage (Shorter) 5:19

7. Domino Theory (Zawinul) 6:06

Robin Tolleson asked Hakim who programmed the “outrageous” drum machine part on “Domino Theory.” “Joe did,” Omar recalled. “Joe’s nuts with that stuff. He’s hearing all these rhythms. Man, he’s crazy. He’s a madman, but he loves it. I think I’ll be playing along with that machine live, because he wants to start it out by himself.” [DB84] Zawinul described it this way: “I’ve done a whole tune with the Linn LM-1 drum machine. It’s fun; I can play everything I want to play, right here at home. Plus, you can change the sound and get it just the way you want it. The title track on Domino Theory is actually the LM-1 with Omar overdubbed.” “When you listen to Domino Theory, I have four or five different rhythms changing and coming back.” [DB84]

Review Excerpts

“Ever since Jaco Pastorius went out through Weather Report’s revolving door to become one of the most flamboyant big band leaders since Xavier Cugat, the band has lacked the creative tension that fueled its best music… Domino Theory, unfortunately, shows little growth. WR’s music, frequently cited for its innovation, seems to be in danger of becoming formulaic. The crux of the problem is Zawinul’s complete domination of the sound.”


— Jim Roberts, Down Beat, June 1984

“Certainly, the group has refined its approach considerably during the years, but Domino Theory merely sounds like a recapitulation of previous works, and the resulting sense of deja vu is disheartening. “Predator,” to cite one instance, is a rousing piece of funk, anchored by Victor Bailey’s pulsating bass work and the crisp drumming of Omar Hakim. Unfortunately, like nearly every other selection presented here, the song easily could have been taken from any of Weather Report’s recent outings.”

— George Varga, San Diego Union-Tribune, April 1, 1984

“Personnel have come and gone during the dozen years that have passed since this group helped pioneer the fusion jazz movement, but cofounders Josef Zawinul (keyboards) and Wayne Shorter (saxophones) have hung in for better or worse (and Weather Report has experienced both). On this release, we encounter a little of each. On the opening track, for instance, we hear what amounts to a soulful ballad sung – that’s right, sung – by ‘guest vocalist’ Carl Anderson. OK, the number, ‘Can It Be Done,’ is pleasant enough pop, but one does not look to Weather Report for pleasant pop. Otherwise, there are a few excellent instrumental pieces, including a breezy ‘D Flat Waltz,’ a zesty rendition of ‘The Peasant’ and a brooding ‘Blue Sound – Note 3.’ A couple of other tracks amount to little more than Weather Report repeating itself.”

–Jack Lloyd, Philadelphia Inquirer, March 9, 1984


Billboard chart peak: Jazz Albums, 5; Top 200 Albums, 136.

3 thoughts on “Domino Theory

  1. Wayne

    I have loved this album since its release back in the mid 80s, Omar Hakim’s drumming still sounds stellar.
    Most of the tracks were performed live at their memorable Glastonbury Festival set in 86.
    ‘Domino’ is on heavy rotation this week. Check out Wayne Shorter’s terrific sax work on the ‘brooding’ Blue Sound-Note 3.

    1. John

      Yes, I have been listening to this months, and enjoy it more now than when it came out. Josef said “You can listen to the album from beginning to end and feel a completeness”, and that sums it up well as far as I’m concerned.
      The more negative reviews out there kind of irk me. All five guys contribute wonderfully. The Peasant is beautiful, and Predator would fit with Wayne’s solo album’s during the period. Not into comparing version’s from elsewhere, or period’s, as far which are better either. They’re outstanding on here, and so is the studio work.

  2. Jon

    Better versions of these tracks can be found on “weather report live in cologne 1983”. Db Waltz and Blue Sound-Note 3 sound much better on that particular release.


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