Heavy Weather

Heavy Weather

“An arrangemental tour-de-force, a smorgasbord for the ear.”
– Neil Tesser, Down Beat, 1977

Track Listing

Side One

1. Birdland (Zawinul) 5:59
2. A Remark You Made (Zawinul) 6:52
3. Teen Town (Pastorius) 2:53
4. Harlequin (Shorter) 4:00

Side Two

5. Rumba Mama (Badrena/Acuña) 2:12
6. Palladium (Shorter) 4:45
7. The Juggler (Zawinul) 5:05
8. Havona (Pastorius) 6:03

Bonus Tracks

(9.) Black Market [Live] (Zawinul) 9:26
(10.) Teen Town [Live] (Pastorius) 6:30
(11.) Birdland [Live] (Zawinul) 6:36


Original Release: Columbia CK 34418
Date Released: March 1977
Time: 37:39
Producer/Orchestrator: Zawinul
Co-Producer: Jaco Pastorius
Assistant Producer: Wayne Shorter
Engineer: Ron Malo
Assistant Engineers: Jerry Hudgins, Brian Risner
Chief Meteorologist: Brian Risner
Exclusive Management: Cavallo Ruffalo Management, Beverly Hills, California
Illustrator: Lou Beach
Photography: Keith Williamson
Design: Nancy Donald

Recorded 1977 by Ron Malo at Devonshire Sound, North Hollywood, California.

Special thanks to Tom Oberheim and his Polyphonic Synthesizer.


Josef Zawinul: Oberheim Polyphonic synthesizer, Arp 2600 synthesizer, Rhodes electric piano, acoustic piano, vocal, melodica, guitar, tabla
Wayne Shorter: Tenor and soprano saxophone
Jaco Pastorius: Bass, mandocello, vocals, drums, steel drums
Alex Acuña: Drums, congas, tom toms, handclap
Manolo Badrena: Tambourine, congas, vocal, timbales, percussion


Heavy Weather AdColumbia Records Heavy Weather advertisement.

It is fashionable among Weather Report fans to not choose Heavy Weather as their favorite Weather Report album. Even Josef Zawinul has said as much, remarking, “Heavy Weather is a good record. But there are some other ones that I like better, like Black Market. I like Night Passage, too. I like them all, but there are special ones to me.” [DB01]

Nevertheless, the fact remains that Weather Report reached its critical and commercial peak with Heavy Weather. No other Weather Report album received as many awards as Heavy Weather. It was recognized as jazz “album of the year” by virtually every publication that gave out such an award. It destroyed the competition in Down Beat‘s annual reader’s poll, topping Herbie Hancock’s runner-up album V.S.O.P. for album of the year by a margin of 844 to 196 votes. Likewise, Weather Report was overwhelmingly voted jazz group of the year by Down Beat‘s readers, receiving 1418 votes to 277 for second place Return to Forever. Heavy Weather was awarded a five-star review in Down Beat, making it the group’s third consecutive five-star album (and also the last). Even the album cover art by Lou Beach was nominated for a Grammy.

Heavy Weather was also Weather Report’s best selling record. It reached number 30 on the Billboard pop chart, quickly sold nearly half a million copies, and has subsequently gone gold (signifying sales of 500,000 copies). In his January 2001 Down Beat retrospective on the band, Josef Woodard said, “In 2000, Heavy Weather still sounds like a milestone in the cultural unconscious of jazz history. By some accounts, the album is the crowning achievement of the band’s recorded output, and therefore, by extension, a towering landmark of ‘fusion.'” [DB01]

A major reason for Heavy Weather‘s commercial success was the track “Birdland,” which led off the album and was turned into a single. Victor Bailey, Weather Report’s bass player in its later years, once said, “The only difference between Heavy Weather and every other Weather Report album is that it had a bonafide hit single.” [IFS01b] But “Birdland” wasn’t the only reason for Heavy Weather‘s success, as Woodard noted: “Make no mistake: ‘Birdland’ changed the landscape for the band, which had already gained a solid following and crossed over into the rock scene. But the single was only the most publicly audible charm on an album that seems like a thing of near perfection and unprecedented taste, a shining example of the artistic possibilities of fusion’s cultural mash process.” [DB01]

Weather Report Program1977 UK Tour Program Cover. Click the image to view the entire program.

“Without question, our next album, Heavy Weather, was a real breakthrough for us commercially,” Zawinul recalled in 1984. “It was a great-sounding album and it was played as well as we have ever played in the studio. We let Chester Thompson go and Acuña started playing drums. Then we hired percussionist Manolo Badrena. Manolo is another great one; one of the giants of percussion.” [KB84]

According to Weather Report’s 1977 U.K. tour program, Badrena joined the band in April 1976. A native of Puerto Rico, Badrena was also a commercial artist whose murals adorn the walls of the University of San Juan. He had played in numerous bands in the Salsa circle, with Art Blakey in New York, and was brought into the band by Acuña. [TP77]

As described on the Black Market page, things became strained for Thompson during the recording of Weather Report’s previous album, Black Market. Ultimately, though, what appears to have led to Thompson’s departure from the band was a lack of chemistry between Jaco and Thompson. Thompson described it to World Of Genesis webmaster David Negrin: “Jaco was very much wanting to be in the band. So, he was pretty much being the ‘Yes Man’ to whatever they said (laughs). The [Black Market] rehearsals were a bit strange, because the songs that I had just recorded with Alphonso (Johnson) playing bass were 180 degrees different with Jaco (playing bass). Alphonso had this wonderful sense of space when he played, and Jaco was just all notes. It just didn’t work. I suppose, I certainly could have made the adjustment, musically, but to be honest, I really didn’t care to.” [WOG02]

Alex Acuña offered his insight in an interview with Marco Piretti, webmaster of the Joe Zawinul Unofficial Italian Fan Site: “It seemed as though Jaco wanted to play with a drummer who played a different style. When we were rooming together at the Tropicana Motel on Santa Monica Boulevard, we jammed in the room playing all the Wayne Shorter tunes that he wrote for the Miles Davis quintet and he was very impressed to see a Peruvian South American Latin Brazilian percussionist playing and knowing these tunes.” The upshot, Acuña said, was that “Jaco told Joe that he wanted me to play the drums in the band. Joe said okay, maybe we’ll use two drummers but Jaco said no. What I think happened is that there were personality differences between Chester and Jaco and in the end it turned out to be a blessing for Chester to leave the band because he got the Genesis gig with Phil Collins.” [IFS01a]

Zawinul put it this way in 1996: “Jaco and Chester couldn’t play together, couldn’t make it. There was a thing went in me, we listened to this and we knew Jaco was the guy because he had the flexibility to grow and Chester was Chester. But everything worked out because Chester started working with Genesis and Phil Collins, carved out a major career he would never had with us. Then Alex came in on drums, with Manolo Badrena, and that’s when we started making our most successful records.” [JR, p. 175]

The details of Jaco’s recruitment during the making of Black Market are described on the Black Market page. Jaco made his live debut with the band on April 1, 1976 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His impact was immediately felt. The program included the Pastorius compositions “Continuum” and “Barbary Coast”–the former from Jaco’s first album, the latter from Black Market–as well as “Come On, Come Over,” also from his solo album. The Pastorius-Acuña-Badrena band toured throughout the spring and summer before going into the studio to record Heavy Weather.

With Jaco as the band’s “Catalyst” (as Zawinul called him), Weather Report entered its most successful period. “I heard him play only four bars and I knew history was being made,” Zawinul later recalled. “Before Jaco, Weather Report was a cult band, mostly appreciated by blacks. Jaco was this nice white boy who brought us a new, white audience that made us much more commercially successful. Jaco was the greatest thing to happen to the band. And to me. He was my best friend.” [GQ88] “I liked Jaco from the beginning because I liked his personality,” Zawinul said in another article. “Okay, it’s a little crazy to a lot of people. But you know who always feels a draft about people like that? The people who ain’t got it. They always feel, ‘Well, he’s opening his mouth. He’s leading with his lips. It’s not nice to brag,’ and all that. He was not bragging. Facts, that’s all.” [DB88]

Weather Report PosterJapan Tour Poster. Left to right: Zawinul, Pastorius, Acuña, Shorter.

Weather Report achieved a new level of recording quality with Heavy Weather, as Neil Tesser wrote in his review of the album for Down Beat: “Weather Report has never employed the studio-as-instrument as thoroughly or as well as Heavy Weather. The LP literally explodes with the clarity, separation and sheer variety of timbres, and Zawinul’s arsenal of synthesized tonalities is astounding (He’s listed on the liner as ‘producer/orchestrator’). Because of the recording quality, you can hear the smallest details of the intricately arranged layers of sound, with the versatile polyphonic synthesizer creating a vibrant, velvety richness that makes Getty look like a welfare case.” [DB77b]

Part of that had to do with Devonshire Sound Studios–where Heavy Weather, Black Market and Mysterious Traveller were recorded–and the late Ron Malo, engineer for all three albums. Brian Risner, Weather Report’s long-time technician, engineer and “Chief Meteorologist,” added another tidbit in a 1977 interview for Modern Recording magazine. “There’s a ‘live’ echo chamber at Devonshire, just a tiled room, that has lots of ambience. It’s just fantastic. It’s gotta be one of the best reverb chambers in the country, as well as being part of the secret of the Weather Report recorded sound.” “That’s the reason why there’s so much ‘air’ in Weather Report recordings, because they’re not tightly miked. There’s no need for tight miking with that echo booth supplying all that ambience and spatial feel.” [MR77]

Jaco also had a large role in the album’s sound, as Zawinul acknowledged to Pastorius biographer Bill Milkowski. “[Jaco’s co-producer credit] was a matter of his workmanship and his input. Jaco had a lot of input on that album, and I believe in giving credit where credit is due. We all contributed a lot in those days, in different areas. For Wayne, the studio was really not his thing. He was there a lot of the time, but he let us run the board. And Jaco had an especially good working knowledge of the mixing board. I knew the music inside and out, that was my strength, but Jaco knew a lot about adding reverb to the instruments and getting a good drum sound. And his work at the board gave such a huge presence to his bass sound.

“He had really keen ears. He could hear all the parts very clearly, and we worked well together, side by side, with all 20 fingers on the board. This was before automation, you understand. Jaco was definitely a hands-on producer. Wayne did other things, like coming up with song titles, but as far as putting the music on tape, it was mostly Jaco and me working together. Long after everybody else had gone home, he would still be at it, sitting there with the engineer and doing the mixes.” [Jaco, pp. 78-80]

Co-producing was something Jaco addressed in a 1978 interview with BBC journalist Clive Williamson: “This was the first time that I was involved from a producer’s standpoint, too. Joe produced, I co-produced. I was in there the whole time and was completely involved. Before that, like with Black Market, I went in like a sideman who just played and left. I was virtually gonna do the same thing on Heavy Weather, but Joe hooked up on how good I was working, and he said, ‘I want you here for the whole project, we’re gonna do this together.’ And we went on to do the same thing on Mr. Gone.” [BBC78]

Side One

1. Birdland (Zawinul) 5:59

Zawinul: Oberheim polyphonic synthesizer, ARP 2600 synthesizer, acoustic piano, vocal, melodica
Shorter: Soprano and tenor saxophone
Pastorius: Bass, mandocello, vocals
Acuña: Drums
Badrena: Tambourine

A tour de force for Zawinul and Weather Report. Zawinul knew he had something special from the beginning. “When we rehearsed it the very first time it was easy to see that there was something special there. It’s a wonderful feeling.” [BAM83] Birdland, of course, was the famous New York jazz club that had a great impact on Zawinul’s life. “All of us in Vienna knew about this fabulous place,” Zawinul explained to Leonard Feather in 1990. “Friederich Gulda, the great pianist, played there with a jazz group and told me all about it. We all dreamed about visiting Birdland some day … That club made such an impact on me. I met Miles there, and Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong; I met my wife Maxine there. Everyone I worshiped I met at Birdland.” [LAT90]

Sy Johnson interviewed Zawinul for the Fall 1977 issue of Jazz magazine. Johnson remarked that it was a long trip from those days in Birdland to the tune “Birdland,” and asked Zawinul how he happened to write it, and how the record went together.

“To me Birdland was the most important place in my entire life. I met everybody including my beautiful wife in this club. I met Miles, I met Duke Ellington. I met anyone I ever cared for in this business. I used to hang out there every night.

“I write my music only by improvising. All these tunes are improvised. And then I just take them from the tape and orchestrate them–not really writing any orchestrations, but just having in my head what I want to do. I had a concept for this album to go back to those good old days when stuff was happening in New York. I wanted to show some of the feeling happening in those days, man.”

“The first line I had was [Joe sings]. I said, ‘This sounds to me like when I was working with Dinah Washington.’ Nothing remotely like the music we were into, but the kind of atmosphere we’d have when she was stompin’ her heel. That’s why I got into this tune.”

I told him it sounded uncannily to me like the big bands at Birdland.

“You got it, you got it!! Exactly like when I used to come down the stairs at 2 o’clock and Count Basie or Duke used to be working there. This is the feeling I got from the whole thing. And the saxophone thing I do on the Oberheim synthesizer really sounds like a big ol’ reed section.”

I commented on the muted brass-like colors and how the chromatic section made me laugh aloud when I first heard it. Joe told me that it sounded exactly like the record when they played it in person.

“Even fuller, man. ‘Cause we know it better, swingin’ better. We’re cookin’ on the music. We phrase it like we improvise it. Everything is right on the tit!!” [Jazz77]

Zawinul told Feather that his management was skeptical about the title. “Who cares about Bird or Birdland?” they asked. Zawinul was adamant: “I don’t care what you say, that’s what I want to call it. And, of course, it was not only a big hit then in the 1970s, but also when Jon Hendricks set lyrics to it in the ’80s and Manhattan Transfer recorded it, they won the Grammy. So now we’re in the ’90s and it’s on an album [Quincy Jones’ Back to the Block] that will sell 10 times as many as all the rest together.” [LAT90]

Heavy Weather‘s liner notes give special thanks to Tom Oberheim for his polyphonic synthesizer. Tom Oberheim was founder of Oberheim Instruments, and creator of a line of analog synthesizer modules that were packaged in multi-voice configurations. “Birdland”‘s sound was largely due to Zawinul’s use of the Oberheim Eight-Voice polyphonic synthesizer, which was unveiled at the June 1975 National Association of Music Merchants show. Mark Vail, in his book Vintage Synthesizers, states that Oberheim was “especially proud” of the way Zawinul used a Four Voice on “Birdland”:

Shortly after Zawinul had gotten the instrument, Tom paid him a visit. Though he spent the whole evening with Zawinul, explaining in detail how the [instrument] worked, Tom left convinced that Zawinul didn’t understand anything he had said, and that the new instrument would be pushed into a corner to gather dust. Then, about a week later, Zawinul invited Oberheim over to hear the rough mix of “Birdland.” Tom remembers being bowled over by the great big-band sound Josef had created on his Four Voice. And “Birdland” became one of Weather Report’s biggest hits. [VS, p. 153]

International Music & Recording World‘s Hugo Bruton caught Zawinul and Pastorius in a particularly grumpy mood in 1981. (“Interviews are for what?” Zawinul asked Bruton. And Jaco dismissed him at first, saying, “I don’t do interviews. I know I’m the best.”) They did do the interview of course, and Zawinul told Bruton, “I had the line on ‘Birdland’ from an old song I had never recorded. We did it in the studio in one take.” [IM81] Indeed, on unofficial recordings from 1975 and 1976 Zawinul repeats the opening line from “Birdland” on his Rhodes electric piano as a sort of intro to “Dr. Honoris Causa.”

Another notable aspect of “Birdland” is Jaco’s use of false harmonics on the introduction–one of best-known innovations on the electric bass. In 1984 Bill Milkowski asked Jaco about his harmonics techniques. “For students who want to learn the basics of harmonics, all you’ve got to do is get a really good violin book and read about flageolet tones [natural harmonics]. It’s been done for years and years on violins, cellos, etc. All you’ve got to do is learn where they’re at, spend a lot of time working on it, and know what they are. If you learn all the open-string harmonics on a bass–all the natural harmonics–you can play just about every note chromatically. The other way is your picking technique. Let’s say on ‘Birdland,’ for example, where I pick out that intro part in harmonics, I get that sound by using my thumb on my right hand to lightly touch the string at the octave and picking behind it, almost like a steel guitar player would. You can get harmonics this way; it’s just a matter of subdividing the string. So I play the note with the left hand on the fingerboard, holding it down. Then with my right-hand thumb, I’ll be on the note an octave higher, up around by the pickup, and pluck the string with my first and second fingers behind the thumb. That way you hear the harmonic. It’s actually very simple. You just have to spend a lot of time doing it, and you’ve got to have really good chops because it hurts your fingers. You have to pick it very hard to get it to come out.” [GP84a]

The aforementioned Bruton tried to get Jaco to explain the same thing, but being in a testy mood, Jaco tersely summarized it for him like this: “I invented that shit, man. OK. You want technique. I’ll tell you quickly. You know how to hit a G in the middle on a harmonic to tune up, and you hit a D. If you put a capo on, the same thing will happen. Halfway you’ll get your harmonic, the fifth, etcetera. Then you pick it another half of the half. Ahh, it’s so goddamn basic, it’s mathematics we’re talking about. It’s all fractions and shit. Basic.” [IM81] Other examples of Jaco’s use of harmonics can be found on “Three Views Of A Secret” and “Port Of Entry,” both on the Night Passage album, and, of course, on “Portrait Of Tracy” from Jaco’s debut album, which established Jaco as the innovator of this technique on bass guitar.

“Birdland” has become something of a fusion era standard, having been recorded by dozens of artists ranging in diversity from Snoopy’s Jazz Classiks on Toys (yes, the comic strip characters) to Gurkha Parade, “the band of the brigade of Gurkhas, the pipes and drums of the 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles.” The Manhattan Transfer version on their 1979 album Extensions, with lyrics by Jon Hendricks, won a Grammy award and prompted Zawinul to invite the Transfer onto the stage with Weather Report for a surprise encore performance of “Birdland” at the Playboy Jazz Festival. Zawinul didn’t always take kindly to covers of his tunes, remarking in early 1979, “I don’t believe in other people playing my music unless it’s done right. I don’t believe in Buddy Rich playing my ‘Birdland.’ That’s shit.” [CW79] Zawinul played on Quincy Jones’ version of “Birdland” on the latter’s 1990 album Back On The Block, which went platinum and reached the national top ten chart. “I had just gotten back from a trip to Japan with the Zawinul Syndicate,” Zawinul told Leonard Feather, “and found a message that Quincy Jones was looking for me. He needed the exact line; he had seen lead sheets but wanted to have it exactly the way I wrote it. He said, ‘Hey man I’m going to record it and I want to use rappers. I’d like to turn on a lot of young folks, the black kids especially, who never saw Birdland but need to know what it represented.'” [LAT90]

This track is also included on several Weather Report compilations and the various artist compilations Classic Jazz Funk, Vol. 4, The Instrumental History of Jazz, and Ken Burns Jazz: The Story of America’s Music.

2. A Remark You Made (Zawinul) 6:52

Zawinul: Rhodes electric piano, ARP 2600 synthesizer, Oberheim polyphonic synthesizer
Shorter: Tenor saxophone
Pastorius: Bass
Acuña: Drums

“A Remark You Made” is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful ballads Zawinul penned. “I wrote ‘A Remark You Made’ the first day that I had my Oberheim string synthesizer and I found that sound that I use on the song. The next day, Jaco came over and we just did it. I knew it was special right away.” [BAM83]

In a 1988 interview, Woodard commented to Zawinul that “in a tune like ‘A Remark You Made,’ the very tone of the bass makes the melody sing.” “I’m a composer who works with sound,” replied Zawinul. “If you drop a dime, I can write a song based on the tone. When I heard Jaco’s tone, I immediately began to write a song, based on him and the saxophone and my little jive. That’s where I’m coming from. I dial myself up a sound on my synthesizer and turn on my tape recorder and that’s for sure a song. I live from sound, and he had a sound for all time. Nobody had a better, cleaner sound.” [DB88] Zawinul explained to Milkowski, “That boy had a sound that was so easy to write for, especially ballads. There were many strengths that Alphonso brought to the band, but tone-wise he was in another category. What I wrote for Jaco, I could never have written for Alphonso.” [Jaco, p. 81] Jaco’s own comments about his sound can be found in the description of “Cannon Ball” on the Black Market page.

In his Zawinul interview, Sy Johnson told Zawinul the tune reminded him of “one of those ballad features for the tenor player that every big band had in the book.”

“The first day I got the Oberheim, I sat down to try it,” Zawinul responded. “It had a string setup on it. I just played it. Every note Wayne played was there. I wrote it down and we did it in one or two takes. All I did was overdub a little harmony. It was all there in one time through from the music. People love it when we play it in person.”

That little harmonic and melodic turn in there sounds like the kind of thing guys used to know how to do that everybody today seems to have forgotten.

“Ain’t it the truth. It’s what we were working for on this record. I was taking it home every night to check it out with earphones. See what you do next. How to make it better. It really sounds clean. When you hear with earphones, it’s such a fine recording job we did.” [Jazz77]

3. Teen Town (Pastorius) 2:53

Pastorius: Drums, bass
Zawinul: Rhodes electric piano, ARP 2600, melodica, Oberheim polyphonic synthesizer
Shorter: Soprano saxophone
Badrena: Congas

“Teen Town” takes its title from a youth club where Jaco grew up. In addition to composing the tune and playing bass, Jaco also plays drums, explaining to Williamson that he played the drums first, and overdubbed the bass part afterwards. Jaco went on to describe “Teen Town” at length:

It’s… TRICKY! I’m a drummer: that was my first instrument when I was a kid, and I switched to the bass because I broke my arm in an accident. I didn’t have to go to the bass, but I had to stop drums because I had no power left in my left arm, and from about age 13 to 18, my left arm was pretty useless. I couldn’t push, man; and like, to play the drums, you gotta push. I was playing in a band on drums–one that I’d started actually–and I got kicked out! But they asked me back if I was playing bass, so I bought a bass and joined them again!

I was 15, I didn’t know where the notes were or anything, I just started grooving, y’know? And I’ve never been out of work since, with the bass! But yeah, “Teen Town” was actually a place I use to go to dance when I was 13, and it was a church on the Intra-Coastal waterway, in Pompano Beach, Florida. I used to just wish I could be up there playing drums, that’s why I sorta had to play the drums on this tune–because the drums are talking with the bass, too–because now I’m a bass player, but I can still play the drums, y’know? It’s a lot of fun: “Teen Town” is like a little theater thing, yeah? You’re a kid and you go to Teen Town; you’re 13 years old; you wanna hang out with some chicks; there are all sorts of little ego trips going on in there; all that sorta shit is going on in there. And at the end, it gets a little mysterious, because you start growing up… It’s all in there! (laughs) [BBC78]

In In A Silent Way, Zawinul says, “You know what? This bassline is played by both of us! It was the Oberheim eight-voice which doubled his bass, and we played so well together that it sounds like one instrument. The bass is a wonderful instrument, but sometimes you need a little more attack on it to really cut it, and that’s what it was on this song. Jaco brought it in, and it was very quickly done. As a matter of fact, the whole album was played as well as we have ever played in the studio.” [IASW, p. 198]

In a 1977 interview, Brian Risner described how “Teen Town” had a long gestation period. The interviewer, Gil Podolinsky, asked Risner about the band’s practice of taking a day’s recordings home to see what they had. “Right,” replied Risner, “every bit of 16 track is put on cassette and everybody goes home and does their homework. It’s a constant evolution in the studio where a tune three months later will have the basic root but the rest has changed. ‘Teen Town’ is a good example. We lived with that tune for a month, and nobody was really pleased with it; then one afternoon we went in, brought the tempo up and changed it all around. Sometimes you just wait for something to affect someone’s life so that he’ll see the tune differently and then it happens.” [MR77]

A transcription of “Teen Town” appears in the January 1988 issue of Guitar for the Practicing Musician magazine.

4. Harlequin (Shorter) 4:00

Shorter: Soprano saxophone
Zawinul: ARP 2600 synthesizer, Oberheim polyphonic synthesizer, acoustic piano, Rhodes electric piano
Pastorius: Bass
Acuña: Drums
Badrena: Vocal

Side Two

5. Rumba Mama (Badrena/Acuña) 2:12

Badrena: Vocal, timbales, congas
Acuña: Congas, tom toms

This recording comes from Weather Report’s July 8, 1976 performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival.

6. Palladium (Shorter) 4:45

Shorter: Soprano and tenor saxophone
Zawinul: ARP 2600 synthesizer, Rhodes electric piano
Pastorius: Bass, steel drums
Acuña: Drums
Badrena: Congas, percussion

Shorter’s inspiration for this composition was the Latin jazz concerts he attended as a kid at the Palladium Club in New York City. As he explained to Hal Miller:

We had a band from Newark that went to the Palladium one night. This was just after I had graduated from high school and was starting college at NYU. Tito Puente and his band were there. So was Machito. And Celia Cruz was dancing on the floor in one of those fishtail outfits.

Tito invited us to play. We had a nine or ten-piece group with a conga player but not Latino players, and they made a place for us to play. We played a song I wrote called “The Midget Mambo,” and the people started dancing, and getting excited — everything was happening!

Years later, Tito Puente and I were on a tour bus and he told me, “I remember that night at the Palladium. You kicked our asses, you kicked our butt!” [FT06, page 63]

7. The Juggler (Zawinul) 5:05

Zawinul: Rhodes electric piano, ARP 2600 synthesizer, acoustic piano, guitar, tabla
Pastorius: Bass, mandocello
Shorter: Soprano and tenor saxophone
Acuña: Drums, handclap
Badrena: Percussion

In a 1978 Rhodes advertisement, Zawinul described how “The Juggler” came about. Asked how he creates, Joe said, “Sometimes in the usual way–thinking through a melody on my Rhodes and scoring as I go along. But creativity is funny and unpredictable. Take “Juggler” on our album, Heavy Weather. I was just improvising and unknown to me, Brian Risner, our engineer, taped my playing. A year later, he ran the tape for me. I wrote it down exactly and Weather Report recorded it. You never know when you’re creating.” [Rhodes78]

On “The Juggler,” as well as “Birdland,” Jaco is credited with playing the mandocello in addition to the bass. For those curious, a mandocello is a larger, baritone version of a mandolin. It is to the mandolin what the cello is to the violin. For more information see “The Mandocello” by David Brown.

8. Havona (Pastorius) 6:03

Pastorius: Bass
Shorter: Soprano saxophone
Zawinul: Acoustic piano, Oberheim polyphonic synthesizer, ARP 2600 synthesizer
Acuña: Drums

One of Jaco’s finest statements as a member of Weather Report. Yet curiously, there isn’t much written about it in the Weather Report literature. According to an article in the January 2002 issue of Bass Player magazine, Jaco originally conceived “Havona” well before joining Weather Report. The article includes a reproduction of Jaco’s hand-written circa-1973 lead sheet. In the article bassist Mark Egan recalls receiving a ten-bar “Havona” exercise from Jaco while a student of Jaco’s at the University of Miami in 1972. A raw version of “Havona,” with Jaco, Herbie Hancock, Lenny White and Don Alias, was recorded during the sessions that produced Jaco’s 1976 debut album, but has not been released. [BP01b]

Ingrid Pastorius, Jaco’s widow, thinks he must have written “Havona” after he started reading The Urantia Book. In that book Havona is a special place, and Ingrid says it has been described as follows:

Paradise lies at the center of Havona, a perfect universe consisting of one billion spheres of “unimagined beauty”. This universe was created in perfection, not evolved. Havona is a source of perfect love, beauty, and satisfaction.

“Guess his solo pretty much says the same thing,” says Ingrid.

Alex Acuña told Brian Glasser, “I think my favorite [track on Heavy Weather] is ‘Havona.’ That, for me, is how I always want to play, that kind of a conversation. When I hear that tune, I still get the chills. Everything was improvised in that moment–it’s almost no overdubs.” [IASW, p. 197]

A transcription of Jaco’s solo on “Havona” appears in the August 1981 issue of Down Beat. [DB81d]

This recording is also contained on the Weather Report compilation This Is Jazz, Vol. 40: The Jaco Years. Other recordings of “Havona” may be found on the University of North Texas album Lab 91, and Othello Molineaux’s 1993 album It’s About Time. And Christian McBride recorded “Havona” on acoustic bass for his 2000 album Sci-Fi.

Bonus Tracks

(9). Black Market [Live] (Zawinul) 9:26

Shorter: Tenor saxophone
Zawinul: Fender Rhodes electric piano, synthesizers
Pastorius: Bass
Acuña: Drums
Badrena: Percussion

This live version of “Black Market” was recorded September 10, 1977 at the Rainbow, London. It was originally released in 2002 on Live and Unreleased, and is included on the version of Heavy Weather that is part of the 2012 boxed set Weather Report The Columbia Albums 1976-1982.

(10). Teen Town [Live] (Pastorius) 6:30

Shorter: Soprano saxophone
Zawinul: Fender Rhodes electric piano, synthesizers
Pastorius: Bass
Acuña: Drums
Badrena: Percussion

This live version of “Teen Town” was recorded September 10, 1977 at the Rainbow, London. It was originally released in 2002 on Live and Unreleased, and is included on the version of Heavy Weather that is part of the 2012 boxed set Weather Report The Columbia Albums 1976-1982.

(11). Birdland [Live] (Zawinul) 6:36

Shorter: Tenor and soprano saxophones
Zawinul: Keyboards
Pastorius: Bass, voice
Peter Erskine: Drums

This live version of “Birdland” was recorded March 2, 1979 at the Karl Marx Theatre, Havana, Cuba, as part of the three-day “Havana Jam.” It is included on the version of Heavy Weather that is part of the 2012 boxed set Weather Report The Columbia Albums 1976-1982.

Review Excerpts

Heavy Weather is an arrangemental tour-de-force, a smorgasbord for the ear… On balance, this is a five star disc; there are two tunes that don’t really click for me, but what is good is so good that it tips the scales. Zawinul’s ballad ‘A Remark You Made,’ despite the wrenching emotionalism of the standout tenor solo, is almost too pat in its undeniable prettiness; his ‘The Juggler,’ a gentle, dancing melody accompanied by a wistfully martial snare pattern, is uncomfortably reminiscent of Return To Forever’s mechanistic flair. But the joyful multiplicity of ‘Birdland’ and Shorter’s ‘Palladium,’ and the particularly lyrical and flighty bass solo on ‘Havona,’ are unforgettable. And Jaco’s easily overlooked ‘Teen Town’ (the other side of the [‘Birdland’] single) has a desperate, manic feel, a stunning bass break and a melody that bears down like a crazed kidnaper, serious and parodistic at the same time.”


— Neil Tesser, Down Beat, May 19, 1977

“Josef Zawinul, Wayne Shorter and Co. have wandered far afield from the original Weather Report, assimilating and passing off new drummers and bassists with astounding speed. The wandering in itself is no big deal, for they couldn’t have played the understated and airy music of their early albums forever and kept it fresh… If they have lost anything, it’s the resonant, pulsing space between notes and the remarkable melodies that grew out of non-melodies… Their gains have been more palpable, though, especially since jazz rock has grown lazy. Jaco Pastorius, the bassist who joined them on their last album, has been instrumental in developing their busier, talkative style… [Pastorius is] vital to them now because he fills up the music where it used to diffuse, which suits their apparent aims just fine. There was a time when Weather Report’s music went up and up only; becoming more ethereal as it went; the new bottom makes all the difference in the world.”

— Dan Oppenheimer, Rolling Stone, 242

“Every so often a record comes along that stands so firmly on its musical feet that the sort of words one fills reviews with seem rather beside the point. Heavy Weather, Weather Report’s latest opus, comes within a toe or two of qualifying… Heavy Weather is marked by a kind of bright unstable grittiness of sound, and an asymmetrical approach to composition, that make it memorable–the best Weather Report album, some would say, in a good long time. And Zawinul, producer and orchestrator as well as keyboardist, deserves a considerable share of the credit.”

— Jim Aiken, Keyboard, May 1977

Heavy Weather is their finest work since the epic Mysterious Traveller released some three years ago. From the album’s opening song, “Birdland” (a single which appears to be moving up the charts), the album smokes. Heavy Weather, like most of the group’s work, is a textbook for any aspiring band hoping to make a dent in the new music. Why is it that Zawinul can bring an earthly sound, a decidedly human quality to the synthesizer when others can do no more than create assorted beeps and shrieks? Listen to Wayne Shorter; he can be many things including dissonant, but he is above all lyrical; playing inside, outside, and around the melody–instead of bulling his way through a passage.”

— Bon Johnson, Record Review, July-August 1977

“To me, Heavy Weather is the best [Weather Report album]. That’s one of the great records of all time. Pretty much from beginning to end, there is not a dead spot on that record. It’s conceptually brilliant and, execution-wise, it’s devastating. Also, the sound on that record is incredible.”

— Pat Metheny, In A Silent Way, 2000

Review Exceprts

Jazz Album of the Year, 42nd Annual Down Beat Readers Poll

Jazz Group of the Year, 42nd Annual Down Beat Readers Poll

Record of the Year, Jazz Forum People’s Poll

1977 Silver Disc Award, Swing Journal magazine.

Jazz Record of the Year, Playboy

Jazz Band of the Year, Playboy

Instrumental Group of the Year, Record World

Record of the Year, Cashbox

1977 Grammy Nomination, Best Instrumental Composition, “Birdland.”

1977 Grammy Nomination, Best Jazz Soloist, Jaco Pastorius, Heavy Weather.

Grammy Award, Manhattan Transfer version of ‘Birdland.’

Billboard chart peak: Jazz Albums, 1; R&B Albums, 33; Top 200 Albums, 30.

In 2011, Heavy Weather was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame.

3 thoughts on “Heavy Weather

  1. David J. Lis

    Heavy Weather was a turning point for me personally. I was a sophomore in high school and up until that time, was heavily influenced by Stanley Clarke. I listened to Teen Town for the first time and my tongue was hanging down to the floor. I listened to the rest of the album and was so mesmerized by Jaco’s technique and sound that I went out and bought a fretless bass myself. Stanley took a back seat to Jaco not only at that time, but forever more.

  2. Adam Russell

    First, I gotta say that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this site! As a person who is highly intrigued by music history, and especially the processes that go into putting together an ensemble and recording an album, this site is the equivalent of sunken treasure for me. Discovering this site and the immense amount of information and reference material on one of my favorite bands is so enriching to me! Thanks for all of your hard work! Now, on to my comments about this album.

    Heavy Weather was the first jazz album I ever bought (c. 1985) at the strong urging of my then-mentor and teacher, and “Birdland” was the first jazz tune I ever learned to play. It was just him and me on two keyboards, played at the request of my aunt for her wedding reception, and I had the auspicious task of playing Jaco’s bass lines and most of the melody. I had never played jazz before and was only a casual part-time listener, and was a full year removed from going to music school to learn jazz, so trying to figure some of that out by ear was daunting at the least. As great as “Birdland” and “Teen Town” are (love them both), my favorite song on this album is by far “Palladium,” and if I were to ever host a TV talk or variety show, that would be my theme song. That one-bar break after the intro just begs for some off-camera announcer to exclaim, “And now, here’s your host…!” Plus the groove is absolutely ridiculous! It’s a tune that I just can’t help but move my body to, and there aren’t many that have that effect on me. Aside from that, one other highlight for me is one particular phrase that Jaco plays on “Harlequin.” It’s near the beginning of the song, between the repeat of the intro motif and the second “A” motif (at about the 0:49 mark). I wore out the rewind button on my tape player listening to that line over and over again. It’s just so friggin’ sweet! In my opinion, it is the greatest bass phrase ever recorded. It still gives me an adrenaline rush every time I hear it! And, yes, “Havona” is a masterpiece – arguably one of the best tunes that Jaco ever wrote.

    It took me a few years to start gathering the rest of the Weather Report catalog, but during that time I became a huge fan, second only to Return to Forever in my admiration of early fusion bands. Now if there was only a site like this for RTF!


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