Tag Archives: Elegant People

A Book Update

First of all, thanks to all who have purchased a copy of my book Elegant People: A History of the Band Weather Report. And thanks to the many readers who have sent me personal notes. I appreciate them all.

I don’t know how many copies the publisher printed, but they sold out by early August—meaning the publisher ran out of stock in less than two months. There are still books available at some retailers in the U.S.—in particular, Amazon has it in stock. However, Elegant People‘s release in the United Kingdom didn’t occur until August 15, and, apparently, only a small number of books reached the U.K. shores. I know it’s hard to get there, as I’ve received several emails from folks in the U.K. trying to buy it. The publisher tells me that a reprint is in the works, but because of industry-wide printing delays, we do not know the date yet. They are taking back orders, however, so we should see more books soon. I will post an update when that happens.

In the meantime, the book received a nice review at Something Else!, written by Tom Wilmeth. For a time, it was even on the website’s home page (which is where the screenshot above was taken). Tom is the author of Sound Bites: A Lifetime of Listening, a fascinating book that he describes as “a lifetime collection of interviews, essays, and reviews of music and the artists who create it.” Wilmeth has been involved in the radio business since the 1970s and his knowledge and musical interests are broad, indeed. He has a voluminous personal library of music albums, and has had the opportunity to interview many musicians as part of his radio gig, while personally attending enumerable musical performances. All of this informs Sound Bites—an enjoyable read for all music fans, and especially baby boomers whose years of listening will largely overlap with Tom’s.

Tom also produces a podcast called The Vinyl Approach. In Episode 14, “Fusion Music and Weather Report”, he discusses Elegant People at length. In the first half of the episode, Tom covers some of the first fusions efforts, especially those of Gary Burton in the mid- to late-1960s. Tom’s discussion of Elegant People consumes the second half of the episode. I encourage you to check out the whole thing, as well as other episodes of The Vinyl Approach that may interest you.

Again, thanks for all your support.

Elegant People Review in Jazz Wise Magazine

My thanks to George Cole for his review of my book Elegant People: A History of the Band Weather Report. The review appears in the August 2021 issue of Jazz Wise, the U.K.’s leading jazz magazine. “Definitive doesn’t come close to describing this book, which is set to remain the standard work on Weather Report for many years ahead,” Cole writes.

By the way, George is the author of The Last Miles: The Music of Miles Davis 1980-1991, the most comprehensive look at the final decade of Davis’s music. Highly recommended. Of interest to Jaco Pastorius fans, George recently posted interviews with drummer Lenny White and Japanese photographer Shigeru Uchiyama at his website, both of whom speak about their interactions with Jaco. (Shigeru also contributed many photographs to my book.)

Sharing Shelf Space with Mariah Carey

Elegant People at Barnes & NobleElegant People on the shelf at my local Barnes & Noble bookstore.

A friend recently told me that she ordered a copy of Elegant People from one of the local bookstores who had it in their inventory. That surprised me a bit, because I really didn’t think brick-and-mortar stores would stock a book about a 1970s jazz band. But one of the benefits of having your book published by a publisher, as opposed to self-publishing, is that you just might find a copy at your local Barnes & Noble. Here it is, sharing shelf space with Mariah Carey, Garth Brooks, and Jimi Hendrix. I have to admit, I was tempted to move it to the Oprah’s Book Club table. (Don’t ask me about the “meaning” of Mariah Carey—I haven’t read her book.)

An Ode to Peter Erskine

So I want to talk a little about Peter Erskine, who I first met in 2006. As I recall, we had exchanged some emails up to that point, and he knew about my website, which led me to asking if I could interview him about his experience with Weather Report. He told me that he would shortly be coming to the Bay Area to perform with Japanese saxophonist Sadao Watanabe at Yoshi’s, and suggested that we meet at his hotel in Oakland’s Jack London Square. There we had a two-hour conversation before walking over to the club, where I met up with Brian Risner, who was mixing sound for Watanabe. I hung out with Brian in the engineer’s booth and listened to the show.

At the time, the only other Weather Report musician I had interviewed was Joe Zawinul. In speaking with Peter, I was interested in filling in some of the gaps in my “annotated discography” website. I really didn’t have the idea of writing a book. So it was generous of Peter to spend so much time with me. I think maybe he recognized that I was interested and sincere. It reminds me of something Joe said to me the first time I interviewed him. Surprised that I seemed to know a lot about his career, he stopped me at one point and said, “How do you know these things?” “Well, I’ve done my research.” “You are interested and interesting,” he said, which led to even more conversation. Maybe Peter recognized that I was “interested.”

Over the years, we stayed in touch. When I got serious about my book, he allowed me to interview him twice more at his own home. Beyond that, Peter is the Weather Report musician I could ask any question via email and get a response. Sometimes I would ask some pretty general questions, just seeking to get the perspective of a musician of his stature, or to get a sanity check about something or other. Peter answered every time. He also allowed me to use his photos, and he open doors to other contributors to the book, such as photographer Shigeru Uchiyama. Fast forward to today, and my book is in print and Peter was gracious enough to write the foreword. I thanked Peter for various things in the book’s acknowledgments, but I failed to explicitly thank him for writing the thoughtful foreword. Can you say faux pas? What a dummy!

Of all the former Weather Report musicians, Peter is the most like a historian of the band. For one thing, he carried a camera with him while he was in the band, and he captured a lot of photographs, some of which have made their way around the internet many times over. I believe he also maintained a journal during his Weather Report years, which informed his own book. Beyond his personal involvement in the band, Peter is extremely knowledgeable about the Weather Report’s music before his membership and after.

Peter’s book, No Beethoven: Autobiography & Chronicle of Weather Report, is a must-have for Weather Report fans. He provides a perspective on Weather Report that you won’t find in any other book, including my own. (The other books that should be on a serious Weather Report fan’s bookshelf, aside from my own and Peter’s, are Footprints: The Life and Work of Wayne Shorter, Jaco: The Extraordinary and Tragic Life of Jaco Pastorius, and In a Silent Way: A Portrait of Joe Zawinul.)

One of the cool things about Peter’s book is that it captures Joe’s sense of humor better than any other. This is often conveyed in amusing anecdotes that Peter relates from hanging out with him or handling the day-to-day chores of road life, like going shopping at a department store in Japan. I love these bits of insight into Zawinul. It’s a little more personal than you’ll find elsewhere. There are more than a few laugh-out-loud stories.

I remember that I bought Peter’s book mainly to read about his Weather Report experiences, but I was soon sucked into the whole story. The chapters alternate between a chronological biography and chapters about Weather Report. Peter has been involved in a lot of music that I like, so it was great to read about that in addition to Weather Report. Peter has an engaging, conversational writing style. As befits a world-class drummer, he has exquisite timing; he knows where to put the beats in his sentences. Along the way he imparts pearls of wisdom about being a musician and about life.

If you have yet to purchase Peter’s book, I highly recommend the Apple Books version. It’s a good example of what can be done in the digital format. It is very well presented and chock-full of photographs–over a thousand in all, hundreds of which are of Weather Report. It even includes video and audio snippets. (This may also be true of the Kindle version–I don’t know.)

Anyway, Peter, with appreciation, thanks for all that you have done.