Tag Archives: Friedrich Gulda

Fifty Years Ago Today—Weather Report in Central and South America

Melody Maker, July 8, 1972.
Right after the Gaslight Au Go Go gigs, Weather Report flew to Mexico City to start a thirteen-concert tour of Central and South America. The tour was a byproduct of Joe Zawinul’s longstanding friendship with pianist Friedrich Gulda, a fellow Austrian two years older than Joe who also hailed from Vienna. By this time, Gulda was an international star—a “demigod” in Joe’s words—and the headliner of the tour. Weather Report served as the opening act, after which Gulda performed classical pieces on solo piano. He and Joe also played a piano duet each night.

One indication of Gulda’s star power at the point was that he flew first class while Weather Report flew economy. But Weather Report benefited from Gulda’s ability to dictate a relaxed schedule. “For us it was a very comfortable tour because Gulda didn’t want to play every day,” Joe recalled to Gunther Baumann (here translated from German to English). “In Costa Rica, we stayed for a week. The strange thing was, Gulda was nowhere to be seen outside the concerts with us. That he flew first class and we flew economy was okay, but otherwise, he kept to himself. But of course I’m very grateful to him: Through this tour, we were one of the most popular bands in America. In 1978, we performed at the great Luna Park arena in Buenos Aires, all alone. The hall had 18,000 seats, and they still had to carry in extra chairs. That was one of the most popular—and best—concerts that we’ve ever played. When we wanted to drive an hour to the hotel after the concert, Wayne and I had to be carried over the people. Hundreds of fans waited at the exit for us.”

Wayne Shorter was particularly taken with what he saw and heard on this tour. According to an interview that appeared in Melody Maker later that year, Wayne talked at length about his experiences in Central and South America and claimed to have written a tune inspired by the Aztec pyramids. In Rio de Janeiro, the band cut short its own performance so they could hop in a waiting cab to go see the Brazilian singer/songwriter Milton Nascimento. “He’s digging deeper than Gilberto or Jobim or anyone into certain areas of life and sensibility,” Wayne said. “I heard some things there that made me feel reincarnated!” A few years later, Wayne would team up with Nascimento to record Native Dancer, the only album Shorter made under his own name during the Weather Report years.

Meanwhile, some concert attendees, expecting to hear an evening of classical music, were put off by Weather Report’s style of music. According to one report from Argentina, “The reception of this group was not too good, because the audience here is not much on the avant garde side of things.” That said, some listeners came away as inspired by Weather Report as the band members were by the likes of Nascimento.

Alyrio Lima remembered seeing the band in Rio de Janiero. “They were here in Brazil and I had to go and see them,” Lima told me years later. “My friend was the stage manager for the theater where they were performing, so I got a front row seat, which in fact was a backstage pass. It was a superb performance by the band, especially from Wayne and the drummer Eric Gravatt. That night I decided to go to New York and see how I would manage playing with musicians of that level of art in form of beauty. I was a rock-influenced drummer and initially my wish was to meet Jimi Hendrix and play with him. After the concert in Brazil, it was a turning point because I saw great masters, musicians praying with their playing, at ease with the newness of that magical musical moment, of the fusion.”

Lima subsequently came to the U.S. as a student at the prestigeous New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. While there, he was introduced to Weather Report’s manager, Bob Devere, who ultimately called him for the Tale Spinnin’ recording sessions and the tours that followed.

Fifty Years Ago Today (More or Less)

[Second in an ongoing series highlighting significant events in Weather Report’s history on their fiftieth anniversary. The first post in the series covered Weather Report’s inaugural public performance.]

The second public performance of Weather Report that I know about took place at the Third International Music Forum, held in the lakeside resort town of Ossiach, Austria. The exact date isn’t clear, for reasons that I will explain below. But first, a bit about the festival itself.

Third International Music Forum

The “3. Internationales Musikforum Ossiachersee 1971,” as it was titled in German, was organized by Friedrich Gulda, a world class concert pianist with broad musical interests, and a friend of Joe’s going back to the early 1950s. Two years older than Zawinul, Gulda was also born in Vienna, and came to prominence by winning the prestigious Geneva International Music Competition in 1946 at the age of 16. Gulda made his United States concert debut at Carnegie Hall in 1950. While there, he found time to pursue his interest in jazz, visiting the clubs in New York and bringing jazz records back to Austria. For jazz musicians in Austria, Gulda’s tales about what he saw in New York, and the records he came home with, served as a lifeline to the jazz world at large, and reinforced the almost mythological standing of the jazz club Birdland to his fellow countrymen.

Gulda had organized the first two music forums in 1968 and 1969 (there was no event in 1970), and for the third festival he envisioned a significant gathering on an international scale, spanning eleven days, and presenting all kinds of music, including classical, exotic, folklore, pop, jazz, and electronic music. Some referred to it as the “Woodstock of Carinthia.” Among the headliners were Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream, Weather Report, and Gulda himself.

Not everyone was happy with Gulda’s ambitions. The large crowds the festival attracted so overwhelmed the bucolic village of Ossiach (population approximately 500) that it wasn’t invited back. At one point Gulda was confronted in a local tavern and called an asshole to his face—something he later laughed off to the assembled press.

The exact date of Weather Report’s Ossiach performance remains a mystery to me. You can find unofficial recordings on the Internet that claim the date was July 27, but the festival took place from June 25 through July 5, so July 27 can’t be right. That led me to speculate that maybe the date was off by a month, making it June 27, which would fit within the festival’s schedule.

However, I have a partial reproduction of the festival program, which was originally posted as part of a piece about Pink Floyd’s performances in Austria (of which there were six over the years). Only the program pages pertaining to Pink Floyd were posted, including a page showing the festival calendar for June 25 to July 1. The next page, which would have described the remaining days, wasn’t posted. (We were so close to unraveling this mystery!) Based on this, we see that Weather Report wasn’t listed on any performances through July 1. So either Weather Report wasn’t included in the program (unlikely, though maybe it was a late addition), or it would have performed after July 1.

Third International Music Forum program excerptThird International Music Forum program excerpt

We also know that Weather Report was scheduled to perform at the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island on the afternoon of July 5. To make that date, the band would have had to fly back to the United States no later than July 4, implying that Weather Report performed at Ossiach on July 2 or July 3. Furthermore, Ossiach is about a four-hour drive from Vienna, where the nearest international airport is located, so it seems likely that Weather Report performed on July 2, traveled to Vienna on July 3, and flew back to the United States later that day or on July 4. I hate unresolved questions like this, so if anyone out there has more definitive information, let me know!

Despite the uncertainty of the date of Weather Report’s gig, we do know they were there because there is surviving video of the band at Ossiach. In the video below, Weather Report makes an appearance at the 1:34 mark, where you see all of the band members setting up for their concert. Later, at 2:20, we see them in action.

Another snippet of video can be found at YouTube (with Gulda nodding along):

I understand that video of Weather Report’s entire Ossiach performance exists, and was at one time was posted on YouTube, but has since been removed. You can find the audio on YouTube, however. In addition, a triple-LP, Ossiach Live, was released in 1971 and includes Weather Report’s performance of “Eurydice.”

It seems likely that Weather Report could have played other dates while in Europe, perhaps at clubs, but no information to that effect has surfaced. We know that Weather Report performed at Penn State University on June 9 (according to Zawinul, this was in fact the band’s first public performance), so there would have been time for Weather Report to do some gigs in Europe leading up to the Music Forum.

Weather Report would make another trip to Europe in 1971, late summer. More about that later.