“It's like a soundtrack for the mind.”
– Joe Zawinul
|1. Milky Way (Shorter/Zawinul)||2:30|
|2. Umbrellas (Shorter/Vitous/Zawinul)||3:24|
|3. Seventh Arrow (Vitous)||5:20|
|4. Orange Lady (Zawinul)||8:40|
|5. Morning Lake (Vitous)||4:23|
|6. Waterfall (Zawinul)||6:18|
|7. Tears (Shorter)||3:22|
|8. Eurydice (Shorter)||5:43|
|Original Release:||Columbia C 30661|
|Produced by:||Shoviza Productions, Inc.|
|Recorded by:||Wayne Tarnowski at Columbia Studios, NYC|
|Liner Notes:||Don DeMichael, Clive Davis|
|Cover design:||Ed Lee|
|Cover photo:||Ed Freeman|
|Back cover photos:||Columbia Records Photo Studio|
Tracks 3, 5, 6 and 7 recorded February 16, 1971. Track 8 recorded February 17, 1971. Track 4 recorded February 17-18, 1971. Track 1 recorded February 21, 1971. Track 2 recorded March 17, 1971.
|Wayne Shorter:||Tenor and soprano saxophones|
|Joe Zawinul:||Electric and acoustic piano|
|Miroslav Vitous:||Electric and acoustic bass|
|Alphonse Mouzon:||Drums, voice|
|Barbara Burton:||Percussion (uncredited)|
|Don Alias:||Percussion (uncredited)|
“After nine years with Cannonball Adderley, pianist-composer Joe Zawinul is ready to go out on his own.” So read the opening sentence of the lead news item in the December 10, 1970 issue of Down Beat magazine. It was the first that most jazz fans learned that Zawinul, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, and bassist Miroslav Vitous were forming a new band that included drummer Alphonse Mouzon.
At the time, Zawinul, age 38, and Shorter, 37, were highly regarded instrumentalists and composers coming off long stints in two of the premier jazz bands of the sixties–the Cannonball Adderley Quintet and the Miles Davis Quintet. Vitous, who turned 23 that month, was stretching the boundaries of the bass in jazz, despite having been in the states only a few years. Mouzon, just 22, had moved to New York out of high school and quickly assimilated into the city’s music scene.
Joe and Wayne had played pivotal roles in the nascent “jazz-rock” or “fusion” movement thanks to their participation on Miles Davis’ ground-breaking albums In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew. Miles had depended on Shorter for years, especially as a composer, and Wayne was the lone member of Davis’ “second great quintet” to survive the transition Miles undertook when he abandoned playing “standards” in live performances in favor of the new music he was recording in the studio. Miles also kept close tabs on his old bandmate Cannonball Adderley, and by extension, Zawinul. It was Joe, for instance, who introduced Miles to the electric piano, which he soon integrated into his own band. Starting in November 1968, Joe began recording with Miles, bringing many of his compositions with him.
In A Silent Way was released in in the second half of 1969, and left no doubt that Miles was pointed in a new direction. But the jazz world was especially roiled by the release of Bitches Brew the following spring. Reactions polarized journalists and fans alike: Miles was either leading the way forward, or he was rejecting jazz itself. Nevertheless, it became the top-selling jazz album of the year and won a Grammy award. In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew established Davis as the leading figure–some considered him the progenitor–of so-called jazz-rock, and Joe and Wayne were among his foremost collaborators. More than their playing, it was their writing that proved key. Despite the presence of such talented musicians as Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, John McLaughlin, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette and Tony Williams, the only compositional voices heard on Silent Way and Bitches Brew are those of Miles, Wayne and Joe. There’s no hyperbole in saying that Davis ushered in a new era in jazz, and while Weather Report didn’t directly derive from these albums, it was in this environment that the band was born.
Though Wayne and Joe had rarely played together before those sessions with Miles, they had known each other since 1959, when they were briefly members of Maynard Ferguson’s band just weeks after Joe’s arrival in the United States. It wasn’t until years later, as Zawinul’s compositional voice bloomed, that he heard a kindred spirit in the music of Wayne Shorter. “I was in the basement of Bill Russell’s house–the basketball player–and he had a great stereo set-up. I had the earphones on and was listening to Nefertiti [Miles Davis’ 1967 album on which Shorter contributed three compositions]. It was something like what I had been doing before, structurally–away from all that eight bars shit and then you go to the bridge. The music flowed. That was a real spark.” [DB78b] Zawinul felt it was only a matter of time before he and Wayne got together. “From then on, I knew it, because there were certain things I heard, certain concepts which were very, I wouldn’t say similar, but complementary.” [DB75a] “That’s when I felt Wayne was the guy I should do something with. He had the new thinking.” [RS282]
Meanwhile, Miroslav Vitous arrived in the United States in 1967, having been awarded a scholarship to the Berklee School of Music after winning the bass category at the International Competition for Modern Jazz. By 1969, Vitous was a member of Herbie Mann’s band, and recorded the first album under his own name, Infinite Search. The album is notable primarily for the way in which the bass is freed from its conventional time-keeping role to become a full-fledged member of the musical conversation. At around the same time, Wayne recorded his album Super Nova, with Miroslav providing “marvelously unfailing” support on bass according to Down Beat‘s review. Although the two had shared the stage when Vitous substituted for Ron Carter in Miles Davis’ band, this was the first time they recorded together.
In 1970, Wayne and Joe each took steps to break away from their sideman roles. Shorter played his last gigs with Miles on March 6-7, 1970, after which he took a self-described break from music. Although he remained off the bandstand for the rest of the year, he did record two albums, Moto Grosso Feio and Odyssey of Iska. The former included Miroslav Vitous, while the latter feature Alphonse Mouzon, who would become Weather Report’s first drummer. In August, Joe recorded his most personal album to date, Zawinul. Once again, Miroslav was the bass player, while Wayne did overdubs in October. At the same time, Vitous worked on some experimental tracks that would form the album Purple, some of which included Zawinul on electric piano.
By September, Vitous had left Herbie Mann and was casting about for something to do next. He knew that Wayne wasn’t engaged with anyone else, so Miroslav’s first thought was to ask if he’d be interested in forming a band. Wayne liked the idea, but he wanted to think it over. A few weeks later he called Miroslav back. If it was okay with him that Joe Zawinul come aboard, then he was ready to go. Miroslav agreed, and a new band was formed.
“All of a sudden we were in New York calling each other one afternoon,” Zawinul remembered. “My album [the self-titled Zawinul] had just [been completed] and Miroslav suggested that he and I get together. He called Wayne and Wayne called me, we had a meeting and suddenly said, ‘Shit, let’s have a band,’ you know?” [RS73] “Wayne hadn’t been working for a year. At the time he was writing a piece for a 22-piece orchestra. And I had tons of music and it was just time. And when it’s time to quit certain things, it’s time to quit. Miroslav had made a very nice album for Atlantic. I knew Miroslav for quite a while; I judged this contest in Europe where he came in a winner. We had similar backgrounds culturally. It was very easy to get into his music and understand it, so it fell together in one afternoon.” [DB71]
With that, Weather Report was formed. The three men went into a recording studio to get a feel for what the band might be like. “We never talked about a concept,” Zawinul said. “We went down into the studio the first time–Billy Cobham [Alphonse Mouzon was unavailable], Wayne, Miroslav and myself–and made a tape. I still haven’t listened to it. Immediately we knew that that was gonna be it.” “That was really an experience,” he continued. “We decided that we were going to need some fantastic management, because the quality of the music was very high, so we got Sid Bernstein (who as everyone knows, brought the Beatles to the U.S.). Then, I was supposed to do some independent producing at Columbia, and when they heard we had a band, the machine started rolling.” [DB71]
“Then we needed a drummer, and Al [Mouzon] was the first choice, and when he started working with us in rehearsal it was really fantastic–he sings and all that. And then Airto–we’d tried another percussionist but he didn’t have that individualism, and that’s what we really are aiming for–individuals all, but playing together. So we called Airto and he fit right in.” [DB71] Mouzon’s path to Weather Report was via Bobby Thomas, Billy Taylor’s drummer from whom Alphonse was then taking lessons. “Bobby recommended me, when I was nineteen, for [the Broadway show] Promises, Promises. Bobby took me under his wing, and he was a good friend of Wayne. So when Wayne was doing his record Odyssey of Iska, Bobby recommended me. So Promises, Promises led to Wayne Shorter, and Wayne Shorter led to Weather Report. But, before we got to Weather Report, I was at the Apollo Theater and Joe Zawinul was playing with Cannonball Adderley, whom I had met in 1966.” Mouzon and Joe worked performed on Tim Hardin’s 1970 album Bird On A Wire. “And right after that we went to Columbia with Weather Report. I was twenty-one years old.” [AAJ08]
“After we signed the contract with Columbia,” Zawinul recalled, “I went to Europe with my family, on December 10, 1970. We hung out in London, then Vienna, and then Barcelona. After we got back to New York, the band rehearsed a month, then went into the studio and cut the record in three days, in March of 1971. It was getting acquainted time. I had only played with Miroslav and Wayne a little.” [DB78b] “We rehearsed three weeks–or rather, we took a month and rehearsed four days a week–and then went into the studio and did the record in three days. Rehearsing was quite something–every day when we got home we’d be exhausted, there was so much music going on.” [DB71]
How did the name Weather Report come about? “When we first got together with CBS,” Shorter told Jazz Forum magazine in 1976, “we had a meeting with Clive Davis, and we just mapped out what we were going to do. The only thing he asked was, ‘How could we give some name to this music in order to sell it, where are we going to put it in the record stores, are we going to put it in the classical thing?’ So we just concluded that we should get something so unique that it would be without categorization.” [JF76]
“We thought The Wayne Shorter-Joe Zawinul Quintet [a percussionist was added] sounded ridiculous,” recalls Zawinul, “so we were in my apartment in New York–Miroslav, Wayne and I–trying to find a name which would say something, especially what people had in their minds all the time. So we were thinking about Daily News, but that didn’t sound good. Thousands of names–Audience, Triumvirate, all kinds. Suddenly, Wayne popped out Weather Report, and we all said, ‘That’s it!'” [DB71] Shorter gave his version of that story in 1976: “We were sitting together one evening, talking, and trying to figure out what we would call the band. We didn’t want just an ordinary name, but something that would hit everybody. So I said what does everybody do at 6 o’clock every evening? They watch the news. And what do they want to hear? The weather! So I said, ‘How about Weather Report?’ And that was how it got started.” [BE76]
Though the album credits only Airto on percussion, Brian Glasser, in his excellent Zawinul biography In A Silent Way, describes the participation of two other percussionists prior to Airto’s involvement: Don Alias, a well-known session player who subsequently toured and recorded with Jaco Pastorius; and Barbara Burton, a New York symphonic and freelance percussionist recruited by Shorter. According to Glasser, Alias “walked out before the record was completed after an argument with Zawinul about what he should be playing.” Burton told Glasser that she and Alias did the whole album, and it wasn’t until the last session, “when all the tracks had been laid [down] at Columbia Studios” that Airto became involved. Apparently Zawinul thought something was missing, or he was in some way unsatisfied, because Burton overheard Joe asking Airto if there was anything he could add. Airto said, “Man, that album is finished. There’s nothing I can add.” Nevertheless, Zawinul persisted and Airto recorded for the album. [IASW, p.133-135]
Zawinul subsequently asked Airto to tour with the band, but he was already committed to Miles Davis (though he did perform once with Weather Report at a private affair for Columbia Records). Burton performed at Weather Report’s first gig, a week-long stint at Paul’s Mall in Boston before the album was released. She told Glasser that when she refused to commit to a tour, “Joe got mad at me and took my name, along with Don’s, off the album.” (Airto later recommended Dom Um Romão, who went on tour with the band following the release of Weather Report, and stayed on through Mysterious Traveller.) [IASW, p. 135]
It is an understatement to say that Weather Report’s first album created a stir. The May 27, 1971 issue of Down Beat devoted an amazing two-plus pages to the album’s review, including a track-by-track description by the band members themselves. The reviewer, Dan Morgenstern, accorded the album Down Beat‘s highest rating of five stars, and opened his review by saying, “An extraordinary new group merits an extraordinary review of its debut album.” Pat Metheny recalled to Glasser the anticipation he had as a 16-year old: “When the first Weather Report record came out, it was just… wow! I was probably at the store the day it arrived, because we’d all been reading about it in Down Beat and things like that.” [IASW, p. 136]
Obviously Zawinul, Shorter and Vitous were excited (enthralled?) by their new music when they talked to Morgenstern. But as we know, Weather Report’s music changed considerably as the band evolved. Looking back on the first album in 1984, Zawinul said, “The first record, Weather Report, was a feeling-out period. We had never played a live gig together before we recorded it. We did the album in three days, and our feeling was ‘What’s happening here? What is this?’ We knew we could improvise very well together, but it was not a very forward, or let’s say, a very powerful record; we were more laid back.” [KB84]
In a 1996 interview, Joe Zawinul told Stuart Nicholson for his book Jazz-Rock; A History, “To me, the first album was three guys meet each other, and everybody is careful, make sure they don’t step on no one–three good musicians with a talent for improvising play together–but to me that was searching, and I am not a searcher. Because when I improvise I’ve found it!” [JR, p. 166]
That’s not to say that he dismissed the first band as nothing but an experiment, however. Zawinul told Down Beat in 1978, “I listened recently to a tape of our first gig, at Penn State in Philadelphia, about 170 people there. It was mean. It was Wayne, Dom Um Romão, Miroslav, Mouzon and myself–I just had a Rhodes. And right after that we went to Europe, incredible.” [DB78b]
Audio and video of that first European tour survive on YouTube and elsewhere. Essential is the recording for the German television program Beat Club, which broadcast the band playing “Waterfall” on August 9, 1971. It was an excerpt from a 48-minute performance, which was released in full in 2010 as the DVD Weather Report – Live In Hamburg 1971. It is a must-have for fans of early Weather Report.
1. Milky Way (Shorter/Zawinul) 2:30
A duet for saxophone and acoustic piano. In Morgenstern’s interview, Shorter and Zawinul described the cut’s significance as the album opener. “We had to start somewhere before we got to the idea of weather and atmosphere and all that,” Shorter told Morgenstern, “so we thought of coming from a vacuum–nothing from something–and then we thought about our galaxy–we’re on the outer edges of the Milky Way. So we thought of ourselves as seen from some all-seeing, mythical perspective, and then panning in and coming in closer, into the next cut and to humanization and reality.” [DB71]
Shorter went on, “So instead of opening the album with a tune and everything that implies, from Tin Pan Alley to a classical concept, we decided on no concept at all except just as much of the universe as you can see. No matter how small you think you are, everybody’s got a share in it. So we use sound to convey that idea; like all right, let’s begin here.” “A preparation for the rest of it,” Zawinul added. “It’s like a soundtrack to your mind. You can put yourself where you want; there’s enough room in space.” [DB71]
In the original LP liner notes Don DeMichael writes that the sounds of “Milky Way” were “made by acoustic piano and soprano saxophone. It has to do with overtones and the way one uses the piano pedals.” Seeking a more technical explanation, Len Lyons, in his 1977 Keyboard magazine interview, asked Zawinul how he achieved the effect of resonance on the piano strings, without any plucking or striking sounds. Zawinul wasn’t willing to say, responding, “Well, I think there are certain things that should be left alone, left unsaid.” [KB77b]
But in a 1984 interview Zawinul did explain how he and Shorter created the sounds for “Milky Way.” “I silently held a chord down on the piano and had Wayne play an arpeggio of the same chord,” he said, “blowing his saxophone right inside the piano at the soundboard. The tape recorder was started on the echo at the end of the sound, not when he was playing. We played different chords and edited them together. It was definitely not magic; it was an idea I had a longtime ago. I’m going to go back to this eventually. I’m going to lay my piano on its side, put bass drum pedals in different positions on the sides, and use the acoustic piano as a soundboard; it has the greatest sound body of any instrument.” [KB84]
2. Umbrellas (Shorter/Zawinul/Vitous) 3:24
“Miroslav wrote the melody and we did a little background and fit it together,” Zawinul told Morgenstern. “And it really gives you the feeling of different kinds of rain. Human behavior in different degrees of rain. The people–you can actually feel that in the tune. I can hear the little kids running with their mamas holding the umbrellas and getting a little wet on the side.” Describing his playing, he said, “On this I use electric and acoustic piano at the same time to get a little more treble, a little more punch to the sound.” [DB71]
Shorter told Morgenstern, “The piece has a very festive air to it: there’s a lot of joy in it, like when it rains during the very hot season. Lots of people dig rain.” After Zawinul commented about a melancholy feeling, Shorter continued, “If you hear anything in the album that sounds at all bluesy, it’s like a blues upside down, with the downward part of the blues facing the oxygen of the good intent in life… like, you can do anything you want to do; the blues doesn’t control you, you control the blues. I’m trying to get the feeling of playing upward, and if there’s anything sad, we take that sadness under our wings and say, OK, come on, be sad–but that won’t last too long. So each bent note that you hear, you can take it in that way, dig?” [DB71]
3. Seventh Arrow (Vitous) 5:20
“What can you say about it… it’s a masterpiece,” Zawinul told Morgenstern. Vitous described “Seventh Arrow” like this: “It’s a continuous composition; in other words, we don’t just play one motive and then something on that. It’s first one motive and then comes another, almost like another song, and all these motives are written, so it never really is an improvisation. Actually, the piece is two songs, two of my songs which we decided to put together–it reminded me of an arrow.” [DB71]
“And it’s a constant interplay of motives,” added Zawinul. “There are three main lines and they appear in constant interplay. It’s like conversation. On the middle part, I use a ring modulator, to get a whirring sound. My wife used to teach archery in school, and when you stand on the side and hear those arrows flying by, that’s what it’s like.” [DB71]
4. Orange Lady (Zawinul) 8:40
“Orange Lady” was one of the pieces Zawinul wrote during his return trip to Austria in the winter of 1966-67. “I had spent a winter with my family in Austria,” Zawinul recalled in late 1974, “and I wrote about ten tunes, including ‘In A Silent Way,’ ‘Direction’ [sic], which Miles [Davis] used to play for a long time as an opener for his show, ‘Early Man’ [sic], and ‘Orange Lady,’ which by the way is 14-minutes of ‘Great Expectations’ on the Big Fun album. But there was some kind of mess-up with the titles, so it was not mentioned that it was my tune. Also ‘Pharoah’s Dance,’ [the opening number on Bitches Brew] ‘Double Image,’ and a couple of other things. I wrote them all in this period during 1967.” [DB75a]
“I wrote ‘Orange Lady’ thinking mainly of my wife, but also of most ladies who have children and are stuck in a big city. There’s a certain sadness in it. In my case, in order to really make my wife happy, and make myself happy by making her happy, I’ll take her out somewhere in the country–that’s what the middle part is about–and then that changes the whole attitude and you can go on being happy for a while again, and then you come back to New York and it’s like the same thing all over again–it’s like a constant change from a certain sadness.” [DB71]
As for Miroslav Vitous’ part, he recalled, “‘Orange Lady’ was such a beautiful melody. I said, ‘How about playing this in unison with the arco bass?’ I just picked up the bow and played the melody with Wayne–that’s how it happened, that’s the way it was. We arranged this song when we were rehearsing.” [FT06, page 38].
As Zawinul said, “Orange Lady” was previously included, though uncredited, on Miles Davis’ album Big Fun. It can also be heard on the Columbia/Legacy Miles Davis reissue box set, The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions, with proper credit, along with a handful of other Zawinul compositions.
5. Morning Lake (Vitous) 4:23
Zawinul told Morgenstern that “Morning Lake” creates “the feeling in you of being somewhere very early in the morning on a nice day, maybe in spring, and it’s still a bit cold–a mountain lake… You can see that the water is cold, because you can see through it so well that it has to be cold.” [DB71]
Vitous has said that this tune harkens back to one on his 1970 album, Purple: “Purple was before Weather Report started, but you can already hear some material that we later played with the band. There’s a song called ‘Water Lily,’ which has an identical skeleton to a piece we recorded with Weather Report called ‘Morning Lake.’ There’s another Weather Report piece called ‘Seventh Arrow’ that was also on Purple. There was a development of the material on Purple that ended up in Weather Report. It was a stepping stone. [Inn04]
This track also appears on the compilation album, Pioneers of the New Age. Another version of “Morning Lake” was recorded by Terje Rypdal (with Vitous and drummer Jack DeJohnette) on Rypdal’s 1981 album To Be Continued.
6. Waterfall (Zawinul) 6:18
A companion piece to “Morning Lake,” meant to convey the lake turning into a waterfall. “You’ll hear a lot in the upper register of the piano,” said Zawinul. “It’s kind of impressionistic.” [DB71] According to Zawinul biographer Glasser, the bubbling effect was created by Barbara Burton wiggling a sheet of formica. [IASW, p. 138]
7. Tears (Shorter) 3:22
Describing this tune in 1971, Shorter said, “In a sense, the colors I see in that are maroon, purple; dark purple, and dark blue–and some deep yellows, which means it has a hint of the bluish kind of feeling, but not really like that. It’s grounded, like in the earth; it has a firm pedestal… The image I get is human: tears, blood, skin–a human being. The voice came out of that, the human voice. Al’s voice–because we’d been through inanimate objects, objects of nature, water, the milky way, so at some point, we get to the molding of a human being… Al’s voice was used in this without any literary message, just as an instrument, and he was given time to figure out how he wanted to do that.” [DB71]
He later elaborated for Hal Miller in the liner notes of Forecast: Tomorrow: “‘Tears’ was on the first album and that one came real quick to me. We had decided to do something different without planning it, so I wanted to see if the difference could come through a feeling. I didn’t attach any special meaning to it, but I guess it’s a reflection of things that have been done historically where it seems like people got away with things–killed a lot of people, things like that. Where’s the retribution? Where’s the punishment? So there’s a lot of rage, tears of rage.” [FT06, page 41]
“The way that moves around from C to A flat,” added Zawinul, “that’s very interesting the way it moves, and out of that come some real pretty notes.” [DB71]
Glasser states that Don Alias playing congos on “Tears.” [IASW, p. 138]
8. Eurydice (Shorter) 5:43
In Greek mythology, Eurydice was the wife of Orpheus, who was “a legendary musician, poet, and prophet in ancient Greek religion and myth. The major stories about him are centered on his ability to charm all living things and even stones with his music, his attempt to retrieve his wife, Eurydice, from the underworld, and his death at the hands of those who could not hear his divine music.”
“‘Eurydice’ has to do with when Orpheus was told not to look back,” explained Shorter in 2005. “I think that whole thing had to do with the fact that he didn’t believe, his lack of faith, and, of course, his love of Eurydice. Maybe that’s saying a whole lot because when you take apart Orpheus’ character–he’s a man–it could still be an indication of lust. He loved his wife but he didn’t have enough faith; he had to make sure she was there because the first thing they were going to do when they got out of there was get together.” [FT06, page 41]
Zawinul described “Eurydice” as “more traditional in the way of playing. It’s more in the jazz tradition… very hip swing… and this is really the only track where we solo a little bit, ’cause on all the other tunes, we don’t solo; we just play with one another–like an orchestra.” Shorter: “In Eurydice, I was thinking of my horn in the sense of a woman. There’s an Eurydice in every man’s life, and she’s elusive; like if you look back, she might be gone… and she’s wearing something transparent. So the horn, to me, became the garment with the woman inside, very elusive, but floating around in everybody’s life.” [DB71]
The version of “Eurydice” on the original album was an edit of the studio performance. The full studio performance, at 10:44 in duration, was later released in 2006 as part of the boxed set Forecast: Tomorrow. It is included, in lieu of the edited version, on the release of Weather Report that is part of the 2012 boxed set Weather Report The Columbia Albums 1971-1975.
A transcription of Zawinul’s “Eurydice” solo can be found in the May 11, 1972 issue of Down Beat. [DB72a]
— Dan Morgenstern, Down Beat, May 13, 1971
— Lester Bangs, Rolling Stone, Number 88, August 5, 1971
— Richard S. Ginnell, All Music Guide
“Jazz Album of the Year,” Down Beat Readers Poll.
Swing Journal magazine Grand Prix Award (given for winning the Journal‘s Readers and Critics polls).
“Best Band of the Year,” Swing Journal magazine.
“Best Selling Jazz Album of the Year,” Swing Journal magazine.
Billboard chart peak: Jazz Albums, 7; Top 200 Albums, 172.