Live at Montreux 1976
Previously available only as a bootleg of a French television broadcast, Weather Report’s Live at Montreux 1976 DVD may cause even more excitement among those who’ve seen this footage than those who haven’t. That’s because even the bootleg’s imperfections couldn’t mask an epic performance by the lineup that would record its benchmark album, Heavy Weather, a few months later.
Aside from better audio and video quality, occasional alternate camera angles and a bonus track, this is the same program as its bootleg predecessor. Bassist Jaco Pastorius recorded with the band on its 1976 album Black Market, and debuted onstage just two months earlier. He’s grinning ear-to-ear three minutes in during saxophonist Wayne Shorter’s “Elegant People.”
Keyboardist Joe Zawinul’s brief intro leads to a signature fretless bass line on Pastorius’ “Barbary Coast,” and the bassist even unearths “Portrait of Tracy”—an unaccompanied harmonic masterpiece already recorded for his soon-to-be-released debut solo album. But Pastorius wasn’t the only newcomer to the lineup. Animated, scene-stealing percussionist Manolo Badrena plants the seeds to “Rumba Mama” during his thunderous duet with Alex Acuña, the drummer who’d just pulled a switch few musicians would be capable of in going from percussionist on Black Market to replacing drummer Chester Thompson.
Zawinul plays the keyboard figure that would become the standard “Birdland” on the bonus track, “Dr. Honoris Causa/Directions,” which features another inimitable Pastorius solo. The closing track, “Gibraltar,” features controlled mayhem through the improvisations of musicians with collective roots in Europe, Africa, Peru and Puerto Rico. Live at Montreux 1976 shows why Weather Report was the ultimate fusion band—because they fused not just jazz and rock, but world music as well.