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Various Artists: Celebrating the Music of Weather Report

With a rich subject to mine and a distinctive, creative vision, the compilation Celebrating the Music of Weather Report (Telarc CD-83473; 58:30) stands a cut above the glut of all-star tribute albums currently on the market. The common thread uniting a football team-sized cast is keyboard phenom Jason Miles, who through unique arrangements of carefully chosen pieces traces the band’s evolution and highlights its influence without wandering into cliche territory. Where “Birdland” is given a whammy-bowed, rock guitar read by Chuck Loeb, with Take 6 building rich rhythms via voice, “Cannonball” finds David Sanborn belting the alto sax melody over Miles’ lovely keyboard tones and fusion-styled breaks. “Badia” boasts exotic percussion backbeat, tribal vocals and prickly mid-eastern tones, while “Harlequin” makes an unexpectedly lush, darkly romantic statement with saxophonist Jay Beckenstein at the helm. Most startling and revealing are “Mysterious Traveler,” with Miles setting a haunted, cornered keyboard tone for Aaron Heick to set aflame with multiple squealing saxes, and “Palladium,” which starts with a music-box keyboard feel before opening into a fusion storm, with Omar Hakim’s spitfire drums and Randy Brecker’s singing, sharp trumpet line.

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