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Miroslav Vitous: Music of Weather Report

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The departure of founding Weather Report bassist Miroslav Vitous, after just three years in the early ’70s, is not widely lamented, since it eventually led the band to the godhead Jaco Pastorious (and, in between, the funky Alphonso Johnson). But Music of Weather Report not only reminds us how underrated and uniquely creative the group’s early records were, it provides a tantalizing glimpse into how the bassist might have skewed their more classic later material into abstract majesty.

On Remembering Weather Report, from 2009, Vitous honored his old band by applying the group’s freer-form spatial grandeur and floating, gently grooving fusion to classic tracks like “Nefertiti” and “Lonely Woman.” This belated sequel, recorded in 2010, doubles down by adding a second drummer (Nasheet Waits, now alongside Gerald Cleaver) and saxophonist (Robert Bonisolo joins Gary Campbell) while directly addressing the Weather Report canon both during and after Vitous’ tenure.

Vitous takes the startled eruption of notes that anchors the melody of “Scarlet Woman” and harmonically tweaks it with his own arco and wah-wah bass on “Scarlet Woman Variations,” later providing a moodier extension on “Scarlet Reflections.” He plays hide-and-seek with the brilliant rhythmic vamps and melody of “Birdland,” revealing recognizable snippets while setting the drummers apart into waltztime and straight 4/4 to enhance the deconstruction. He likewise takes his time getting to the essence of Wayne Shorter’s “Pinocchio,” which mixes incisive beats with hazy textures.

Three “Multi Dimension Blues” interludes are more straightforward and drum-centric, with the longest, “Multi Dimension Blues 3,” a particular highlight. The primary virtue of having both Waits and Cleaver onhand is also prominent on two of the early Weather Report tunes composed by Vitous, “Seventh Arrow” and “Acrobat Issues,” with the latter (unrecorded by WR) using call-and-response among the drums and saxes to resolve the intermittent tension. The closing “Morning Lake” is atmospheric down to the distant thunderstorm you can hear in its denouement. By putting his own stamp on the Weather Report legacy in such an ingenious way, Vitous enhances his reputation in both the past and the present.

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Originally Published