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Weather Report: Live and Unreleased

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illustration of Joe Zawinul

Formed in 1971, Weather Report was one of the most important bands in contemporary jazz-indeed, some have persuasively argued it was the most important group of the past 30 years. Weather Report’s range extended from French impressionism to free jazz, bebop to world music, electronic to acoustic, big band to chamber sounds. The band was a unique partnership between Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter, and its range was, outside of Duke Ellington’s, perhaps the most diverse, inclusive and imaginative in jazz. That dedicated sonic searching has been a defining mark of Shorter and especially Zawinul’s careers.

Weather Report’s recorded output is well-enough known by now, and the new Live and Unreleased adds significantly to a widely admired and influential corpus of work. Recorded between 1975 and 1983, these 18 tracks come from what is generally regarded as Weather Report’s key years, with half of the songs including bassist Jaco Pastorius. For many, the Pastorius tracks will be the key recordings on the album, but Weather Report was always much more than a showcase for its most famous sideman. It was an integrated ensemble, amply illustrated by tracks featuring the band’s other bassists: “Freezing Fire” and “Cucumber Slumber” with Alphonso Johnson; “Where the Moon Goes” and “Two Lines” with Victor Bailey. Their bass playing may have not been in the bravura mould of Pastorius, but they allowed different facets of Weather Report’s subtle rhythmic interaction to be revealed. They both lock the groove without cliche or bombast, with Johnson especially impressive on “Cucumber Slumber.”

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