Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter were friends since 1959 when they played in Maynard Ferguson Big Band. Next time they met in one ensemble when working together with Miles Davis during recording sessions for his avant-garde fusion albums In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew. Shorter was tenor and soprano saxophonist in Davis’ quintets since 1964. It is interresting, John Coltrane proposed Shorter as his replacement in 1960, but this time he found his engagement in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Playing with famous lineup of Davis’ quintet since 1964, Wayne Shorter was one of very few artists with so long onstage experience with Miles Davis. But in 1970 he was ready to go off the quintet for more artistic freedom and autonomy. Zawinul was in much the same situation after parting the Julian Cannonball Adderly’s Quintet where he played through the whole decade. He was composer of some well known themes as Mercy, Mercy, Mercy, Walk Tall or Country Preacher.
Working in shadow of famous leaders Zawinul and Shorter successfully achieved their featured positions as composers, musicians and improvisers. Few months after parting with Miles Davis and Cannonball Adderley quintets, Shorter and Zawinul begun working together with brilliant Czech bass virtuoso Miroslav Vitouš. They founded a new group called Weather Report which was vehicle for developing the idea of fusion in more collective direction. Three musicians were three pillars of musical style and work’s construction but complete lineup included also drummer Alphonse Mouzon and percussionist Airto Moreira. In February 1971 they recorded their debut album named the same as the name of the group – Weather Report.
|Weather Report – Weather Report (1971)|
As a contradiction to previous recordings with Miles Davis, new group moved towards more popular idea of fusion music. In place of long trance compositions, Weather Report album includes eight compositions, four on every side what can evoke standard rock songs. Also sound and construction ideas can be connected with some progressive rock experiences like Soft Machine. Later development of Weather Report’s music drove to more complex sound and strong rhythmic continuity, but on their first album musicians played more ambient, more tone color and still more trance music than ever after. Weather Report’s debut is more conceptual than Davis’ fusion recordings but it’s quite enough jazz in rhythmic, harmonic and melodic sense.
After all Weather Report album was warmly received by listeners and critics. In Down Beat Readers Poll this record has been chosen as a jazz album of the year. This success has its basis in searching modern sound. Of course many listeners were concerned of Joe Zawinul and his electronic keyboards, but in fact not smaller contribution to the sound of this compositions has soprano saxophone of Wayne Shorter. It was quite a revelation, pure soprano sounds like trails of light in thick rhythmic structures. This could be the material for next (but never happened) revolution in jazz. Some ideas were later presented by other saxophonists. Some other had been developed in music of Weather Report and whole generation of fusion artists.