Review Summary: An impressive debut, but far from perfect. A look into the first effort from one of the defining acts in Jazz Fusion.
The musical style that comprises the compositions in Weather Report
expresses a very familiar aesthetic. The orchestrations exhibit a more atmospheric approach to Jazz music, a continuation of a concept often explored by Miles Davis throughout his electric period. This of course comes to no surprise as lead composers, Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter, worked with Miles Davis on Bitches Brew
the previous year. Like Bitches Brew
, the music in Weather Report
puts a great deal of emphasis on atmospheric textures, providing an ambient landscape for the musicians to indulge in their own soloistic voyages. But unlike Bitches Brew
, it lacks excitement. There are very little moments of musical spontaneity and dextrous instrumental passages- the core essence of a Jazz performance.
The album opens with "Milky Way"
, which serves as an ambient overture to induce a celestial environment, a calming soundscape to stimulate our senses before the actual performance. As "Milky Way"
evaporates from our perceptions, we descend right into "Umbrellas"
and "Seventh Arrow"
. Both songs display some of the most energetic moments of the album, but they are driven by different agendas. In "Umbrellas"
, Alphonse Mouzon's drumming establishes a rhythmic landscape, one which all the other instruments use as the foundation to improvise their own solos. There is a great synergy here between all of the musicians, everyone is just feeding off each other, providing a truly captivating jam.
But where the music of "Umbrellas"
was more mellow and exploratory, "Seventh Arrow"
picks up the pace for a more elevated performance. Alphonse Mouzon and bassist Miroslav Vitouš take it upon themselves to provide a much more accelerated framework for the song, with each instrument venturing into their own solos one by one. "Seventh Arrow"
is certainly the highlight of this album, as it is flowing with intensity. Every musician is giving it their all here in one explosive instrumental frenzy. Wayne Shorter is erupting in and out on the saxophone with his solo deliveries, Joe Zawinul decorates the harmonic groove with piano arrangements, while Miroslav Vitouš and Alphonse Mouzon release vigorously dynamic rhythmic variations in the background.
And from all of this musical exhilaration, we descend into the more alleviated portion of the album. Songs like "Orange Lady"
and "Morning Lake"
express a more gentle instrumentation, with Joe Zawinul providing a meditative ethereal landscape decorated in psychedelia, adding a dream like texture to the music. Wayne Shorter also provides delicate saxophone solos so as to add to the gentle ambience at hand. "Tears"
are a return to a more lively performance, but they are not nearly as captivating as "Seventh Arrow"
. Weather Report
is an album that tries to simulate a similar sense of musical hypnotism induced by other Jazz Fusion albums like In A Silent Way
and Bitches Brew
. And it certainly succeeds in producing an exquisitely trancing environment, but it hardly ever takes us to a more exciting realm. What makes albums like In A Silent Way
and Bitches Brew
such mesmerizing listening experiences is that they are odysseys. Leaving us to explore various musical dimensions, each one providing something different, with moments of ups and downs to captivate our enthusiasm. But Weather Report
relies too much on ambience and delicate textures to try and allure us into its world, and unfortunately, that's what keeps it from being a classic.