Review Summary: Sweetnighter leaves behind all of the avant-garde tendencies of its predecessors, and focuses on a more jubilant musical environment.
The 1970's was a very interesting time for Jazz music. The once traditional fundamentals of Jazz were now being ignored, as musicians began incorporating aspects of other genres into their music. These new heretical ideas expanded the conventions of Jazz with improvisatory and experimental approaches, providing the genre with endless possibilities for new techniques and alterations. The Weather Report is one of the few musical groups that fully examined all of the different templates that served as defining characteristics of early Jazz Fusion. Their first two albums, Weather Report
and I Sing The Body Electric
, explored the more progressive aspects of Jazz Fusion, as the musical orchestrations embraced the usage of ambient effects and complex instrumental passages.
, on the other hand, is a reflection of a new trend that was beginning to become very prominent in the Jazz Fusion scene. Albums like Miles Davis' On The Corner
and Herbie Hancock's Head Hunters
began incorporating Funk elements into their typical Jazz routines, introducing a sound that emphasized more on rhythmic grooves rather than elaborate soloistic musicianship. In "Boogie Woogie Waltz"
, we encounter a completely different musical style that we had never heard in the previous efforts by The Weather Report. Joe Zawinul's synthesizer immediately asserts itself as the centerpiece of the music, deploying an eminent usage of Wah-wah effects to produce a propulsive rhythmic framework for the other instruments. Wayne Shorter's saxophone sets out on its own musical expeditions, delivering solos that not only compliment Joe Zawinul's synthesizer, but also manages to distinguish itself by voyaging along on its own melodies. The song also features a dominating percussive arrangement, using maracas and conga drumbeats to help provide a very Latin-influenced groove.
"125th Street Congress"
further expands on this new and more conventional musical style, but is approached with a very different concept. This time, Miroslav Vitouš' basslines dominate the direction of the music, with the other instruments serving to compliment the framework of the groove. This is certainly one of the major highlights of the album as the music induces a very infectious melodic atmosphere that is simply impossible to not lose yourself in. "Manolete"
is one of the few songs that manages to deviate from the more funkier theme of the album. "Manolete"
is, for the most part, a return to the roots of traditional Jazz. Eric Gravatt dictates the rhythm of the song with some really captivating and bombastic drumbeats. Wayne Shorter's saxophone takes the lead as it carries us along, while mesmerizing us with such exquisite musicianship. But as we approach the climax, we begin to see the song enter into a more abstract territory, with Joe Zawinul providing some really disorienting psychedelic flourishes.
serves as a truly mesmerizing postlude. This is one of the few times that The Weather Report channel the experimental tendencies of their previous albums. It is a descension into a very progressive environment, indulgently exuding a sense of psychedelia from every pore. Joe Zawinul, yet again, steals the spotlight with some truly innovative synthesizer effects that induce a perceptually overwhelming sense of surrealism. In the end, Sweetnighter proves to be the exact type of album that everyone has been anticipating from The Weather Report. It's content is highly accessible, emphasizing on a more jubilant atmosphere, and leaving behind all of the esoteric and tentative musical procedures of their previous albums.