Weather Report – Live In Ann Arbor – 1976 – Past Daily Downbeat Tribute Edition (Wayne Shorter – 1933-2023)
Weather Report – Live in Ann Arbor, Michigan – April 1, 1976 –
With the sad news earlier this week of Wayne Shorter’s passing, I ran one of his quartet concerts from 2013 as a tribute. But then it occurred to me that Wayne Shorter was a lot of things to a lot of people and went a lot of places to carry a lot of different messages.
Certainly one of those milestone collaborations was his involvement with Weather Report, a band that bridged many genres and revolutionized the whole playing field that linked Jazz with Progrock, fusion and post-bop. They were a tsunami, coming hot on the heels of John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra or Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters, not to mention Miles Davis – we were in the midst of some serious changes – and those who were diving into one genre or another for the first time found this whole new world opening up with welcoming arms.
A lot of people could say the 70s were much more than what the Pop world was going through – revelations were happening all over the place. And Weather Report, along with Wayne Shorter were right in the middle of it.
This particular concert is also notable because it’s the first gig which Jaco Pastorius is featured with the band. The Pastorius era would be notable in that it pushed Weather Report’s popularity to greater heights.
Over their 16-year career, Weather Report explored various types of music, predominantly centered on jazz (initially the “free” variety), but also incorporating elements of art music, ethnic music, R&B, funk, and rock. While their work was categorized as “jazz fusion”, the band members generally distanced themselves from that term.
Wayne Shorter came to the group with a reputation as a dominant role as an instrumentalist, drawn from both his solo work and his contributions to Miles Davis’ “second great quintet” during the 1960s. His choice not to follow the same approach with Weather Report led to some criticism of the group. During his time with Weather Report, Shorter was noted for generally playing saxophone with an economical, “listening” style. Rather than continually taking the lead, he generally added subtle harmonic, melodic, and/or rhythmic complexity by responding to other member’s improvisations (although he could and did sometimes exercise a more frenetic style akin to that of John Coltrane or Michael Brecker). As a composer, he chose a more abstract, sometimes atonal and “free jazz” style of music, opposed to the sometimes flamboyant melodicism of the tunes written by Zawinul or Pastorius. Playing both tenor and soprano saxophones, Shorter continued to develop the role of the latter instrument in jazz, taking his cue from previous work by Coltrane, Sidney Bechet, Lucky Thompson, and Steve Lacy.
So it’s time-travel to 1976 – Ann Arbor and the dawn of another era.
Relax – take a break and press Play – and give a few nods of thanks to Wayne Shorter.
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