Weather Report is generally regarded as the greatest jazz-fusion band of all time, with the biggest jazz hit ("Birdland") from the best jazz-fusion album (1977's Heavy Weather). But the group's studio mastery sometimes overshadows the fact that it was also a live juggernaut - so don't overlook the outstanding live and studio album from 1979, 8:30. This was a rare quartet version of Weather Report, with co-leaders in keyboardist Joe Zawinul and saxophonist Wayne Shorter. The bassist was the inimitable Jaco Pastorius, the drummer a young Peter Erskine. Pastorius is otherworldly on early gems like "Black Market," the breakneck "Teen Town," and his solo showcase, "Slang" (in which he quotes Jimi Hendrix' "Third Stone From the Sun"). Shorter is most involved on the CD's slower pieces like "A Remark You Made," "In a Silent Way," and his own solo piece, "Thanks for the Memory"; Zawinul and Erskine shine on the swinging version of "Birdland" and roller coaster ride of "Badia/Boogie Woogie Waltz Medley." Four studio tracks (composing what was side four of the original album version) close 8:30 with a flourish - and some surprises. Pastorius duets on drums with Zawinul on the brief title track, then plays double drums with Erskine (as Erich Zawinul plays percussion) on the playful "Brown Street." Zawinul then throws a curve with "The Orphan," dueting with Shorter as ten members of the West Los Angeles Christian Academy Children's Choir chant harmonies. The saxophonist gets in the last word, though, with his burning composition "Sightseeing" - on which he plays unison lines with Zawinul over Pastorius' rare walking bass line and Erskine's most aggressive drumming. A future jazz standard ending one of this band's standard-setting CDs.
- Bill Meredith (All Music Guide)
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"8:30 was one of my favorite records that we ever made! I love this record!" exclaims Weather Report senior member and co-founder, Joe Zawinul. "I think at that point we had reached the height...that 'live' tour...every night was an event."
Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter had created one of the most prolific bands of the new electronic jazz era. At this stage of its evolution (79), the group consisted of a monster quartet: Joe (keyboards), Wayne (sax), Peter Erskine (drums) and Jaco Pastorius (bass). Their incredible magic was captured live' on the monumental 1979 World Tour. Joe continues, "Wayne and I were not geared into making a lot of money. We never were. We started earning a lot of money, but we always turned it over into some gadgets. We had our own sound system...our own light system. Then we added three video screens. We had three screens and lasers on the 8:30 tour. It was shit left!!! (Laugh)"
I caught up with Joe at NYC's hot jazz club, the Blue Note. We settled in for the interview upstairs in the dressing room, Joe sipping on a hearty libation and reminiscing in his Austrian accent. His eyes, rich with wisdom...his voice, strong with passion...his handshake, a knuckle-buster.
Formed in 1970, Weather Report's forecast of fortune and fame had yet to be realized. As the band's success snowballed, they remained humble in their historic footprints. "We were not really aware of it," Joe explains. "Number one: we didn't care...Number two: we were not competitive. We took it easy and formed something that grew like a fungus, man! (laugh) It was incredible. We started really laid back, but I was always into R&B and I wanted to change. On the third album (Streetnighter), we made some changes, then more and more, then finally we had that sound that I liked, and Wayne liked. It just kept on going. Each album was better than the last one!" Listening to this CD is a lesson in audio-trickery. Your ears may be deceived, but rest as-sured...what sounds like eight musicians onstage, is really just four! A fearsome four! "Jaco, Peter, Wayne and me...pretty amazing. We knew how to space and we knew how to play off one another. We still had that jazz thing. We had a couple of r&b-oriented things, but in general, we played some serious forward jazz grooves with a stronger beat! I always liked that. I liked jazz, especially from the Be-Bop era on...but what I missed in most of the jazz players is that they were so damn light! Always just swimming. We were able, with that band, to get an incredible power and we turned on so many people through this music. It was unbelievable. And for that, I will always be happy," Joe smiles.
"Jaco was a fantastic player!" he blurts. "And Peter was coming out fresh, paint still on him, fresh and exploring. It was a great, great group! And that album [8:30] was one of my favorite records because it's 'live,' it's pure! For four people to play live' like that.J don't think there is too much around today to compare to that. Today I can realize how good it was. I can say in retrospect, 'cause you never know when you're doing it, that was the height." I asked Joe (a legend himself) what it was like working with larger-than-life legends like Wayne Shorter and Jaco Pastorius. "It's unbelievable. It's no work. It's like time standing still! We were totally inspired! The focus was going on until the last note! It was SHOW-TIME!! Serious showtime!" Joe laughs.
Suddenly, Zawinul falls into deep thought. The crevices of his facial wrinkles cry out with heavy wisdom. His eyes squint. "A day of playing is a ritual day...'cause it's a sanctuary when you're up there onstage. You are on a place by yourself. That's the most gracious gift to be allowed! To go up there and make a living with what you love to do...you have to be grateful for that. We were very grateful for that. We didn't take shit from nobody, but we were, indeed, grateful and humble. It often didn't look like it-people put us down because they said we were arrogant. We just didn't take bullshit from nobody. We were very humble, man, let me tell you...very grateful that we had the gift and the good fortune to meet and to play together." "On-stage, it's eyes, ears and feeling. We were more like a sports team than anything," Joe explains about the band. "We practiced sports a lot: swimming, running, playing ball, playing Frisbee, surfing...everybody had some sort of an extra source."
But it wasn't a situation where the only thing these guys thought about was Weather Report. "Wayne and I never talked about music. We hardly ever talked about our own music. If we talked about something, it was something we had heard... or Stravinsky or shit like that! Both Joe and Wayne honed their chops while working with the master, Miles Davis. Just how much did Weather Report take from Miles? "Very little, I must tell you," Joe quickly replies. "I mean, I was always influenced by Miles because of his beautiful playing, but not influenced to the point that we were trying to copy anything. We always were different."
What about Miles' electric sound? "That was my sound! I brought that sound to Miles in the first place! Through me, he got turned on to electronics. That's what good musicians do: good people turn each other on to good things. It was a give-and-take. It was not a master-pupil situation. It was a friendship and an exchange of thoughts and philosophy."
"To me, Duke Ellington is the super-champion. He's like Joe Louis," Zawinul exalts. "People in his band went out and tried to make it on their own...Even in our case, all the guys that played with Weather Report, they never made it on their own. I'm not talking about financial terms, Chester Thompson went on to play with Phil Collins, making big bucks. But everyone from our band that went out and tried to make it on their own. Jncluding the great Jaco...and Jaco was one of the greatest musicians-but when he went out on his own, it never clicked like it clicked with Wayne and me. It's just one of those things! Sometimes you just get the vibe!"
That vibe went on to influence a multitude of master musicians. Weather Report truly left it's undeniable mark on music. Forever. From the opening cut, "Black Market," this CD cranks out pure power with precision. Their magical mixture taps into all types of treasure. Listen for Jaco's hypnotic slip into Jimi Hendrix's "Third Stone From The Sun." In my humble opinion, "A Remark You Made" is one of the most beautiful and moving pieces ever recorded. "Birdland" will put a smile on your face every time. Joe Zawinul put it best. "Music is philosophy. It ain't about notes! There are so many people playing so good, but they still cannot tell a story. We were storytellers."
- Scott H. Thompson (Easter Sunday 1994)