Weather Report: Heavy Weather

The Songs:

  1. Birdland
  2.  A Remark You Made
  3.  Teen Town
  4. Harlequin
  5. Rumba Mama
  6. Palladium
  7. The Juggler
  8. Havona

Personnel:

  • Joe Zawinul – keyboards
  • Wayne Shorter – saxophones
  • Jaco Pastorius – bass, drums, vocals
  • Alex Acuña – drums, percussion
  • Manolo Badrena – percussion, vocals

Released in the spring of 1977, Heavy Weather was the biggest artistic and commercial success for the greatest of fusion bands, Weather Report, quickly achieving Gold Record status. After exploding onto the national music scene with Pat Metheny, Joni Mitchell, and his own self-titled debut album, this was the first Weather Report album with bass legend Jaco Pastorius as a full-fledged member of the group, (also serving as co-producer and contributing compositions). Heavy Weather was not only #1 on the Billboard Jazz chart, but was also in the top 40 on the Pop and R&B charts. It got a 5-Star review in Downbeat magazine and also easily won the Downbeat Awards for Best Album and Best Jazz Group, as well as Grammy nominations for Best Instrumental Composition (Birdland), Best Jazz Soloist (Jaco Pastorius) and even Best Cover Art.

Heavy Weather is probably best known for its lead off hit single “Birdland,” written by Joe Zawinul as a tribute to the old New York Jazz club. In an interview shortly after the album’s release, Zawinul stated:

“To me Birdland was the most important place in my entire life. I met everybody including my beautiful wife in this club. I met Miles, I met Duke Ellington. I met anyone I ever cared for in this business. I used to hang out there every night… I used to come down the stairs at 2 o’clock and Count Basie or Duke used to be working there. This is the feeling I got from the whole thing. And the saxophone thing I do on the Oberheim synthesizer really sounds like a big ol’ reed section.”

“Birdland” became an instant jazz standard and was recorded by numerous musicians, including Maynard Ferguson (with future Weather Report drummer Peter Erskine), Buddy Rich, Freddie Hubbard, and the Manhattan Transfer, who won a Grammy Award for their performance. Other stand-out tracks include “A Remark You Made,” (a Zawinul ballad feature Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone and Jaco’s beautiful fretless bass work), Pastorius’ “Teen Town,” (an energetic workout with Pastorius even playing drums), “Palladium,” (Wayne Shorter’s tribute to another New York jazz club), and another Pastorius song, the Latin-tinged “Havona,” which features one of the finest solos Jaco ever recorded.

Picking a highlight from Weather Report’s vast and almost uniformly excellent discography might be a difficult task, but guitarist Pat Metheny stated:

“To me, ‘Heavy Weather’ is the best. That’s one of the great records of all time. Pretty much from beginning to end, there is not a dead spot on that record. It’s conceptually brilliant and, execution-wise, it’s devastating. Also, the sound on that record is incredible.”

(Buy it here.)

Suggested Reading:

Brian Glasser. In A Silent Way: A Portrait Of Joe Zawinul.

Suggested Viewing:

Weather Report: Live At Montreux 1976

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