While Weather Report were always a collaborative effort, it took the addition of bassist Jaco Pastorius for them to reach their true potential. In 1977, they exceeded all expectations with Heavy Weather.
After recording Bitches Brew with Miles Davis, Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter formed Weather Report in 1971. The group recorded six albums prior to Heavy Weather, including the underrated Mysterious Traveller. Each of these had their moments, but none of them completely gelled.
When Pastorius joined in late 1976, everything came together for Weather Report. Heavy Weather’s status as one of the finest fusion albums of all time is well deserved. 32 years after it’s initial release, Heavy Weather still sounds as fresh as ever.
Much of the credit goes to Zawinul, whose signature tune “Birdland” kicks things off in high style. Zawinul’s genius as a composer is his lack of ego. In so much of his music it is difficult to place him as the author without reading the credits. The reason is simple. He never used his own songs as an excuse to showboat, which so many others often did. When he does take a keyboard solo though, it is typically electrifying.
Co-conspirator Wayne Shorter’s sax is used to great effect all over Heavy Weather also. One of the chief complaints about Weather Report’s earlier recordings was that Shorter was not being utilized enough. The situation is remedied nicely on his own “Palladium” and the album’s closer, “Havana.”
The real star of Heavy Weather is Jaco Pastorius. It is unfortunate that this troubled genius never received the credit he should have in his lifetime. There is no exaggeration in the claim that Pastorius did for the electric bass what Hendrix did for the electric guitar. One listen to his “Teen Town” or “Havana” will confirm this sentiment without a doubt.
While most of my generation were listening to Led Zeppelin, or the imported sounds of punk in 1977, somehow Heavy Weather filtered through the haze. For many of us, it served as an introduction to the then contemporary sounds of jazz.
It’s too bad that few, including Weather Report themselves, were able to equal Heavy Weather in the ensuing years. This is a record that is a serious contender for best fusion album of the 1970’s. The new 180 gram Columbia Legacy audiophile vinyl reissue is a perfect way to hear this remarkable recording. Regardless of format though, Heavy Weather is an outstanding achievement, definitely one worthy of a spin.