Weather Report was a jazz fusion band, formed by the only two consistent members
, keyboardist Joe Zawinul and saxophonist Wayne Shorter, in 1970. The rest of the lineup was a Revolving Door Band
, but several of the members are well-known on their own, most notably world-class bass virtuoso Jaco Pastorius.
In the beginning, they played Miles Davis
- inspired free jazz (Shorter and Zawinul had both played on Davis' albums In a Silent Way
and Bitches Brew
), and gained attention for Zawinul's innovative use of synthesizers (he was one of the first to use the instrument in jazz) and influences from everything from bebop to world music. They soon moved into a sound more oriented around funk, and shifted away from improvisations into a more melodic and thought-out compositional style, mostly dominated by Zawinul.
Their greatest success came with the arrival of Jaco Pastorius in 1976, and the album Heavy Weather
, which reached #1 on Billboard's jazz charts and provided their Signature Song
, "Birdland". This also signalled their shift into a more rock-oriented and commercial style, which made them one of the leading jazz bands in the world. Unfortunately, Zawinul was developing increasing Control Freak
tendencies, composing everything on his synthesizers and dictating their musical direction completely. Friction rose within the band, and Pastorius left in 1982. The band continued a while longer to diminishing returns, until the band members felt that they had more freedom in their own projects, and Shorter's increasing distance from the band led Zawinul to split them up in 1986. Pastorius died in 1987; Zawinul himself passed away in 2007.
This band provides examples of:
- The Band Minus the Face: Weather Update, which consisted of several earlier members (Zawinul, percussionist Robert Thomas, bassist Victor Bailey and drummer Omar Hakim) along with guitarist Steve Khan, and with Shorter not involved. It didn't last long.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Pastorius suffered from bipolar disorder, and his behaviour was often erratic and unpredictable.
- Control Freak: Zawinul completely took over the band's composition in their later years; for an extreme example, on their second self-titled album, he would write out all of Jaco Pastorius' basslines and double them on his synthesizer. That's right, he was writing basslines for one of the greatest bassists of all time. Unsurprisingly, Jaco quit the band after the album was recorded.
- Epic Riff: Jaco Pastorius' basslines; "Barbary Coast" has a particularly good one.
- Everything Is an Instrument: Starting with the album Mysterious Traveller, Zawinul would begin to splice sound effects such as cheering crowds into their music.
- Executive Meddling: Their final album, This Is This!, was only made because the band had one more album left in their contract. Shorter was mostly not involved in it, preferring to focus on his solo project, and the album suffered for it.
- I Am the Band: Zawinul and Shorter were the only permanent members.
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: A mixture of bebop, rock, free jazz, funk, Latin jazz and world music.
- Revolving Door Band: Oh yes.
- Signature Song: "Birdland".
- Self-Titled Album: Two of them, one in 1971 and the other in 1982.
- Supergroup: The original line-up was essentially an early jazz fusion supergroup, with Zawinul and Shorter coming from Miles Davis' "second great quintet" and original bassist Miroslav Vitous from playing with Chick Corea.