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Monday, May 17, 2010

Weather Report Live In Germany 1971

Looking great - sounding even better!

Weather Report
Live In Germany 1971

Captured somewhere between the release of their debut album and the studio recording of I Sing The Body Electric, Weather Report cook up a storm in this classic TV spot for the Bremen Beat Club show.

Thankfully devoid of the usual psychedelic TV trickery that often mars shows from this period, we get to see Joe Zawinul, Miroslav Vitous, Dom Um Romao, Alphonse Mouzon and Wayne Shorter up close and personal, playing to each other in the round.

Eye contact and body language is everything with this band as each the music takes shape.

Against a constant tide of sizzling ride cymbal and skittering funk soaked drumming, and the eclectic clatter of exotic percussion, melodies and harmonies cautiously advance with a nod of the head or a smile of encouragement.

Presented on a spartan TV studio set, this isn’t a show so much as an intimate documentary as to how music is made.

Thoughtful direction and sympathetic camera work means we catch each of the front line players making their small incremental dabs of colour which gradually build and coalesce into a complex, surging picture filled with spiky dashes of light and inventive shadow play.

Given the ferocious talents contained in the band, there’s no show stealing solos to be found. Instead it’s a collective process that seems to be about maintaining a delicate balance between groove and feel.

We get to see a lot about how these musicians work and think and how the absence of individual ego can make things happen.

At one point Shorter stands with the soprano sax poised to his lips, about to fire off a run of notes. He’s listening hard and then, the moment passes and he stands the sax down. We’ve just seen him make a judgement call about what was or wasn’t needed to help the music flow.

The same can be said for Vitous and Zawinul - the latter often seen smiling broadly as he looks across at Romao’s percussive interventions. Who’d have thought that Romao’s staple instrument was a pair of wooden soled sandals? Or that Mouzon gets to sing a flat-out in a James Brown-style?

If you want to see a masterclass in how jazz, funk and rock dynamics might be combined to produce a vibrant and exciting 50 minutes of edge-of-the-seat music, then this DVD gives you a ringside seat. Essential.


steven said...

sid thanks for this. weather report from inception through to 1975 were a band who took me on a ride that paralleled miles and opened my eyes to rock jazz - the good and the bad and the ugly - and then also into bands who were more rock than jazz but who carried the flag of music just as bravely. steven

Sid Smith said...

Hi there Steven,
The little paths we take explore are fascinating aren't they. In terms of which band led me to Weather Report. I guess it was Mahavishnu (circa Inner Mounting Flame) which led my to Miles Davis (In A Silent Way) and then from there, Joe Z and the crew.

I stay with WR up to Heavy Weather and then it's all a bit to showbiz thereafter. I remember seeing WR around the 8.30 period & my attention wandering during the various solo spots (Zawinul doing the rocket take-off, Jaco's solo thing, etc). For me the juice is definitely with the period up to Heavy Weather.

This DVD is marvellous because it's so raw and unaffected. The guys are playing for themselves & not worried about pleasing the crowd or putting on a show. They're making music and it's great to be able to get so close to it. If you buy or rent one music DVD this year - make it this one!

Navdeep Jhaj said...

Gonna check to see if it's available on blu-Ray, but if not, DVD it is-- As much as I live Jaco, "I Sing" is my favorite record by them.

BTW, Vitous has been releasing some excellent orchestral records of late.

Sid Smith said...

Hey there Navdeep,
I don't think it is on blu-ray.

The Jaco period has its moments for sure but for me I Sing through to Tale Spinnin' is where the juice lies. I can't get enough of the I Sing live stuff and would love to hear more of the period between Sweetnighter and Mysterious Traveller live stuff.


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