Live In Berlin 1975
Art of Groove
There are several reasons why Weather Report’s Heavy Weather/Mr.Gone/ 8.30-era tends to outshine other periods in the band’s history. The beginning of a commercial high water mark, they produced a rash of infectiously catchy tunes, and, thanks to Jaco Pastorius’s game-changing bass work, their influence radiated deep into the mainstream.
However, slowly but surely, other line-ups in the band’s fascinating history are now enjoying some exposure, going some way to redressing what has often been a rather partial account of their impact. In 2010 we had Weather Report Live In Germany 1971 highlighting the frontline axis of Zawinul, Shorter and Miroslav Vitous, and now with Live In Berlin 1975, we get to celebrate the considerable feast of talent and flair which Alphonso Johnson (bass), Chester Thompson (drums) and Alex Acuna (percussion), bought to Zawinul and Shorter’s table.
Shorter’s Freezing Fire is typically brilliant example of what Weather Report do best. A remarkable launch-pad into a turbulent rhythmic space against which melodies and solos pitch and roll in an spectacular manner. Zawinul’s Fat synth sine-wave and Johnson’s roaring fuzz bass are ear-catching enough but it’s Shorter’s animated soprano that swooshes in, constantly jabbing at the percussive and electronic atmospherics, and repeatedly stealing the show.
Johnson may not have the profile of Pastorius but his supple work is superbly judged throughout, adding just the right amount of energy and pull when required. When the entire ensemble lock horns on Badia/Boogie Woogie Waltz - full of trilling doubling from piano and bass with criss-crossing percussive fusilades - you know you’re in the presence of something magnificent.
As the DVD footage demonstrates, there’s none of the choreographed light shows and dry-ice rocket take-offs which characterises 8.30 (and documented more fully in the recently released Live In Offenbach 1978). In that sense, Berlin 1975 feels like the real thing, a true no-nonsense band playing it straight up and down, pleasing the crowd without recourse to stunts and showboating.
Recorded just one month before work began on Black Market, over the course of 40 minutes they simply dazzle the listener with a constant stream of invention and vivacity. Though four tracks featuring this line-up appeared on 2002’s Live And Unreleased compilation, on the evidence of this new DVD/audio set, this configuration is surely worthy of another full-length in-depth reappraisal.
Phenomenal stuff from start to finish!