(All Album Reviews by Chuck AzEee!)
Josef Zawinul-Arp 2000, Oberheim Polyphonic, acoustic piano, medolica with acoustic guitar and tabla on the "Juggler".
Wayne Shorter-soprano and tenor saxophones.
Jaco Pastorius-electric fretless bass, mandecello, drums "Teen Town" and steel drums on "Palladium".
Alejandro Acuna-drums, hand claps, congas and tom toms on "Rumba Mama" .
Manola Badnera-assorted percussion, vocals.
Coming off what many concluded may have been their greatest album, Black Market, Weather Report would lose electric bassist Alphonso Johnson, and drummer Chester Thompson (who would join Genesis later that year). So once again, co-leaders Josef Zawinul and Wayne Shorter were forced to find a new rhythm section.
Fortunately, percussionist Alex Acuna was a more than capable drummer, in matter of fact, He is actually a phenomenal drummer (whose style is more Latin based, in comparison to Chester's harder funk style). So what about the bassist? On the band's prior album, the greatest electric bassist of our era, Jaco Pastorius, made his debut in the band, playing on two tracks (Zawinul's "Cannonball" and his own "Barnaby Coast"). It was with those two recordings, that sent jazz fans, searching for old Joni Mitchell albums and his own eponymously named debut. So with the bass and drumming chairs in good hands, the band (whom always employed a separate percussionist outside of the actual drummer since their first album) that seat would be given to a lively Hispanic youngster by the name Manola Badrena, whose frenetic style fit the band and Alex's drumming like a glove.
So now with the leading voices of innovation on Keyboards, Saxophone and a rising star on Bass, with a highly energetic percussion section holding down the fort, what would these five sound like on record? That question would be answered on this album, Heavy Weather.
For all intensive purpose, this is the Weather Report's opus, and arguably, the greatest and most definitive jazz-rock/fusion album of all time. As for unlike any of their contemporaries of the time, all began to disband under waves of disillusionment, creative differences and even some the best works have very little today's popular "smooth" jazz scene, while Weather Report at their worst (which was never, at least to this point) still sound as modern as it did when they first recorded them at the time.
Heavy Weather would start off with the band's greatest recording and jazz standard, Zawinul's "Birdland", which if those who did not now how great Jaco Pastorius' fretless bass was, this song is served as his "hello" to the world.
Next is another Zawinul recording, moving ballad "A Remark You Made", and a song that would make fans of Grover Washington Jr. and Kenny G. think twice of who was the master of the modern fusion sax (with all do respect to Michael Brecker) jazz great, Wayne Shorter.
Jaco is back this time in the forefront with his own composition and live staple, "Teen Town". Not only is this another workout for the band, but Jaco (who was a drummer before he severely broke his arm as a youngster) plays the drums as well.
Wayne Shorter's "Harlequin" is a wonderful song that plays again, to each members strength, in which no one member oversteps their musical boundaries. The band even afforded a slot for their percussionists, with the all to brief, "Rumba Mama".
The next song, Wayne's "Palladium" is another a spirited song that is more in tune with his solo effort "Native Dancer", but yet still fits in wonderfully with everything else here. The childlike playfulness of Jaco's "The Juggler" is reminiscent of a song from the band's Mysterious Traveller album, "The Jungle Book".
The albums closer, Zawinul's "Havana" is the second time the band ended with an absolute smoker. The ending of the song is as great as it gets as the band could do no wrong.
Alex Acuna and Manola Badnera would be relieved of their duties after this album, but in interviews done later with these two, although they enjoyed their stay in the band, both felt that the band was on the verge of being burned out mentally and musically. That therein, paved the way for the last key piece to be put in place, drummer extraordinaire Peter Erksine. Lets see if Alex and Manola's words ring true on their next release.
Heavy Weather serves as the coda to the jazz-rock/fusion era, there has never be another fusion album made that was as great as this album still to this day.
Album Rating: Five Stars