Weather Report: Live and Unreleased

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Columbia/Legacy
PERFORMER: Wayne Shorter (ts,ss), Joe Zawinul (ky), Alphonos Johnson, Victor Bailey, Jaco Pastorius (b), Chester Thompson, Peter Erskine, Alex Acuna, Omar Hakim (d), Alex Acuna, Jose Rossy, Robert Thomas, Manolo Badrena (perc)
CATALOGUE NO: C2K 65526

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Jazz’s history now looms so large it threatens to overwhelm the present. This is particularly so in the market-place for recorded music, where unreleased gems by jazz’s great master performers – a Miles Davis, a Louis Armstrong, a John Coltrane or an Ornette Coleman – are often far more attractive propositions for the potential purchaser than the efforts, however worthy, of today’s jazz musicians.

A case in point is this collection of previously unheard performances by Weather Report, which many would argue was the most important band in jazz of the last 30 years. Its range, outside Duke Ellington, was remarkable, extending from French impressionism to free jazz, from bebop to world music, from big band to chamber music.

All this is apparent on this absorbing and important release that includes nine tracks featuring the electric bass phenomenon Jaco Pastorius. Yet the band was always greater than its starriest soloist, as ‘Cucumber Slumber’ or ‘Plaza Real’ demonstrate; with Joe Zawinul’s shimmering electronic tone colours and Wayne Shorter’s hypnotic saxophone solos, these tracks (from 1975 to 1983) sound as new today as they did back then.

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A remarkable achievement for this memorable group in possibly this year’s most important release. Stuart Nicholson