Joe Zawinul, the keyboardist/composer and founder of the fusion supergroup, Weather Report, revisits some of the group’s great hits in a 15-piece big-band setting and does it in classic form in a two-disc live recording captured in October 2005 at Zawinul’s own Birdland Club in Vienna. Weather Report fans will love this, I’m sure. Truly reminiscent of the Zawinul/Wayne Shorter/Jaco Pastorius mind melds.
With a resume that includes work with Miles Davis (what resume hasn’t been enhanced by the inclusion of this mastermind??) and being named as Best Keyboardist by "Downbeat" magazine 30, yes 30 times, how can one deny oneself this experience?
The album opens with a rousing big-band take on "Brown Street," the classic that was co-written with saxman Shorter. It definitely sets the complexion for what follows. The horns are masterfully presented. The material is as alive as you could expect from Weather Report. After the energetic "Brown Street," Zawinul takes the megaband through the quieter "In a Silent Way," the snappy "Fast City" and an oh-so-fat, melodic (and my favorite) "Black Market." In a nutshell, Zawinul states, "It’s basically the original Weather Report arrangements adapted to big band and I made sure to keep it open enough so that the music could breathe, but at the same time groove." Well said, Joe. In my opinion, you achieved that and more!
Hats off to the Cologne-based WDR Big Band. They captured the very essence of Weather Report in proud fashion. Of this 30-year-old band, Zawinul says, "For the first time since we went our separate ways many years ago, it truly felt like Weather Report up there." I’ll bet it did. It certainly sounded like heavy weather had rolled in.