JJ 03/81: Weather Report – Night Passage

Forty years ago, Mark Gilbert thought Night Passage a triumphant return to form - and jazz - for the fusion supergroup. First published in Jazz Journal March 1981


With this album, Weather Report restore interest and credibility. Past efforts have been guilty of all manner of vapid redundancy, but this has rich content, imagination, fire and passion.

A shift of genre has produced a band that has eschewed funk for swing, and not just in style. Ellington’s Rockin’ In Rhythm is tangible proof of this, and a fine interpretation. Zawinul and Shorter in synthesised unison perfectly mimic the rich warmth of a big band. Pastorius proves himself a master of the swinging, walking bass line, while Thomas’s hand drums provide essential offbeat accompaniment.

Strong themes and changes of mood complete the transition, and save a potential dinosaur of jazz/rock from extinction. Slower themes like Dream Clock with its ecclesiastical keyboard intro, are juxtaposed with atmosphere pieces like Port Of Entry, with foghorn sounds reproduced on bass followed by a bustling ensemble section closely reminiscent of a busy seaport.

For me, this album redeems a poor and overblown performance at Hammersmith last year. Weather Reports talents are shown at their best in the studio as this fine record proves.

Night Passage; Dream Clock; Port Of Entry; Forlorn (22.31) – Rockin’ In Rhythm; Fast City; Three Views Of A Secret; Madagascar (26.51)
Joe Zawinul (ky); Wayne Shorter (s); Jaco Pastorius (elb); Peter Erskine (d); Robert Thomas (pc).
(CBS 84597)