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

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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.

Discography
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)

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