A Fireside Chat With Miroslav Vitous
FJ: Since playing on Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, you have collaborated with Chick Corea, most recently featuring him on your latest recording.
MV: I actually met Chick Corea in New York, where I was staying with a bassist friend. The bassist’s name was Walter Booker, a very beautiful person. He let me stay with him because I was just fresh out of Boston and had no place to stay. Chick Corea came to visit him because they had a piano and drum set, so a lot of people would come by and play. I jammed with Chick at this apartment and when Chick was getting ready to make a recording, he remembered that we had something going there and he called me for the date. It was my first recording in New York and I believe it was 1968.
FJ: Wayne Shorter just commemorated his 70th birthday with a celebration at the Hollywood Bowl, give me some insight as to how your relationship developed and how Weather Report came about.
MV: I met Wayne when Miles hired me to play with him that one week. This was in 1967. I played one week at the Village Gate with the Miles Davis group, with Wayne Shorter, Tony Williams, and Herbie Hancock. It was most amazing musical experience that I have had to that point. This is where I met Wayne. Many years later, when I didn’t work with Herbie Mann anymore, I was finished with Stan Getz, and a very short while with Miles Davis, but I did not continue because he wanted someone with more different kind of bassist than I was. I am more of a solo bassist and he needed somebody who would keep the role.
I thought it was time to get a group together and the first person I thought of was Wayne Shorter. I called Wayne and in the meantime, Wayne called me to make an album with him, which was Super Nova. I was on that album and then I called him and said that he would call me back. He called me back after a week or so and he asked how I would feel if Joe Zawinul joined and we started a group. I said, “Why not?” And this is precisely the way Weather Report was formed. I know that Joe Zawinul says something else, but what I am telling you is how it really happened.
FJ: This new album comes after a decade of not recording as a leader, what prompted such a lengthy hiatus?
MV: It was basically an absence of eight years from the scene for many different reasons, but the biggest reason was I made this Symphonic Orchestra Samples CD-ROM, which is actually many CD-ROMS over classical orchestra. I was very much fascinated with the technology we had that we could edit in the computer our compositions, but all the sounds that were available on the market were crap.
After waiting and waiting for a couple of years, I thought somebody would come out with something and when nobody did, I was in Germany, at the time, and I decided to go to Prague, where most of my classmates were in the Czech Philharmonic and so I went there and I was able to get the Czech Philharmonic to record whatever I wanted to record for quite a lot of money. But I had the money and I did it. I did extensive, extensive recordings and made a classical CD-ROM set, which is still on the market. For ten years, it was by itself as the cream of the crop of samples.
I did that for myself and then when I realized that I was spending too much money, I had to release it. It was good because I made it not for business, but purely for music. That is a huge difference when you do something for that reason then when you do something for the other reason. I had a vision how it should sound and I put all my knowledge into this product and it is a fantastic product. People still tell me that I have the best musical thing there. I recorded music. The rest of the companies recorded sounds. Give me G. I said, “Give me G like Beethoven or Wagner.” I recorded music. They recorded notes.
But I have returned to one hundred percent playing this year. I am fully back to playing full time. I am touring in Europe. I am putting together a trio and a quartet. I am playing solo concerts with my symphonic sounds. I am very much engaged back to playing and recording and everything.
FJ: No more hiatus.
MV: Right, I don’t think I will. I don’t think I will find another thing that will distract me.