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Miroslav Vitous: Music of Weather Report

John Ephland By

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The music on bassist Miroslav Vitous' Music Of Weather Report is a fascinating document by an original member of that seminal group, formed in 1970. Revisiting music he helped to create as well as one tune that came after he left the group in 1974 (along with new music he wrote and one from original member Wayne Shorter's time with Miles Davis), one can enter the mind of this man's singular reinterpretations of such gems as "Seventh Arrow," but also the fetching creations "Scarlet Woman Variations," "Birdland Variations" and "Scarlet Reflections."

The approaches are unified in execution, Vitous' bass hardly content to remain in the so-called rhythm section, harkening back to those pre-Jaco Pastorius days when Vitous was already running up and down his instrument like a saxophonist runs the keys on his horn. And, like with that original WR band, much of the sound remains airy, as if floating with no bottom, a helium-like effervescence that floated (and floats) in and around the ofttimes ethereal, mysterious melodies. And Vitous' bass playing sounds squishier than ever, his unique voice only occasionally plucking the strings. Instead, it's as if he's reaching for more atmospherics, unpredictabilities that only he can offer, his "Morning Lake" the capstone that closes the whole thing. It's as if he's reaching out to former WR co-founder/comrade Joe Zawinul in spirit, or at least thinking of him.

The recording itself delivers as an intimate listening experience, the dual drummers Gerald Cleaver and Nasheet Waits, Aydin Esen's electronic keys swirling around Vitous' singing basswork and Gary Campbell and Roberto Bonisolo's selective, probing sax bleats. In a very real sense, Music Of Weather Report shows that this music still has legs, with material ripe for reinterpretation. In this case, the WR's original flair for left-of-center, thoroughly original music is run through a 21st-century grid, a grid that works to produce a fresh makeover. It's a makeover that Vitous himself may not have pursued previously, what with its more contemporary-sounding delivery, including what sounds like multi-tracking and with fades running between left and right channels, and his own use of keyboards.

To enhance one's understanding of The Music Of Weather Report, consider another side to the bassist from previous solo outings: the pre-WR dawn Mountain In The Clouds (aka Infinite Search, 1969, Atlantic) and, later, Universal Syncopations (2003, ECM). Tied more to rhythm and to a pulse if not outright swing, a la his work with Chick Corea and Roy Haynes, these other two albums also found Vitous playing the anchorman, relatively speaking. Despite those selections from Mountain In The Clouds that put Vitous' bass front and center, the syncopations come more from the other musicians on board, including two who played on both of those earlier efforts, guitarist John McLaughlin and drummer Jack DeJohnette. Indeed, the earlier albums come off as more mainstream in the best sense of the word, and quite unlike the more exciting avant- garde tendencies that emerged from early Weather Report and that are revisited on Music Of Weather Report.

Track Listing: Scarlet Woman Variations; Seventh Arrow; Multi Dimension Blues 2; Birdland Variations; Multi Dimension Blues 1; Pinocchio; Acrobat Issues; Scarlet Reflections; Multi Dimension Blues 3; Morning Lake.

Personnel: Miroslav Vitous: double bass, keyboards; Gary Campbell: soprano & tenor saxophones; Roberto Bonisolo: soprano & tenor saxophones; Aydin Esen: keyboards; Gerald Cleaver: drums; Nasheet Waits: drums.

Title: Music of Weather Report | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: ECM Records

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