In 1974, three years after the band's inception, Weather Report became one of the world's most popular jazz groups due to their uncompromising originality and musicianship. This was the year that founding member Miroslav Vitous was replaced by Alphonso Johnson, who became a critical asset as both a fluid, creative bassist and a composer. Drummer Ishmael Wilburn and Brazilian percussionist Dom Um Romao, with a shifting cast of supporting players, laid the foundation for the band's most exciting incarnation yet. The overdue reissue of Mysterious Traveller is a welcome acknowledgement of this mid-period lineup's importance in the evolution of fusion.
This album contains some of the Report's most popular works, chiefly the long opener "Nubian Sundance." The sound of cheering crowds (apparently tacked on in the studio to simulate a live performance) still seems a bit presumptuous today, but the overall performance is certainly worth cheering. Zawinul's weirdly nonsensical vocals seem a precursor to Pat Metheny's wordless singing, and they add a witty flavor to the tune. "Cucumber Slumber" is another perennial favorite which gives Johnson the chance to work out the funk via slides and double-stops. The skulking title track brings much fun as well, with Shorter squeaking out alarums in the alley. The bass and sax take a coffee break on "Jungle Book," leaving Zawinul with two percussionists to carve out an inarguable masterpiece. His ability to program the synthesizers to suit his vision was always key to the WR sound, and this track was the ultimate realization of his artistry.
The disc is admittedly uneven at times, a risk run by any ensemble that chews at boundaries as much as the Report. "American Tango," for example, is rather inconsequential in the big picture despite its interesting textures. It's an ironic farewell for Vitous as his bandmates had bigger fish to fry. "Scarlet Woman" is disconcerting on the first few listens, as Shorter and Zawinul cough out sinuous lines sporadically over a net of near-silence. On the other hand, the sax/piano duet "Blackthorn Rose" is both gorgeous and rejuvenating as a change of pace from the electronic effluvium.
Zawinul's motto for the group was "We always solo, we never solo." The special combination of freedom and composition that Weather Report consistently achieved on record amply testifies to that philosophy, and Mysterious Traveller is a quintessential piece of evidence.
I was first exposed to Jazz when a couple of dear friends of mine turned me onto it around 1971. I was already into Progressive music, R n' B, Soul, Motown, Latin Rock and other styles that were a great ladder to Jazz
I was first exposed to Jazz when a couple of dear friends of mine turned me onto it around 1971. I was already into Progressive music, R n' B, Soul, Motown, Latin Rock and other styles that were a great ladder to Jazz.
Being a Musician myself, (Lead Guitar/Bass Guitar), I studied at the Dick Grove School of Music with Dick Grove, Jeff Richman and Lee Ritenour. This was around '84-'85. I started playing the Guitar in November 1967. Playing Guitar came quite naturally to me thank goodness. Though I spent hours upon hours practicing while my school buddies were doing Sports.
It was in the early '70s that I really got into Jazz, Jazz Rock, Jazz Fusion and World Music. Seeing Weather Report, Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Larry Carlton, Steely Dan, John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, RTF, Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters, VSOP, Freddie Hubbard and so many, many more amazing artists opened my eyes to the beauty and eloquent nature of Jazz. I really love the brilliant ensemble playing that is in Jazz!!
When I play and write music, it blends so many style together. Many fans ask me why my playing sounds so jazzy. It's because I understand Blue Notes, the phrasing, the tonality, time signatures and more. I can also play Rock, Folk, Soul, R n' B and other styles too. I seem to gravitate more and more as I get older to a jazzier style. Currently I'm 62 years old. I have released 2 CDs world-wide. Working on my 3rd.
I also teach Guitar/Bass/Music Theory to my students. They range from 6 years old to much, much older. (I was hired by the City of Aurora, CO to teach ages 6-13 specifically). Currently I teach 41 children in 5 classes. Additionally another 7 private students.
My wife, Meesh, and I love Jazz dearly. It was one of the things that we share together!
Most of the people that I know today do not get jazz. I try to explain what to listen for, but many times the music of Jazz is a bit much for them. So be it.
In a nutshell, I live, breath and listen to Music 24/7. No TV except the Food Channel and Weather.
I love John Kelman's articles. They are so insightful and well-constructed!
Thank you all for doing what you do.