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Weather Report: 'Heavy Weather'

The cover of Heavy Weather

MURRAY HORWITZ, American Film Institute: Hello, I'm Murray Horwitz, and today, A.B. Spellman and I are talking about Weather Report. A.B., fusion is a term that's applied to a lot of different kinds of music, most of it, shall we say, unfortunate music. But some fusion work stands up quite well. And, you think that Weather Report's Heavy Weather is in that timeless category.

A.B. SPELLMAN, National Endowment for the Arts: To be sure, Murray, this 1977 version of Weather Report had a lot of members who could write as well as they could blow. The anchor was the great saxophone master Wayne Shorter and the gifted pianist Joe Zawinul, and they brought in some first-rate Latin musicians, plus the great bassist Jaco Pastorius. Together, they were the best in the world at what one critic of the day called "the studio as instrument."

[MUSIC]

SPELLMAN: It's hard to pick out a sample from a composition like "Birdland" because it's all of a piece. There are no big solos, but a series of conversations between the electronic and acoustic instruments, with vocal sounds, and handclaps thrown in. Joe Zawinul is especially interesting with a gorgeous palette of keyboard effects, all perfectly placed so that the music is loaded with surprise.

[MUSIC]

HORWITZ: That's true. I'm very impressed with how versatile and integrated that this band is, A.B.

[MUSIC]

SPELLMAN: And, if you listen to tunes like "Palladium," you'll see how Weather Report defines the best of fusion. Here, you get acoustic and electronic jazz writing over an Afro-Cuban Santeria rhythm in a way that sounds perfectly natural and quite original for the time.

[MUSIC]

SPELLMAN: The CD is by Weather Report. It's called Heavy Weather, and it's on the Columbia label.

HORWITZ: I'm Murray Horwitz.

SPELLMAN: And, I'm A.B. Spellman.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

A. B. Spellman
Murray Horwitz
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