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Weather Report Weather Report
Album: Sweetnighter
Label: Talking Elephant
Tracks: 6

A band whose cast list of members is as long as your arm and whose name is synonymous with pioneering jazz rock fusion. Their last studio album, 'This Is This', appeared back in 1986 although we can now take a trip back, courtesy of re-issue experts Talking Elephant, to 1973 and the band's third studio album.

The early seventies were progressive times and were typified none more so than in the Weather Report core of Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter who were already making waves with their brand of jazz rock funk fusion. The latter featuring heavily in the thirteen minutes of 'Booge Woogie Waltz', a meandering epic which would surely provide the soundtrack to many US cop dramas of the time. It's less pronounced on the similarly extended workout on '125t Street Congress' where Zawinul's electric piano cascades over a myriad of percussion and Shorter's sax weaves in and out in a jazz tinged with R&B semi improvised jam.

On the other side of the coin, the shorter 'Non-Stop Home' sees a more structured arrangement tempered with enough sense of improvisation to keep things interesting. Never anything less than inventive, Weather Report proved that experimentation, taking risks, allowing a sense of freedom and being unafraid to diversify into new areas was always going to remain a key element to their sound. 'Adios' throws a curve ball in taking a break from the expected, offering a sparse and light atmospheric air about as far to one end of the jazz fusion continuum as you could get, yet retaining the sense of adventure. If being progressive is about not knowing where the music is going to lead, this is a prime example.

Instrumental virtuosos would come and go and add their originality to the plot, maintaining the ethos of fusion and experimentation whilst at the same time, opening the band to more crossover mass appeal with 'Birdland'. One time drummer Chester Thompson being courted by prog giants Genesis as a touring member form many years from the late seventies (for trivia buffs, even bassist/guitarist Alphonso Johnson being tapped up at one stage). 'Sweetnighter' is an album by a band in transition , finding their niche, never doing anything less than keeping things thought-provoking.

Mike Ainscoe