Weather Report - Tokyo 1978 [Equinox - 2020]
Here we have a double CD release of a classic 1970’s concert from the US kings of fusion Weather Report- the eighty-minute set finds the band offering up tracks from their classic Columbia albums- 1976’s Black Market, and 1977’s Heavy Weather, and it shows the then four-piece project on fine form- moving nicely between more atmospheric analog synth moments, and darting fretless bass & Sax sass-ness/ groove.
The release appears on the Equinox label- with the two CD’s coming in a glossy digipak packaging- also included in a folded inlay, taking in brief bio/ write-up about the concert & pictures of the band themselves. Both CD’s take in around forty minutes of music, and each is well mixed & balanced soundboard recordings- meaning you don’t really know it’s live recording safe for the fleeting audience sounds between some tracks, and at the beginning & end of the discs.
For this concert, the line-up was Joe Zawinul- Keyboards, Wayne Shorter- Sax, Jaco Pastorius- Fretless bass, and Peter Erskine- drums/ percussion. The show was recorded on the 26th of June 1978 at Shinjuku Koseninkin Hall in Tokyo- which was originally broadcast by NHK Radio.
The first disc opens with "Elegant People"( from the Black Market album)- this starts with an improvised & darkly spacey keyboard ‘n’ bass sound mood scaping, before kicking up into the tracks familiar jiving 'n' grooving blend of bass & Sax, with some great darting & climbing keyboard work mixed in. As we move through the first disc we come to "Teen Town"( from 77’s Heavy Weather) – here the band expands the original three-minute track to a nearing eight-minute work-out, bringing together keen ‘n’ tight blend of bass runs, and cymbal heavy percussion- with drifting moments of either snaking sax, or simmering organ sustains. The first disc is topped off with a nearing thirteen-minute rendition of the "Black Market" title track- which sees the band bringing to life both the tracks joyous melody & their great chemistry too.
The second disc starts with a twenty-one-minute version of "Gibralter"( from the Black Market album)- it begins once again like the first disc in fairly brooding & mysterious manner- with billowing bass, vibe darts, and ethnic pipe-piper key work, that gets more simmering & effect touched as it goes on. It’s not until the nearing five-minute mark that the persistent bass groove & drums kick-in, before we find some very nice jamming out- introducing each member of the band. The second track is a twelve-minute affair which finds first solo sax playing from Shorter, that moves between sassy & harmonica darting, and Zawinul solo which finds him giving some layered & elegant piano-based playing- then Shorter & Zawinul join together for a nicely rising & hopeful blend of dramatic piano flourishes & melodic horn honks. The final track is a smoking take on "Birdland"( from Heavy Weather) with a bounding & bouncing bass work and harmonically playful interplay between the keys & horn.
If you enjoy keen & creative 70’s fusion that fleets between atmosphere, groove, and great interplays I’d say you’ll need to pick this two-disc set-up, the only slight pity there isn’t a DVD or Blu Ray of the set to top the whole thing off, though of course the set may well not have been filmed.Roger Batty