CD Review: Weather Report "The Legendary Live Tapes: 1978-1981

Sony’s well-timed four-disc box (given the release of Robert Trujillo’s Jaco doc) is assembled by Peter Erskine and Joe Zawinul’s son Tony, and culled largely from the board tapes of longtime band engineer Brian Risner.
By Chris Jisi ,

Sony’s well-timed four-disc box (given the release of Robert Trujillo’s Jaco doc) is assembled by Peter Erskine and Joe Zawinul’s son Tony, and culled largely from the board tapes of longtime band engineer Brian Risner. The result is a very present-in-the-mix Jaco at the peak of his powers, with bandmates Erskine, Zawinul, Wayne Shorter, and Robert Thomas Jr. Disc 1’s second cut, “Sightseeing,” establishes the Pastorian pace, with Jaco walking through the track in his inimitable way, punctuated with peek-outs in the form of harmonics, chordal bursts, 16th runs, fuzz licks, and spontaneous reharms, all in the name of his supportive yet highly conversational role with the soloists. This continues in the 3/4 realm of “Badia/Boogie Waltz.” Other disc touchpoints include a spartan version of “Three Views of a Secret,” with Jaco’s wordless vocals on top, and “Jaco Solo (Osaka 1980),” which moves from his chordal cover of “Blackbird” to “dueting” with a looped figure on his MXR Digital Delay.

Disc 2 boasts vigorous versions of “Birdland” and “A Remark You Made,” while “Continuum/River People” transitions from those two Pastorius pearls to a serious F7 jam, and “Gibraltar” builds from Jaco’s subtly altered baion to a full-on boogie. On Disc 3, Jaco returns to walking on the edge for “Fast City,” “Madagascar,” and Ellington’s “Rockin’ in Rhythm” (dig his opening descending chordal climb, reminiscent of his ascent on Joni Mitchell’s “Dry Cleaner from Des Moines”). Meanwhile, his standout bass line creativity and melody interpretation on the ballad “Dream Clock” culminates in a last-note E string detuned to Eb. Finally, Disc 4 mines mostly pre-Jaco Weather Report songs, but he’s all over the bubbling “Black Market,” the tribal “Scarlet Woman,” and the angular “Elegant People,” before leading an extended “Teen Town” (similar to the 8:30 version) and unleashing a harmonics tour de force built around “Portrait of Tracy” on “Jaco Solo (Osaka 1978).” Musically and sonically, a worthy addition to the Jaco canon.