IN THE TITLE OF VIRTUOSO JAZZ bassist Miroslav Vitous’s latest album, Remembering Weather Report [ECM, 2009], the word “remembering” carries a lot of weight. He was right there with Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul at the beginning of what we now know to be the seminal fusion band of the ’70s, but his era [Weather Report and I Sing The Body Electric, Columbia, 1971] was a more experimental, streamof- consciousness project than the form-and-groove driven, Pastorius-powered version. It’s this earlier vision and spirit that Vitous honors on Remembering. This allacoustic recording is a largely free-form improvised look back to what was, with a hopeful look ahead to the future. As Vitous says, the goal is “awakening the spirit of the direct communication, as now is the time to go in that direction. The old concept is long past-due expired.”
His remembrance is not without emotional conflict, so it’s not surprising that Vitous re-imagines the concept of Weather Report through original composition. The result is a fascinating musical counter-factual, quoting bits of “Nefertiti” in “W. Shorter” and having a little fun with a “Teen Town” motif in “Blues Report” amidst a panoply of discovery-driven textures in which Miroslav’s bass is—as he always imagined— a co-equal member of the front line.
Vitous’s career can hardly be summarized in a single article: Prague Conservatory graduate and Berklee scholarship winner; late-’60s New York jazz phenom; New England Conservatory Jazz Department Chair in the ’80s; successful developer of symphonic orchestra samples software; and ten solo releases by 1992, plus three albums this decade. Vitous currently lives and works in Northern Italy, near the town of Turin.
What originally inspired you to want to reexamine the Weather Report era for this record?
It was the passing of Joe Zawinul, but it came out of wanting to regenerate the concept of direct conversation between instruments, skipping the traditional rhythm-section slave concepts and therefore completely liberating the music. But even the conversation concept from those days has much advanced in our playing today.
Why did you want this project to be completely acoustic?
I prefer acoustic because it has overtones ringing with the universe, and electric notes have fewer. But it does not really matter if the music is electric or acoustic. It is the concept we are referring to here, not the content of instruments.
How did Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul impact you as a bassist, composer, and musician?
I think they had tremendous respect for my talent, but did not show it too much, as I was very young at that time and they did not want me to think too highly of myself. Unfortunately, Wayne Shorter had his hand in parting me from my one-third ownership of Weather Report. For a very long time in my life, this had a dramatic impact on me, both financially and spiritually.
What do you think Joe would have thought of the band on Remembering Weather Report?
I think he would have been knocked out by how far we have come from those early days.
Where you were coming from on “Variations on W. Shorter”?
I wanted to show the public what I can do creatively with other music. I loved Wayne’s music for many years, and it presented a good deal of inspiration. My melodic approach was the key to developing this piece.
How about on “When Dvorak Met Miles”?
I wanted to show the mastery of the arco playing, and also the combining of my Miles Davis and Slavic melodic inspirations.
What’s your ultimate take-away from having done this album? What do you hope it is for the listener?
It has everything to do with the idea of sharing, and the universal changes of this time which we are experiencing.
What would your one-sentence advice be to double bass jazz students of the following abilities: beginner, intermediate, advanced?
Beginner: If you passionately do not love music, don’t play. Intermediate: Play for the music and soul, not the success and money. Advanced: Even more of the same.
What would you like to be doing five years from now?
Whatever my musical destiny is and what God has for me to do.
HEAR HIM ON
Miroslav Vitous Group w/Michel Portal, Remembering Weather Report [ECM, 2009]
Bass Kolstein Busetto Model Travel Bass
Studio setup u-size 1860 Homolka upright for arco; circa- 1900 u-size Czech bass for pizzicato; ProTools (at 24-bit/96K sampling rate), two Neumann U87 mics, Schoeps mic
Effects TCM reverb plug-in
Strings For arco: Pirastro solos (purple); for pizzicato, Thomastik solos (yellow); all tuned to orchestra tuning (EADG)