Weather Report was an American jazz fusion band of the 1970s and early 1980s. The band was initially co-led by the Austrian-born keyboard player Joe Zawinul, the American saxophonist Wayne Shorter and Czech bassist Miroslav Vitouš. Due to creative and financial disagreements Vitouš left the band after a few years. Zawinul took increasing control and steered the band towards a more funk, R&B oriented sound. Other prominent members at various points in the band’s lifespan included bassists Alphonso Johnson,Jaco Pastorius and Victor Bailey; and drummers/percussionists Peter Erskine, Alex Acuña, Airto Moreira and Chester Thompson.
Alongside Miles Davis’s electric bands, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever, and Headhunters, Weather Report is considered to be one of the pre-eminent early jazz fusion bands. As a continuous working unit, Weather Report outlasted all of its contemporaries despite (or perhaps because of) frequent changes of personnel, with a career lasting sixteen years between 1970 and 1986. However, the band was nearly always a quintet of keyboards, sax, bass, drums, and percussion.
Over a 16-year career, Weather Report explored various areas of music, centered on jazz (including both the «free» and «Latin» varieties), but also including various elements of art music, ethnic music, R&B, funk, and rock. While their work was often categorized as «jazz fusion», the band members themselves generally rejected the term.
From the start, Weather Report took the unusual and innovative approach of abandoning the traditional «soloist/accompaniment» demarcation of straight-ahead jazz and instead featuring opportunities for continuous improvisation by every member of the band. This position remained consistent throughout the life of the band. From the mid-1970s, individual solos became more prominent, but were never allowed to overwhelm the music’s collective approach. Initially, the band’s music featured a free, extended improvisational method (similar to Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew-period work), but by the mid-1970s, this had moved towards more groove-oriented and prestructured music (as epitomized by their hit single «Birdland»).
Joe Zawinul’s playing style was often dominated by quirky melodic improvisations (simultaneously bebop-, ethnic-, and pop-sounding) combined with sparse but rhythmic big-band chords or bass lines. Having originally made his name as a pioneeringelectric piano player, he went on to consistently develop the role of the synthesizer in jazz during his time with Weather Report. Working with companies such as ARP and Oberheim, Zawinul developed new ways of voicing and patching electronic tones for textures, ensemble roles (including emulations of traditional band instruments) and soloing. In Weather Report, he often employed avocoder, as well as recorded sounds played (i.e., filtered and transposed) through a synthesizer, creating a very distinctive, often beautiful, synthesis of jazz harmonics and «noise» (which he referred to as «using all the sounds the world generates»). On some Weather Report tunes, however, Zawinul’s synthesized arrangements dominated the sound.
Wayne Shorter came to the group with a reputation as a dominant role as an instrumentalist, drawn from both his solo work and his contributions to Miles Davis’ «second great quintet» during the 1960s. His choice not to follow the same approach with Weather Report led to some criticism of the group. During his time with Weather Report, Shorter was noted for generally playing saxophone with an economical, «listening» style. Rather than continually taking the lead, he generally added subtle harmonic, melodic, and/or rhythmic complexity by responding to other member’s improvisations (although he could and did sometimes exercise a more frenetic style akin to that of John Coltrane or Michael Brecker). As a composer, though, he chose a more abstract, sometimes atonal and «free jazz» style of music, opposed to the sometimes flamboyant tunes of Weather Report (written either by Zawinul or Pastorius). Playing both tenor and soprano saxophones, Shorter continued to develop the role of the latter instrument in jazz, taking his cue from previous work by Coltrane, Sidney Bechet, Lucky Thompson, andSteve Lacy.
Weather Report maintained a consistent interest in a textured sound and developments in music technology and processing. Both Zawinul and original bassist Miroslav Vitouš experimented with electronic effects pedals (as generally used by rock guitarists) with Zawinul using them on electric piano and synthesizers and Vitouš on his upright bass(which he frequently bowed through distortion to create a second horn-like voice). The band’s third bass player, Jaco Pastorius, popularized the use of melodic soloing fretless bass guitar and string harmonics, as well as consolidating the driving R&B pulse in the band’s music, which had been brought in by his predecessor Alphonso Johnson.
With the exception of a brief quartet period between 1978 and 1979, Weather Report’s instrumentation always included both a traditional trap set drummer and a second percussionist. For its first eight years of existence, the group had difficulty finding a permanent drummer, moving through about one drummer per year until Jaco Pastorius helped to recruit Peter Erskine in 1978. Erskine and (later on) Omar Hakim were the only Weather Report drummers who played with the band for more than two years.
Inception and formation
Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter first met and became friends in 1959 while they were playing in Maynard Ferguson’s Big Band. Zawinul went on to play with Cannonball Adderley’s group in the 1960s, while Shorter joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and then, in 1964, Miles Davis’ second great quintet. During this decade, both men made names for themselves as being among the best composers in jazz.
Zawinul later joined Shorter in contributing to the initial fusion music recordings of Miles Davis, and both men were part of the studio groups, which recorded the key Davis albumsIn a Silent Way (1969) and Bitches Brew (1970). In consequence, Weather Report has often been seen as a spin-off from the Miles Davis bands of the late 1960s and early 1970s, although Zawinul was never part of Davis’s touring line-up. Weather Report was initially formed to explore a more impressionistic and individualistic music (or, as Zawinul put it, «away from all that eight bars shit and then you go to the bridge…»)
Zawinul and Shorter recruited another Miles Davis associate, the classically trained Czech-born bass player Miroslav Vitouš, who had previously played with Zawinul, as well as with Herbie Mann, Bob Brookmeyer, Stan Getz, and Chick Corea (Vitous has subsequently claimed that in fact Shorter and he had founded Weather Report, with Shorter bringing in Zawinul afterwards.) All three men composed, and formed the core of the project. To complete the band, the trio brought in former drummer Alphonse Mouzon and set about looking for a full-time auxiliary percussionist as they began to record their debut album. The initial recruits were session player Don Alias and symphony orchestra percussionistBarbara Burton. During recording, Alias quarreled with Zawinul (allegedly due to Zawinul being too dictatorial over the percussion approach) and the innovative Brazilian percussionist Airto Moreira (yet another Davis alumnus) was brought in to complete the record. John McLaughlin was also invited to join the group, but decided to pursue his solo career, instead.
Debut and first concerts
Weather Report’s debut album Weather Report (1971) caused a sensation in the jazz world on its arrival, due to the various talents of the group’s members and their unorthodox approach to their music. The album featured a softer sound than would be the case in later years, predominantly using acoustic bass, with Shorter exclusively playing soprano saxophone. It built on the avant-garde experiments which Zawinul and Shorter had pioneered with Miles Davis on Bitches Brew, including an avoidance of head-and-chorus composition in favor of continuous rhythm and movement. Down Beat magazine described the album as «music beyond category». Although Airto Moreira completed the recording of the debut Weather Report album, his existing commitments to Miles Davis prevented him from performing live with the group. Barbara Burton performed at Weather Report’s first residency (a week of performances at Paul’s Mall in Boston, prior to the album release), but could not come to business terms with Zawinul over tour plans. Zawinul subsequently removed both her album credit and that of Alias, leaving Moreira as the only percussionist credited. For the upcoming concerts, formerBrazil ’66 member Dom Um Romão was recruited as the group’s new percussionist on Moreira’s own recommendation.
After further gigs in Philadelphia, Weather Report went on to a tour of Europe.] Following disagreements on tour, Mouzon was replaced by another former McCoy Tyner drummer, Eric Gravatt.
In 1972, Weather Report released its second album, I Sing the Body Electric. The first side featured new studio recordings, while the second side was taken from live recordings of a concert in Tokyo, featuring the full-band lineup of Zawinul, Shorter, Vitouš, Gravatt, and Um Romão (and later available in full as the Japan-only double album Live in Tokyo). The studio side used extended versions of the band including various guest performers, suggesting that Weather Report was not necessarily an integral jazz band, but might possibly work as an expandable project set up to realise the music of its three composers. The album also featured Zawinul’s first use of a synthesizer (an instrument with which he would become synonymous within jazz) and of sound effects.
I Sing the Body Electric also showed the first signs of a shift in the balance of control within the band, away from the more collective approach of the debut album. The following year had this tendency develop further.
Move towards jazz funk
On 1973’s Sweetnighter, Weather Report began to abandon the primarily acoustic group improvisation format, and the band started to take a new direction. Primarily at Zawinul’s instigation, Weather Report became more jazz funk- and groove-oriented, drawing more heavily on R&B influences and dense electric keyboard work while adding more structure to both the prewritten and the improvisational sections.
The change in approach affected the band deeply. Playing more repetitive, funky bass vamps did not suit Miroslav Vitouš’ particular talents, and Zawinul also judged Eric Gravatt’s approach to be unsuitable for certain of the new pieces he had written. Andrew White III had returned to play occasional English horn on the album, but Zawinul also employed him on bass guitar on three tracks to get the style of funk playing required. For similar reasons, the studio-based drummer/composer Herschel Dwellingham played drums on four of the album’s six tracks, replacing Gravatt entirely on three of them: on «Non-Stop Home», Dwellingham and Gravatt played together, with Gravatt the sole drummer only on «125th Street Congress». Muruga Booker also contributed percussion to the sessions alongside Dom Um Romão.)
Gravatt took his replacement in the studio sessions badly and quit the band at the end of recording, moving toMinneapolis to join the band Natural Life. Many years later, Zawinul paid tribute to Gravatt’s skills and stated that he had been the finest of the band’s «pure jazz» drummers as well as being «from the jazz side… my favorite of them all.»
With Gravatt gone and Dwellingham unavailable for touring, former Sly & the Family Stone drummer Greg Errico played on the Sweetnighter tour, but did not stay with the band afterwards.
Split with Miroslav Vitouš
Zawinul wished to continue further along the road to funk and was at creative loggerheads with Miroslav Vitouš, who preferred Weather Report’s original approach. Retrospectively, Zawinul accused Vitouš of being unable to play funk convincingly (something which Greg Errico corroborated) and claimed that he had not provided enough music for the band. Vitouš countered that he had in fact brought in compositions, but that Zawinul had been unable to play them. Vitouš has also accused Zawinul of having been «a first-class manipulator» primarily interested in commercial success.
When Shorter sided with Zawinul, the original three-man partnership broke down acrimoniously and Vitouš left Weather Report. His final contribution to the band was to play bass on a single track, which appeared on the band’s 1974 album Mysterious Traveller («American Tango», which he had co-written with Zawinul). Vitouš went on to an illustrious career as a composer and to lead his own band. He has subsequently accused both Zawinul and Shorter of having used foul play to edge him out of the band, to deny the scale of his contribution to Weather Report’s history and creative approach, and to cheat him out of remuneration.
Vitouš’ departure marked the end of the first phase of Weather Report and the shift of overall creative dominance of the band to Josef Zawinul, although Shorter remained an integral, influential, and vital part of the project.
Miroslav Vitouš’ replacement was the Philadelphian electric bass guitarist Alphonso Johnson (formerly a sideman for the pop-fusion player Chuck Mangione). Recruited by Shorter, Johnson was a supple player more than capable of providing the funk element which Zawinul desired. He was also an early advocate of the Chapman Stick, which he can be heard playing on some of the live Weather Report recordings of the period.
Weather Report’s breakout album was 1974’s Mysterious Traveller, which also featured the debut of new drummer Ishmail Wilburn. The album continued Sweetnighter’s process of reducing the free-jazz elements of previous albums, but also showed a more fully developed compositional technique. Zawinul exploited improvements in synthesizer technology on the recording and began to add processed sound effects such as cheering crowds, child-like cries and noises reminiscent of science-fiction aliens. Mysterious Traveller was the second of Weather Report’s albums to win Down Beat’s «Album of the Year» award and the first in their unprecedented run of four such consecutive awards.
According to Zawinul, Wilburn apparently «lost heart» on tour (despite performing well in the studio). To shore up the music, the band hired another drummer, Darryl Brown, to play alongside him. At the end of the tour, both Wilburn and Brown left the band (as did Dom Um Romão) and Weather Report was, once again, drummerless.
For the next set of studio sessions, Weather Report added a new Brazilian percussionist (Alyrio Lima) and a new drummer – Chuck Bazemore of The Delfonics. Bazemore turned out to be unsuitable for the band and departed early in the sessions, with none of his recorded contributions being retained. Instead, the band called in the former Herbie Hancock drummer, Leon «Ndugu» Chancler, who had been working on another project in an adjacent studio. Ndugu recorded with Weather Report for a week and recorded all of the drum tracks for the forthcoming album. However, he declined to join as a permanent member, opting instead to continue with Santana. Johnson recommended his friend Chester Thompson (a former Frank Zappa sideman), who joined as drummer in time for the next tour.
The new album, Tale Spinnin’, was released in 1975. It was the first Weather Report album to feature a consistent rhythm section (rather than a varied set of drummers, percussionists, and bass players) since their debut. The album also made further strides in using technological improvements in synthesizers, even making use of the gigantic studio-based TONTO array.
During the same year, Shorter also recorded Native Dancer under his own name (with the Brazilian composer and vocalist Milton Nascimento). Tale Spinnin’ won the Down Beatbest album award for 1975 (the third Weather Report album to do so) and Native Dancer was the runner-up.
Departure of Alphonso Johnson and arrival of Jaco Pastorius
By 1976’s Black Market album, Weather Report’s music had evolved further from open-ended funk jams into more melody-oriented, concise forms, which also offered a greater mass-market appeal. Zawinul further consolidated his use of keyboard synthesizers, while Shorter experimented with an early form of wind synthesizer, the Lyricon. The new album was also perhaps the most rock-oriented work which the group had produced to date.
However, the album was recorded during yet another period of change for the group, with multiple personnel shuffles. Although Alyrio Lima played percussion on one track, he was replaced during the sessions by Don Alias (his first appearance with the group since the debut album debacle) and by Alex Acuña (a Peruvian drummer and conga player based in Las Vegas, who had played with Elvis Presleyand Ike Turner, among others). Alphonso Johnson was also worn out from the band’s frequent changes of drummers and the strain that put on the rhythm section. During a break in activity halfway through the recording of Black Market, Johnson opted to leave Weather Report to play with the Billy Cobham/George Duke Band (which featured a young John Scofield on guitar).
Prior to his departure, Johnson played on all but two of the new album’s tracks. His replacement was Jaco Pastorius, a virtuoso fretless bass guitarist from Florida, who had been in touch with Zawinul for several years, and who came in to play on «Cannon Ball» and his own composition «Barbary Coast». Zawinul and Shorter had assumed that Chester Thompson would be departing alongside his friend Johnson, and for the second set of sessions they replaced him (on Jaco Pastorius’ recommendation) with the formerMahavishnu Orchestra drummer Narada Michael Walden. Although Walden played on several album tracks, he ultimately proved unsuitable. Thompson returned for the finalBlack Market sessions, but left again after failing to gel as a rhythm section with Pastorius (whose style was much busier than that of Johnson).
Black Market continued Weather Report’s ongoing run of success, selling well and being the fourth of the band’s albums to win the album of the year award from Down Beatmagazine. For the subsequent tour, Alex Acuña moved from percussion to the drum kit, and Don Alias was replaced by the young Puerto Rican percussionist Manolo Badrena, who had previously played with various Latin rock bands and with Art Blakey. The band made a very well-received appearance at the Montreux Jazz Festival, which was filmed for future release.
The Jaco Pastorius years (1976-81)
The recruitment of Jaco Pastorius helped to push Weather Report to the height of its popularity. Already a rising star in his own right, Pastorius brought a very musical, melodic quality to the bass. He could play muscular, lightning-fast groove lines influenced by R&B or funk, as well as demonstrating an extraordinary solo control of tone and string harmonics, often sounding more like a horn player. Pastorius was also a multi-instrumentalist (contributing drums, steel pan, and mandocello to the latest recording sessions), a gifted composer (eventually responsible for some signature Weather Report pieces such as «Teen Town» and «Three Views of a Secret»), and a useful production foil for Zawinul due to his knowledge of recording studios and techniques. Finally, Pastorius’ stagecraft and aggressive showmanship helped the band to bring in a new audience.
The band’s next album was 1977’s acclaimed Heavy Weather, which proved to be the band’s most successful recording in terms of sales, while still retaining wide critical acclaim. It contained the band’s biggest hit, the propulsive and danceable «Birdland» (highlighting Pastorius’ singing bass lines and Zawinul’s synthesized ensemble brass), which became a pop hit and later became a jazz standard. Weather Report appeared on the Burt Sugarman-produced series The Midnight Special, performing both «Birdland» and «Teen Town». Heavy Weatherdominated Weather Report’s disc awards, including their last Down Beat Album of the Year award.
During this period, Pastorius’ strong professional connection with Joni Mitchell (for whom he played bass throughout the latter half of the 1970s) led to another musical connection. Over the next few years, Mitchell hired the Weather Report line-up en masse (although without Zawinul in each case) to play on her studio albums Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter (1977) and Mingus (1979).
By 1978, the band was once again without either a full-time drummer and percussionist, with Alex Acuña having returned to Las Vegas for a career as a studio musician and Manolo Badrena having been fired for «non-musical reasons». Shorter had been focusing most of his attention and compositional ideas into his solo work, while Zawinul was sketching out ideas for a solo album of his own, which involved moving away from a raw group sound in favor of constructing a far more orchestrated and experimental studio-based recording with multiple overdubs. However, Weather Report’s contract and work schedule required another album, so Zawinul’s solo work was absorbed into what became Weather Report’s eighth album, Mr. Gone (1978).
The studio sessions made use of a variety of drummers – Pastorius played the kit on two tracks and further contributions came from Tony Williams, Steve Gadd, and Peter Erskine (the latter an ex-Stan Kenton/Maynard Ferguson drummer recruited to the project by Pastorius). Erskine became a full member of the band for the next tour and remained with Weather Report until 1982. The album also featured vocal contributions from Deniece Williams and Earth Wind and Fire leader Maurice White.
Notoriously, Mr. Gone (1978) received only a one-star review rating from Down Beat after a string of group releases, which had all pulled a five-star rating. The group arranged for a rebuttal interview with the magazine to defend their efforts. Zawinul and Pastorius were defiant in their responses to the interviewer, Shorter more philosophical, and Erskine the most reticent of the four.
Rock star jazz tours
By the late ’70s, Weather Report was a quartet of Zawinul, Shorter, Pastorius, and Erskine, and (for the first time) had dispensed with the auxiliary percussionist role, which had been integral since the band’s inception. Instead, all four members doubled on percussion at various points in live performances. Zawinul commented that this sleeker, less crowded sound provided more listening range and made the music less chaotic now that the band were focusing more on melody and harmony.
The larger scale and multimedia staging of the band’s tours (complete with stagehands, laser and film projections) began to take on the kind of rock-star proportions mostly unknown in jazz circles. The 1979 double live album 8:30 (which won that year’s Best Jazz Fusion Performance) was recorded on the Mr. Gone tour and captured the direct power and energy of this lineup of Weather Report. Zawinul would later describe this lineup as «one of the greatest bands of all time! That band was ahummer!»
Between March 2 and 4, 1979, Weather Report traveled to Havana, Cuba, to participate in the historic Havana Jam festival, a break in mutual Cuban/American political hostilities, which had American artists such as Stephen Stills, the CBS Jazz All-Stars, Bonnie Bramlett, Kris Kristofferson, Rita Coolidge, and Billy Joel play alongside Cuban artists such as Irakere, Pacho Alonso, Tata Güines, and Orquesta Aragón. Another featured performance was by the Trio of Doom (an ill-fated attempt due to Pastorius’ substance abuse while playing alongside John McLaughlin and Tony Williams). Weather Report’s performance featured in Havana Jam ’79,Ernesto Juan Castellanos’ documentary celebrating the event.
During the year’s touring, Shorter began to feel sidelined by the current Weather Report’s aggressive drive and the sometimes overly macho musical interplay between Pastorius and Zawinul, which on at least one occasion squeezed him out of band performance. At one point, he claimed to a journalist that he would be leaving the band within a few months. In the event, Shorter resolved his major differences with his bandmates – but the near-split appeared to inform Weather Report’s next development, which was a step back towards a purer jazz approach.
Night Passage (1980) and Weather Report (1982)
At the beginning of 1980, Pastorius recruited hand-drummer Bobby Thomas, Jr. (a fellow Floridan, with whom he had jammed previously) into the band. Thomas featured on 1980s Night Passage album. A tighter and more traditional recording than previous releases, the record featured a more prominent role for Shorter, a strong element of bebop, and a nod to jazz’s golden age via a high-speed cover ofDuke Ellington’s «Rockin’ in Rhythm» (showing off Zawinul’s pioneering and ever-increasing ability to create synthetic big-band sounds on his synthesizers).
By now, Pastorius was displaying signs of the mental instability and substance abuse problems, which ultimately wrecked his career, and the close relationship between Zawinul and him was becoming strained, as Zawinul tired of Pastorius’ showmanship onstage (beginning to feel that it detracted from the music). Towards the end of the year, Pastorius began working on his long-delayed second solo album (Word of Mouth) (1981) in New York, while Zawinul worked on new Weather Report material in California.
Weather Report’s next album Weather Report (1982) – their second eponymous release following their 1971 debut – was recorded in 1981, although it was not released for another year. Zawinul’s dominance as instrumentalist and composer (as well as group director) was even more pronounced on this album. Much of the band’s music was increasingly written out rather than improvised.
In the event, Pastorius spent more of his creative attention on the Word of Mouth project, with his only writing for the Weather Report album being his contribution to a single group-composed piece. Shorter (who only contributed one whole composition to the 1982 album beyond group-written work) was already taking a more philosophical approach. He later commented, «for a long time in Weather Report, I abstained. I elected not to do things.»
Departure of Pastorius, Erskine, and Thomas
The delay in releasing the 1982 Weather Report album had the side effect of breaking up the current line-up of the band. By late 1981, Pastorius was putting together the Word of Mouth Big Band (which included Erskine) for concert dates in Japan, on the assumption that 1982 would be a Weather Report rest year. However, previously canceled tour dates had left the band open to potentially crippling lawsuits and an obligation to play replacement concerts.
When scheduled, these clashed with the Word of Mouth concerts and led to Pastorius leaving Weather Report, albeit relatively amicably. As Zawinul put it, «We had no choice. We had to find another bass player… Basically, Jaco went his way and we had to go ours.» Erskine’s own commitment to Word of Mouth (and a subsequent summer commitment to Steps Ahead) meant that he, too, had to be replaced, while Robert Thomas, Jr., was simply dismissed. Down to a duo and with tour commitments looming, Zawinul and Shorter were obliged to quickly assemble a new band.
Recruiting a new band
On the recommendation of Michał Urbaniak, Zawinul and Shorter recruited the 23-year-old drummer Omar Hakim, a talented session player and multi-instrumentalist, who had played with a variety of musicians (including Mike Mainieri, David Bowie, and Carly Simon). Hakim was immediately entrusted with recruiting the rest of the new rhythm section. Having failed to secure Marcus Miller as bass guitarist, he selected Victor Bailey (a recent graduate from the Berklee College of Music, with whom Hakim had played while backing Miriam Makeba). Hakim also recruited percussion/concertina player José Rossy, with whom he had worked in Labelle.
The new Weather Report went straight onto tour. The music developed on tour was later recorded for the 1983 album Procession, which showed the band beginning to make something of a return to the «world music», which it had pioneered in the mid-1970s, and featured a cameo appearance from The Manhattan Transfer.
Continuing with the same lineup, Weather Report recorded the Domino Theory album in 1984, with Hakim stepping into Jaco Pastorius’ old role as Zawinul’s co-producer. The album was Weather Report’s first album to employ drum machines and samplers (the Emulator), furthering developing the band’s involvement with technology, and also featured a guest vocal from Carl Anderson. The band was beginning to suffer from the revival of more traditionally styled jazz at the time, which made it harder to market jazz fusion.
Percussionist and singer Mino Cinélu replaced Rossy in the spring of 1984 and appeared on the band’s video release Live in Japan (reissued on DVD in 2007). The same lineup played on 1985’s Sportin’ Life album, which included a cover of Marvin Gaye’s «What’s Going On» and appearances by Bobby McFerrin and Carl Anderson. In keeping with Zawinul’s technological curiosity, the album heralded the arrival of MIDI, which allowed him to rapidly and inexpensively write, demonstrate, and record music via a set of synthesizers.
By the time of the album’s release, Shorter and Zawinul had opted not to tour the material. Instead, they took a break for long-delayed solo projects. The principals claimed that the band was still together (despite Hakim’s involvement with Sting’s band and Bailey’s with Steps Ahead), but Weather Report’s contract with Columbia Records had just expired, leaving both parties open to other options.
Despite Zawinul and Shorter’s claims, both were finding that the refreshing nature of other projects was more satisfying and generally felt that the band had run its course. However, Columbia Records was contractually owed one more Weather Report record, resulting in the 1986 creation of This Is This!.
In comparison to previous records, This Is This! was assembled during gaps in various players’ schedules. With Hakim now too busy with Sting to play on more than one of the album’s tracks, Zawinul recruited Peter Erskine to play the rest. Cinelu and Bailey were both flown in for a few days to record, and contributed one composition each, with the remainder being written by Zawinul.
Shorter spent little more time on the project than Bailey or Cinelu, contributed no compositions at all, and was not even present on many of the album’s tracks. Zawinul instead brought in guitarist Carlos Santana to contribute.
Split and Weather Update
In February 1986, the San Diego Union-Tribune announced that Shorter had left the band to concentrate on solo work.
Having reluctantly agreed with Shorter that he would no longer use the band name, Zawinul attempted to reform the Sportin’ Life lineup (minus Shorter but plus guitarist John Scofield, and with Peter Erskine again replacing Hakim) under the new name Weather Update. Guitarist Steve Khan and former Weather Report percussionist Robert Thomas, Jr., replaced Scofield and Cinelu, respectively, before this band appeared onstage. Weather Update toured before Zawinul dissolved the band in 1987. Zawinul went on to form the world music/jazz ensemble Zawinul Syndicate.
Releases since the band’s breakup
In spite of the band’s continued popularity, a Weather Report reunion never occurred. The nearest that the band ever came to reuniting was when Zawinul and Shorter both played live with Miles Davis on July 10, 1991, in Paris (the only time when Zawinul is known to have shared a live stage with Davis). A projected mid-’90s reunion CD for Verve never materialized; according to Zawinul, disappointing sales for Shorter’s CD High Life may have played a part in ending the idea.
A «post band» Weather Report double CD called Live and Unreleased was made available in 2002, featuring vintage live recordings made during the late 1970s/early 1980s with various personnel. In September 2006, Columbia/Legacy released a Weather Report boxed set, Forecast: Tomorrow. It includes three CDs of mostly previously released material (from 1970 to 1985, excluding This is This!) and a DVD of the entire September 29, 1978, performance (with Erskine and Pastorius) in Offenbach, Germany, not previously available. A DVD video of the 1976 Montreux Jazz Festival performance (featuring the Heavy Weather lineup of Pastorius, Acuna, and Badrena) has become available, as well. Columbia/Legacy have also re-released the 1984 Live in Japan concert on DVD.
Zawinul died on September 11, 2007, in Vienna from skin cancer (Merkel cell carcinoma). Before that, the mid-period bass player Jaco Pastorius died on September 21, 1987, following a fatal beating in his hometown of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
In 2011, the Zawinul estate, in conjunction with an independent label, released a 40th-anniversary commemorative trilogy of previously unavailable Weather Report live shows: In March Live in Berlin 1975 was released both on vinyl and as a CD/DVD set; in June the Live in Offenbach 1978 DVD was re-released together with a previously unavailable double CD of the complete show; in October Live in Cologne 1983 was released as both DVD and double CD.