Miroslav Vitous ‘Music of Weather Report’ (ECM) 3/5

miroslav-vitousA co-founder of Weather Report and integral band member in the early years, Czech bassist Miroslav Vitous revisits the band’s repertoire in a significantly freer vein with layered moog synthesizers dominating proceedings and something of a ‘Bitches Brew’ era to the overall feel. Vitous double up on acoustic bass and keyboards with the interesting use of two drummers in Gerald Cleaver and Nasheet Waits, though in truth their presence is under-utilised. The music works best when the moog is put to one side and electric piano and fender combine with acoustic bass and drums as on ‘Scarlet woman variations’ where the sweet soprano saxophone (another tandem of soprano and tenor saxophones between Roberto Bonisolo and Gary Campbell) and bass combine to excellent effect, or on the dense layered ‘Morning lake’ with Miles-infused muted harmon trumpet, lyrical soprano and bass. This piece has in fact previously been recorded by Vitous on ECM with a trio version on the 1981 album ‘To be continued’. When the moog is in the ascendancy, however, the music itself gets lost somewhat and this is certainly the case for ‘Birdland variations’ where only the chorus is recognisable, and the bass soloing is a little tedious in parts. Oriental motifs are evident on ‘Seventh Arrow’ and that realisation should come as little surprise since the piece came about while Weather Report were recording a live album in Tokyo in 1972.

Long-time fans of Weather Report may be frustrated at the omnipresent use of moog and this does tend to hinder the listener’s enjoyment of the musical grooves for which the band were rightly famous. That said, the music here is in keeping with the more experimental side to the early 1970s Weather Report albums and it may be this aspect that Miroslav Vitous himself wished to conjure up. Excellent in brief passages, but overall something of a disappointment to this writer.

Tim Stenhouse