This double-CD has 24 different groups of fusion musicians (including some from Europe) paying tribute to Weather Report. Despite the personnel and often the instrumentation changing from track to track, there is a unity to the project and many of the bands sound quite a bit like Weather Report, either purposely as part of the tribute or naturally. The programming is somewhat random and the bands bring back the sound, grooves, and spirits of Weather Report rather than necessarily always sticking to their compositions. All in all, this is a heartfelt and very well-played tribute that can also serve as an introduction to a cross-section of some of today's top fusion musicians, many of whom are not household names yet.
Weather Report is generally regarded as the greatest jazz fusion band of all time, with the biggest jazz hit ("Birdland") from the best jazz fusion album (1977's Heavy Weather). But the group's studio mastery sometimes overshadows the fact that it was also a live juggernaut – so don't overlook the outstanding live and studio album from 1979, 8:30. This was a rare quartet version of Weather Report, with co-leaders in keyboardist Joe Zawinul and saxophonist Wayne Shorter. The bassist was the inimitable Jaco Pastorius, the drummer a young Peter Erskine. Pastorius is otherworldly on early gems like "Black Market," the breakneck "Teen Town," and his solo showcase, "Slang" (in which he quotes Jimi Hendrix's "Third Stone from the Sun"). Shorter is most involved on the CD's slower pieces like "A Remark You Made," "In a Silent Way," and his own solo piece, "Thanks for the Memory"; Zawinul and Erskine shine on the swinging version of "Birdland" and roller coaster ride of the "Badia/Boogie Woogie Waltz" medley. Four studio tracks (composing what was side four of the original album version) close 8:30 with a flourish – and some surprises.
Weather Report's biggest-selling album is that ideal thing, a popular and artistic success – and for the same reasons. For one thing, Joe Zawinul revealed an unexpectedly potent commercial streak for the first time since his Cannonball Adderley days, contributing what has become a perennial hit, "Birdland." Indeed, "Birdland" is a remarkable bit of record-making, a unified, ever-developing piece of music that evokes, without in any way imitating, a joyous evening on 52nd St. with a big band. The other factor is the full emergence of Jaco Pastorius as a co-leader; his dancing, staccato bass lifting itself out of the bass range as a third melodic voice, completely dominating his own ingenious "Teen Town" (where he also plays drums!). By now, Zawinul has become WR's de facto commander in the studio; his colorful synthesizers dictate the textures, his conceptions are carefully planned, with little of the freewheeling improvisation of only five years before. Wayne Shorter's saxophones are now reticent, if always eloquent, beams of light in Zawinul's general scheme while Alex Acuña shifts ably over to the drums and Manolo Badrena handles the percussion.
Nowhere To Hide became a concept - the record was recorded live in single takes, played together by the musicians in the same room. The only instruments involved were voices, a grand piano, acoustic guitars and dobro. The release features fan favorites spanning Alexander's entire nine album career, as well as covers of Bread's "Everything I Own" and Stephin Merritt's "Book Of Love."