Most of the original albums of the renowned jazz fusion band of the 1970s and early ‘80s were masterpiece amalgams of great playing and studio wizardry, but this was also a great live band. This four-disc package makes public what previously only listeners like drummer Peter Erskine could hear on his precious cassette recordings of their concerts.
The quartet of keyboardist Joe Zawinul, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, electric bassist Jaco Pastorius and Erskine was probably the most stable of the band’s many line-ups, and it’s heard as a quartet on two of these discs, the other two adding Robert Thomas Jr on hand drums. The recording sources vary from official sound desk to “someone in the audience” so although the sound quality is not consistently excellent the music is always glorious.
In addition to live work-outs on loads for WR favourites from throughout their discography, including Brown Street, Three Views Of A Secret, Badia/Boogie Woogie Waltz, Birdland, A Remark You Made, Fast City, Night Passage, Elegant People, Scarlet Woman and Black Market, there are also fine solo performances, and a particularly entertaining Zawinul/Shorter duet which draws on Gershwin and Ellington.
Is it worth having live versions of the studio tracks we so know and love – in this instance, oh yes. These peformances are filled with energy and invention, all the musicians happy to take risks, the reworkings of the familiar songs adding new insights along the way. These tapes were legendary for a reason!
There are excellent liner notes by Erskine.
At this time of the year when Christmas gifts are being bought, this would be a most welcome be-ribbboned package for many jazz fans to find under the tree.
Categories: CD review