Culled by producer Bob Belden, the 37 tracks on this beautifully programmed three-CD box set provide an informed chronological overview of Weather Report’s output from its cusp-of-the-‘70s prehistory through its final salvo in 1986, showing that even two decades later after co-founders Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter went their separate ways, the group remains, as Belden puts it in his excellent booklet introduction, “a travel agent for the imaginative mind.”
As opposed to the 2002 issue Live and Unreleased,
which featured two CDs of never-released live performances that offered a new angle on what Weather Report was about, the only pieces on Forecast: Tomorrow
with which devotees will be unfamiliar are a 13-minute version of Shorter’s “Nubian Sundance,” taken off a Chicago mix board in 1974 and propelled by ebullient, relentless funk grooves from bassist Alphonso Johnson; a heated reprise of Zawinul’s “Directions,” which debuted in spacier form on the Miles Davis Ur-fusion date, Bitches Brew;
and an unedited version of Shorter’s “Eurydice,” from Weather Report’s eponymous first album. But both the album’s title and its final track -- a DJ Logic remix of “125th Street Congress,” on which, Zawinul claims, the root beat structure of hip-hop first appeared -- symbolize the forward-looking nature of this collection. Members of the two generations that have come of age since the group disbanded will find the one-world, genre-blending aesthetic conveyed in the compositions of Zawinul and Shorter and the pan-diasporic grooves articulated by their iconically brilliant rhythm sections -- the bassists are Miroslav Vitous, Johnson, Jaco Pastorius and Victor Bailey, and the trap drummers include Alphone Mouzon, Eric Gravatt, Ndugu Chancler, Chester Thompson, Alex Acuna, Peter Erskine, and Omar Hakim -- to be directly in line with the sound of much 21st-century jazz.
This should not be surprising, because so much of today’s music descends lineally from language that Weather Report developed. A host of under-45 musicians from around the globe take Shorter’s harmonic poetry and long-form strategies (“Tears,” “Blackthorn Rose,” “Three Clowns,” “Palladium,” “Port of Entry,” “Plaza Real,” “Predator,” “Face on the Barroom Floor”) and Zawinul’s electronic, evocatively voiced narratives (“Orange Lady,” “Unknown Soldier,” “Badia,” “Cannon Ball,” “Black Market,” “Pursuit of the Woman with the Feathered Hat,” “Dream Clock,” “Procession,” “Indiscretions”) as points of departure for their own inventions. Not to mention such hits -- and hits they were -- as Zawinul’s “Birdland” and Pastorius’ “Three Views of a Secret” and “Havona.”
The significant value-added for those familiar with this oeuvre is a DVD of a two-hour 1978 concert in Germany that features the Zawinul-Shorter-Pastorius-Erskine iteration at a creative peak. Hal Miller’s blow-by-blow notes, if slightly hyperbolic, include interviews with all the main surviving protagonists and evoke the impact of this jazz supergroup on the ‘70s-‘80s zeitgeist.