So synonymous has Pastorious’ name become with the jazz-rock behemoth that was Weather Report that it can be easy to forget that it was Czech bassist Vitous who co-founded the group with Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter, and played in it until 1974, when Alphonso Johnson took over, with Pastorius becoming a fixture from 1976 onwards.
This new album – Vitous’ re-imagining of some of the group’s greatest tracks – serves to remind the listener of two things: that, in his early 60’s, when this album was recorded (he is now 68), Vitous’ creative juices still run freely. And that Weather Report created some memorable melodies.
Tracking them down, however, is part of the fun of this album.
The listener will not encounter a familiar Weather Report sound. This is because the line-up of players on this album and the recording technique used creates an unsettling, but compelling, reinterpretation of it which is opaque and demands an open ear.
Two drums, two saxes, two speakers – that’s the trick which let’s this album punch upwards. Recorded in the left channel, sax player Gary Campbell and drummer Gerald Cleaver. On the right sits tenor and soprano player Roberto Bonisolo and the other drummer, Nasheet Waits. In the middle sits Vitous with keyboardist Aydin Esen.
What does this do? It allows the group to throw each element of the tune up in the air and then re-order it, change the time signature – such as with one drummer playing 3/4, the other 4/4 – or even re-phrase certain parts. In a sense, they have been given a licence to partake fully in the expressive, “spontaneous arranging-in-the-moment” that was the hallmark of Weather Report.