Weather Report - Black Market (1976)

Posted by Amelia Swhizzagers On 7:06 AM

Weather Report's second "phase" (1973-76) established its (now famous) sound, variously characterized by:
1. Mysterious and ethereal compositions
2. Funky rhythm & blues "grooves"
3. Elaborate electronic textures
4. Virtuoso supporting musicians
5. Influence of diverse musical cultures

"BLACK MARKET" (1976) evinces a maturity of approach, the band consolidating artistic gains from previous years by constructing a unified group of suite-like musical landscapes that draw on elements of jazz, funk and "world music".

The opener ( "Black Market" ), with its infectious melodic "hook", radiates a positive, life-affirming warmth (nice solos and firm, funky rhythmic support) while the closing moments provide a sobering contrast: synthesized imitations of gun and artillery fire reflecting the tragedy of strife endemic (then and now) in many parts of the war-torn "third world".

"Cannonball" is a tribute to (then recently deceased) Julian Adderley, the famous alto saxophonist/bandleader who was Joe Zawinul's former employer. The tune, while pleasant enough, is somewhat lightweight: its streamlined style and overtly sentimental melody presage similar material to follow on their next ( and most famous ) album "Heavy Weather" ( note that Jaco Pastorius' recorded debut with WR took place on "Cannonball" ).

"Gibraltar" opens to sounds of the portside city (waves & foghorns) and softly evocative soprano sax before giving way to a prototypical Weather Report groove superbly laid down by bassist Alphonso Johnson.

Wayne Shorter's "Elegant People" is one of the perennial Weather Report favorites with its feeling of romantic intrigue and flamenco influenced (Phrygian) cadences (yet another infectious thematic "hook" and some impassioned tenor sax by Shorter).

The other Shorter tune on the album ("Three Clowns") is a bizarre "funhouse" ballad, with the composer playing a synthesized wind instrument ("Lyricon").

The final two pieces are both composed by bassists:

Jaco Pastorius' "Barbary Coast" is a brief, funky and somewhat meandering piece.

Alphonso Johnson's "Herandnu" is an interesting tune; a rolling, calliope-sounding theme in alternating time signatures morphing into an up-tempo fusion feature for some keyboard improv by Zawinul (who paraphrases his own "Black Market" at one point). The theme briefly returns before the ghostly eeriness of a 45 second coda.

"BLACK MARKET" was the summation of a musical path established in the 3 preceding albums, which while exhibiting many traits from the previous period also pointed towards the more streamlined direction they would take in their most popular phase (w/ Jaco Pastorius as a dynamic influence). While the group recorded a lot of good music and gained a much-deserved fame in the following years, the 4 albums Weather Report recorded from 1973 to 1976 stand as their most consistently creative efforts.
By Ian K Hughes
1. Black Market 6:32 $0.99
2. Cannon Ball 4:40 $0.99
3. Gibraltar 7:49 $0.99
4. Elegant People 5:03 $0.99
5. Three Clowns 3:27 $0.99
6. Barbary Coast 3:10 $0.99
7. Herandu

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