Weather Report was among the earliest and most influential of all jazz-rock bands. The original unit was co-founded by Wayne Shorter (saxophone) and Josef Zawinul (keyboards) in 1970, and they remained the core nucleus with side-men coming and going.
Shorter and Zawinul (who had emigrated to the United States in 1959) had learned from years of playing with Miles Davis how to combine rock energy, funk rhythms and a jazz sensibility.
Their early line-up included bassist Miroslav Vitous and drummer Alphonze Mouzon, and their self-titled debut album and its follow-up, I Sing The Body Electric, remain seminal jazz-rock classics.
Even as they began the game of rotating personnel that would continue until they disbanded in 1986, they continued making intriguing releases into the early ’80s.
Dom Um Romao, Eric Gravitt, and Alphonso Johnson were in the band during the mid-’70s, but its greatest line-up was the late ’70s contingent that included Jaco Pastorius (pictured below) and Peter Erskine. These were virtuosos on their instruments and Pastorius revolutionised jazz-rock bass playing.
The last great Weather Report albums were issued by this group, among them Black Market, Heavy Weather (1977) and Mr Gone.
But things deteriorated when Pastorius, then Erskine left in the early 80s. Their replacements, Victor Bailey and Omar Hakim were excellent musicians, but neither the flamboyant soloists nor imaginative thinkers of their predecessors.
Shorter and Zawinul also began to coast and grew tired of working in the group concept.
The final albums were the detached, polished and extremely professional output of topflight musicians anxious to finish the gig and move on.
Percussionists Jose Rossey, then Mino Cineliu, were in and out of the band, and Erskine returned from Steps Ahead for their final dates. Shorter first took an extended leave of absence, then he and Zawinul called it quits
Pastorius died on 21 September 1987 after receiving severe head injuries on 11 September in a violent confrontation with a nightclub bouncer in Florida.