Picks and Pans Review: Night Passage
Even in its second decade, Weather Report still keeps turning jazz-rock in its hands like a tiny diamond and discovering new facets. Less incendiary than, say, 1977's Heavy Weather, Night Passage is a collection of introspections and oblique, skittering statements, emanating mostly from the group's de facto leader, keyboardist Joe Zawinul. Very few artists can program a synthesizer as meaningfully and economically as Zawinul, though there is a disturbing coolness to his writing—a sidelong, guarded quality. Even in the fast tunes, the sense of excitement often seems strangely disembodied, conveying no real emotional heat. Zawinul's slower Dream Clock, however, is a fascinating musical metaphor, full of shifting textures. Bassist Jaco Pastorius' Three Views of a Secret is much less sophisticated, but it is lovely and sentimental in a way Zawinul's ingenious designs are not. The saving grace, of course, is that both personalities can thrive in the same band, which is what makes Weather Report so long-lived as well as listenable.
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