Weather Report / “The Man in the Green Shirt” / (Tale Spinnin, 1975)
(Press Above / Read Below)
The review from All Music noted wrote about this album. “The ever-changing lineup shifts again, with the somewhat heavier funk-oriented Leon ‘Ndugu’ Chancler dropping into the drummer’s chair and Alyrio Lima taking over the percussion table. As a result, Tale Spinnin‘ has a weightier feel than Mysterious Traveller, while continuing the latter’s explorations in Latin-spiced electric jazz/funk. Zawinul’s pioneering interest in what we now call world music is more in evidence with the African percussion, wordless vocals, and sandy sound effects of “Badia,” and his synthesizer sophistication is growing along with the available technology. Wayne Shorter’s work on soprano sax is more animated than on the previous two albums and Alphnonso Johnson puts his melodic bass more to the fore. While not quite as inventive as its two predecessors, this remains an absorbing extension of Weather Report’s mid-’70s direction.”
Perhaps I will sit down and write a review of the album when I relisten to it again. But “The Man in the Green Shirt” is reason enough to purchase the 1975 album Tale Spinnin’. It represents some of the last years of powerful, spiritual jazz (perhaps with Tyner at the center of it all) before jazz became “smooth” and programmed for the masses. Around the Bay Area they called it “Chardonnay Jazz” that meant private concerts up in the wineries and heavy airplay over the new radio streaming services just beginning in radio. KRE in Berkeley was taken over and became KBLX-FM. The station’s new buzz word was the “quiet storm” as smooth-talking new alien voices told listeners over the airwaves in those years.
I was living in the East Bay in Oakland during this time and remember the invasion of this new form of jazz over the airwaves of my favorite station KRE-AM. The mid-70s were the last years when the majestic music of Weather Report dominated the jazz world. I started writing a Jazz Newsletter and building a mailing list for it. Weather Report was one of the inspirations for the Jazz Newsletter.
The 80s, 90s and 2000s never produced music with the power of this 70s jazz revolution led by groups such as McCoy Tyner and Weather Report. Listen to the above. A huge base sound underlays music of the music. This underlaying of the music continues to lift all the music up it seems to me. There is the incredbile rhythm on this album. A new type of rhythm section for Zawinul. The piece seems to move with a certain “majesty” like something grand – a huge old oceanliner or sailing ship. Something great and majestic, going forth into (over?) the world. Today’s music has little (or any) of the grand majesty expressed in this piece. No one seems to believe that a grand majesty might even still be possible and even more beyond belief, that a new grand majesty might come via that art form called music.
I miss a lot of things in our modern world. One of the things I miss the most is the sense of majesty I once felt and how this old feeling is expressed so much in this music. A possibility for a strong, spiritual jazz to move forward into the future. In my mind, it was/is a shame. The only true jazz station that still exisits in American is the final renegades from the old KRE in Berkeley or other mid-70s jazz radio in the Bay Area, KCSM. As I’ve done for years, I stream KCSM live every day for background music to my writing.
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After spending all day booking our trip to California, I settled on a glass of – yes – chardonnay wine – and opened my app that streams KCSM radio. I hadn’t listened to all day so I coiuld focus on making the reservations for the trip. The first song I heard was “The Man in the Green Shirt” and it brought the above memories. It brought back the powerful jazz radio of the 70s when rock mixed with jazz creating a mixture called fusion. Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew was one of the beginnings of this new music but Weather Report explored fusion more than any other band.
As the 70s ended and the 80s began, the new jazz format of smooth, chardonnay jazz infiltrated radio programming and the old KRE radio morphed into the new KBLX-FM. Music from Weather Report got less airplay. It’s good to be able to retrieve a majestic piece of the past again.