started out as a jazz equivalent of what the rock world in 1970 was calling a "supergroup." But unlike most of the rock supergroups, this one not only kept going for a good 15 years, it more than lived up to its billing, practically defining the state of the jazz-rock art throughout almost all of its run.
also anticipated and contributed to the North American interest in world music rhythms and structures, prodded by keyboardist/co-founder
, like many of jazz's great long-lived groups, proved to be an incubator for several future leaders who passed in and out of the band in a never-ending series of revolving-door personnel changes. The original members of the band were
remaining in place throughout the band's lifespan.
all had experience playing in and influencing the studio and live electric bands of
period, with free-floating collective improvisation and interplay, combining elements of jazz, rock, funk, Latin and other ethnic musics.
With the release of Sweetnighter
in 1972, Zawinul
's influence upon the band's direction began to deepen; the groove became more important, structures were imposed upon the material (though the group continued its freewheeling interplay in live gigs). When the innovative bassist Jaco Pastorius
replaced Alphonso Johnson
in 1976, WR
entered its most popular phase, with Pastorius
becoming a flamboyant third lead voice, Shorter
's sax receding into more epigrammatic form, and Zawinul
rediscovering his commercial touch and sharpening his electronic sophistication. The best-selling Heavy Weather
album (1977) actually served up a hit song that became a jazz standard ("Birdland"), and with the entry of Peter Erskine
on drums (1978), the group finally had a stable lineup for awhile.
Contrary to accepted wisdom, the departures of Pastorius
(who died tragically from injuries sustained in a beating in 1987) and Erskine
in 1982 led to a recharging of WR
's batteries; their replacements Victor Bailey
(bass), Omar Hakim
(drums), Jose Rossy
and later, Mino Cinelu
(percussion) were more amenable to Zawinul
's deepening inclinations for Third World rhythms, sounds and textures. This edition of WR
rattled off three more albums, including the outstanding Procession
. But Shorter
, who had gradually ceded nearly total artistic control to Zawinul
, was getting restless; he took a leave of absence in 1985 and later that year, left WR
for good. This Is This
(1985), in which Erskine
returns and Shorter
plays only a limited role, was WR
's swan song. Zawinul
would tour in 1986 with a revamped version called Weather Update
(a prelude to the keyboardist's own Zawinul Syndicate
), and there was talk in 1996 about Zawinul
reuniting in the studio for a new edition of WR
, but Zawinul
later deflated the speculation.
Although a Weather Report
reunion failed to materialize, many of the group's core members stayed busy. Zawinul
continued to perform and record up until his death from a rare form of skin cancer in 2011 at age 75. Shorter
also remained active, forming a highly lauded acoustic outfit with pianist Danilo Perez in the 2000s and receiving a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014. In 2015, drummer Erskine
was integral in producing the four-disc Weather Report
box set The Legendary Live Tapes, 1978-81, which featured previously unreleased concert recordings.