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Weather Report - Black Market CD (album) cover

BLACK MARKET

Weather Report

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.95 | 170 ratings

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thehallway
Prog Reviewer
4 stars A delicious slice of ethnic 70s fusion from Zawinul and Shorter, with their ever-changing rhythm section perhaps reaching a peak on this album, introducing bass extraordinaire Jaco Pastorius into the fold and briefly featuring Zappa/Genesis drummer Chester Thompson. The music is mostly quite soft, blending jazz with more of a world style than a rock style. Although most of the tunes are soothing, friendly and accessible, the band do go a bit crazy on occasion, delivering some of their finest moments of group improvisation. In particular, the drumming and percussion on Black Market are extremely virtuosic, bursting with polyrhythms and syncopations, often within quite obscure time signatures.

Zawinul composed the whole first side of the album, which has three pieces characterised by his soft synth melodies and vibrant rhythms. The tribute piece 'Cannonball' is almost a pop ballad without lyrics (I mean that in a good way), while the light, happy title track and more intense 'Gibraltar' contain some fine riffs and solos. The synth patches favoured by everyone during the late 70s do sound a little dated now, and I would have preferred Zawinul to play something a bit more timeless like a Moog, but this is a minor complaint. When these synth tones (which echo what the 80s would sound like) were new, they probably seemed a lot more exciting, but they haven't aged as well as the simple, basic analogue patches used earlier in the decade and in more recent digital music.

Wayne Shorter's sax is not so abundant on this album, but he contributes two compositions, the fairly complex 'Elegant People' and the strange, eerie 'Three Clowns'. The former is another decent fusion track with some interesting timbres going on (Joe even uses a piano! I know! A Piano! How many jazzers used those in 1976????). But the latter song comes from nowhere and goes nowhere really, lacking a beat, any proper melodies or even creating a nice mood. Then, new recruit Pastorius gives us a fine groove in 'Barbary Coast', taking the listener to yet another exotic location by aural means. The closing 'Herandnu' is my favourite, written by the other bass player who would soon leave, Alphonso Johnson. In 11/8 throughout, the piece contains a fantastically sinister groove, where maniacal drumming, squealing sax and dynamic keyboard-playing float around a solid bass line, all bookended by an epic synth motif.

Black Market is clearly a favourite Weather Report album amongst fans, along with it's more successful follow-up, and I am fond of it too. The main draw are the jam-like sections, and when they're good, the melodies. A couple of throwaways and the less-than-pleasant keyboard sounds prevent it from being any kind of masterpiece, but it is a solid and ridiculously well-performed album, which serves as an excellent introduction to the second fertile period of jazz fusion.

thehallway | 4/5 |

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