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Weather Report - Black Market CD (album) cover

BLACK MARKET

Weather Report

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.02 | 252 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

R-A-N-M-A
4 stars Black Market's well known successor Heavy Weather tends to get all the love in more mainstream musical circles. My first introduction to the band was definitely through it. Largely on account of it being billed has a high watermark in the history of jazz fusion. I am inclined to believe that this rests primarily on the shoulders of its admittedly pitch perfect ringer, Birdland and to a lesser extent Palladium and Teen Town. It's a fine place to start but it most certainly is not the place to finish your exploration of the fabulously talented Weather Report.

For my next venture into the band, I decided to take one step back to Black Market. It may be a step back in time, but in my opinion it is a big step forward musically. Zwainul's three writer's credits which lead off the album flow seamlessly from one into the next in a way that Heavy Weather simply cannot match. Individually they are not quite as strong as Birdland, taken as a group however this threesome's considerably funkier slow burn is preferable to the all at once conflagration. The remainder of the album is not quite as solid as the anchor, but it still handily beats the balance of tracks on Heavy Weather.

Let's bust it down track by track. First up is the world influenced and masterfully funky Black Market. After the chattering of market goers, the beats start pounding and Zwainul's incredibly smooth keyboard playing slides in to take control. From there the tempo and the variety of sounds both gradually pick up until around the two and a half minute mark when the constantly crashing cymbals are forming the foundation for a series incredibly colourful displays by the Zwainul and horn section. I'll issue a small disclaimer. If you are not a fan of the sax as I know some aren't you may not be in luck. The volume and pace gradually settles down and the piece closes to the sound of artillery going off to complete the third world imagery. There is a tonne of variety to this piece. If you are at curious about it I highly recommend checking out here on PA.

Keeping with the more or less sombre close out to Black Market; Cannonball beings in an even more comatose state. Underneath the soft keyboards, the quiet but active drumming foretells the coming action. At about the two minute mark the calm veneer begins to strip away in favour of some exploratory jazz rock. My only regret on Cannonball is that the drums are never given the front seat that they richly deserve. It is hard to argue with the great keyboard playing though. As abruptly as it came, the action departs around the three and a half minute mark for an extended fade out. Not quite as strong as the leading track, but still well worth it.

After the mostly calm of Cannonball we make our way to the apparently jazzy shores of Gibraltar. Water effects and fog horns lead into another soft intro for the longest piece on the album. This is progressive rock and this site wouldn't stand for it if it didn't progress. Things take an abrupt jump in intensity for another primarily keyboard driven jazz cruise at about one minute in. The intensity stays about constant with some continually more impressive keyboard work backed by strong drum work from Chester Thompson. My favourite part of this extended riffing comes at around five and a half minutes in, when Zwainul lays down some very funky scales. They make another brief appearance during some hot sax work at the end of the track. Another great feature of this track is the withered sounding keyboard which appears sprinkled throughout. It's a step up from Cannonball, but not quite as good as Black Market.

At this point, the song writing unfortunately passes out of the exceeding capable hands to make a tour of the rest of the band. The songs are still strong, but they seem to lack the "Je ne sais quoi" of the first three tracks. Elegant People has dropped some, but not all of the world music influences for a more cosmopolitan feel; perhaps largely due to the clear crisp sax work which is front and centre. It starts its life as one of the more laid back tracks on the album only to follow in the footsteps of Cannonball and reveal itself to be surprisingly energetic.

The low point of Black Market is Three Clowns. These three Clowns must be quite tragic characters. Their piece is mostly quite sparse and subdued. Flashes of synthesizer come in over an otherwise barren landscape consisting of scattered landscape of dissonant drum strikes and piano keys. It feels out of place on an otherwise exciting album. It also happens to almost be the shortest piece on the album and it's quickly forgotten as Jaco's first showpiece comes up.

Barbary Coast is sonically not quite like anything else on the album. The bass has been somewhat of a non-entity up to that point. It comes in thick and funky right out of the train tunnel. The rest of the band is good, but it's just so much diversion when placed overtop such fascinating bass playing. It is the shortest track and its sort of comes off as "Hi, my names Jaco and I play the bass." It's good but not really a highlight of the album.

Rounding out the album is Herandu, which is probably my pick for the top non-Zwainul track. For the most part it's a lower key high energy grind. Despite not being a Zwainul track, his thick sound is king on Herandu. While not quite as tight as Gibraltar or Black Market it makes for an excellent full band effort and closing the album on a strong note. These plenty of stylistic change ups as well; making for perhaps the most progressive piece on the album as well.

Black Market is a diverse album, probably largely owing to the wide array of instruments, musicians and composers. The line up is hardly the same from track to track. I would easily recommend it for anyone curious about what jazz fusion has to offer. It isn't a perfect album, but it's funky and intelligent. It would make excellent addition to any progressive music collection. A strong four stars out of a possible five for Black market.

R-A-N-M-A | 4/5 |

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