Weather Report’s Birdland and Jazz Fusion

Posted September 18th, 2012 at 12:35 pm (UTC+0)

Heavy Weather

Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – In the early 1970s, jazz fusion gained popularity when American saxophonist Wayne Shorter, Austrian-born keyboard player Joe Zawinul, and Czech bassist Miroslav Vitous formed the jazz band Weather Report.  The group played their hit song “Birdland” live at Stadthalle Offenbach Concert in Germany, in 1978. The jazz-fusion instrumental composition was written by Zawinul using brand new elaborate musical technology that incorporated a Polyphonic synthesizer and new forms of amplification.

“Birdland” debuted in 1977 on the group’s 7th studio album, Heavy Weather. It hit stores a few weeks after the group hired bassist Jaco Pastorius.  The award-winning song became known as a jazz standard, and attracted huge media coverage, propelling Weather Report into fame on the jazz scene. Birdland’s popularity drove other musicians to license it for their set lists, among them: Quincy Jones, Buddy Rich, The Manhattan Transfer, Maynard Ferguson’s big band, and The String Cheese Incident.

In 1994 I profiled Weather Report on my Jazz Club USA show to the Middle East [mp3 here]. I think the group was definitely one of the pre-eminent jazz fusion bands.


Weather Report grouped other acclaimed musicians, including Jaco Pastorius, Victor Bailey, Peter Erskine, Airto Moreira, Omar Hakim, Alphonso Johnson, and Chester Thompson. Through his skills and melodic bass quality, Pastorius helped to further push the group’s popularity. But to many fans’ dismay (including me)  in 1987, Weather Report was no more. The group disbanded.

For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site,

2 responses to “Weather Report’s Birdland and Jazz Fusion”

  1. Celtic John says:

    Fascinating post this. Thanks very much for posting it.



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