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Important addition to WR discography,
This review is from: Live In Berlin 1975 (Audio CD)
Since the breakup of this ground-breaking jazz fusion band in 1986, there have only been a small number of additions to its discography, starting with the excellent Live and Unreleased collection in 2002. This is in contrast to the vigorous work rate of the band, which saw it releasing a new studio album in almost every year of its sixteen year existence, along with a couple of live albums which showcased its characteristic powers of improvisation. During that time, the line-up underwent some rapid and extensive changes, with the only fixed points being keyboard player Joe Zawinul and saxophonist Wayne Shorter.
This live date (at Berlin Philharmonie on November 6, 1975) comes from an important line-up which hasn't yet been extensively represented on record: that including Alphonso Johnson (bass), Alex Acuña (perc) and Chester Thompson (drums). In fact, they only played together on a few tracks on the 1976 album Black Market, but that record also saw the first appearance of the unbridled talents of Jaco Pastorius, who was already easing Johnson out of the bass chair.
Hence, the present set shows the band in transition between lengthily imaginative funk jams to more tuneful popular forms (which would see their apotheosis in the following year's Heavy Weather, the band's most successful record). The extended improvisations contain some mysteriously subtle touches - particularly on 'Scarlet Woman', and in the middle of the quiet changeover between 'Badia' and 'Boogie-Woogie Waltz' (a medley which was used to close the band's set for many years). Elsewhere, there are some fierce and pulsating rhythmic interchanges that underpin the soaring improvisations of Zawinul and Shorter (a skill they originally honed together in Miles Davis's In A Silent Way band).
This is a delightful set, which - although on the brief side (four tracks, 41 minutes) - is supplemented with a well-produced DVD of the concert, which gives the viewer a chance to observe the uncanny degree of interplay between these stellar musicians in this important band.