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December 11, 1980 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 1980-12-11

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ARTS

The Michigan Daily

Thursday, December 11, 1980

Page 7

Still searchin

Weather Report 's
same new thing

By JERRY BRABENEC
Some records are calculated to take
the world by storm, some to capitalize
on earlier successes, and some are sub-
dued efforts, intended simply to con-,
tinue a style and please established
fans. Some new releases in the latter
category "would include Steely Dan's
Gaucho, Neil Young's new one, and our
subject, Weather Report's Night
Passage.
Weather Report functions these days
in a well defined style that combines
superfast electronic bop, big band bop,
and moody, exotic ballads. This ap-
proach has won. the group a larger
following than they've ever enjoyed,
and the new album continues in the
same vein. The title tune is a relaxed
midtempo number, while "Fast City"
and "Port of Call" are ultrahigh
velocity. "Rockin' in Rhythm" is an
I4llington tune, with Shorter's tenor and
Zawinul's keyboards simulating a big
band's sax section. Milhaud, Gershwin,
and Ellington all influenced the slow
tunes, which, though a little dull and

(quoting Whitman by way of Bradbury)
was ambitious and heavy, but still very
successful-one side of trippy studio
pieces, and the other, excerpts from a
brilliant live recording released in
Japan as a two-record set. Conflicts
between Zawinul and bassist Miroslav
Vituous became evident on the next
album, Sweetnighter. Zawinul brought
in a studio electric bassist to double
Miroslav's acoustic lines and recorded
the band's first="hit," "The Boogie
Woogie Waltz." The move toward a
more popular, funky sound continued
on the next two albums. Mysterious
Traveller is a wonderful space album,'
named after theastronomical flop of
modern times, the comet Kahoutek.
Tale Spinnin' had a Caribbean flavor
and lengthy, thoroughly-composed
arrangements by Zawinul that seemed
quite antithetical to the band's earlier
emphasis on group improvisation.
Then, with Black Market, came the big
break-the arrival of Jaco Pastorius,
the bassist of Zawinul's dreams,
equally adept at feedback Hendrix-.
style lead solos and bop lines like Donna
Lee. Jaco's presence cemented
Zawinul's control of the band, and Shor-
ter receded into the background,
playing note by note lines that Zawinul
had composed earlier on his keyboards.
Columbia had done everything they
could for the band from the start, and
Shorter and Zawinul had credentials
that commanded respect, but now the
band took off. "Birdland," off Heavy
Weather, is one of the great jazz hits of
recent years, a big band tune
hearkening back to Zawinul's early
days with Maynard Ferguson's big
band at the famous New York night
club thattboreaCharlie Parker's name.
Maynard even recorded his own ver-
sion, every bit as exciting as the
original.
That brings us to the present, but the!
band's popular gains represent the
losses of the-cognoscenti, for the band
has lost its sense of adventure. Weather
Report is becoming the Steely Dan of
jazz-competent and. popular but
rather dry. For really prime Weather,
check out the early releases, and par-
ticularly the Japanese live set.

By DENNIS HARVEY
Five years ago, The Hissing of the
Summer Lawns heralded a new direc-
tion for Joni Mitchell, and to most
critics and fans it looked like a misstep.
Ambitious, lurchirigly experimental,
unfocused, definitely trying to get at
something but vaguely unpleasant in
the attempt, Hissing was an intellectual
outsider' s probing reach for jazz-a
query and an appreciation, awfully
serious, mysteriously but very
noticeably lacking the intuitive grasp of
the genre that could have removed its
strain. Joni didn't give up after that fir-
st stumbling probe, abandoning the
delicate reflection of her earlier folk-
based music for more curiously distan-
ced, intelligent explorations into jazz as
musical form, myth and mystery.
Through four albums, chilly critical an
dwindling public response, she's stayed
interesting-even noble-on her con-
stant "safaris to the heart of all that
jazz." But she remains outside looking
in-a very smart white lady trying too
studiously, too abstractly, for
something that continues to elude her.
SHADOWS AND LIGHT, her two-
album live set, condenses Chapter One
of jazzy Joni just as Miles of Aisles in
1974 provided the last (albeit uneven)
word on Joni as an acoustic observer
before the complex pop bridge of Court
and Spark. As a result, it has a thematic
charge, a sense of wholeness, that none
of her post-'74 albums (possibly excep-
ting Hejira) have had. The clutter of
studio effects, all desperately trying to
evoke some lost chord of primitivism, is
gone, and the relative relaxation of the
stage show relieves the material
somewhat. The songs still smack of ar-
ty pretentiousness at times, but the live
setting and the general tautness of her
current band help to deflate the
rhetoric.
NOT COMPLETELY, though. The
ominous rumble of Joni's jazz sound
keeps things all too earthbound, alas,
still shackled to the struggle to be
something when you just want it all to
take off. Shadow and Light works better
than any of Mitchell's other jazz ex-
periments-in other words, the taste of
vague failure goes down more easily
than ever before.
As a lyricist, Joni has become
steadily more impressionistic and
playful, if less compelling. In fact, it's
all too easy to ignore what she's saying
most of the time now, though the sub-
tlety and visual charge of her imagery
is still intriguing on further scrutiny.
She'll probably never be as emotionally

direct as she was during the golden
period of Blue and For the Roses
articulateness is now directed toward
being something of a jazz historian,
with some traces of the old reflec-
tiveness. She recycles and tries to re-
interpret the mythos of urban glamour in
1940's visions of the city's exotic under-
side ("Edith and the Kingpin") and the
musicians she worships ("Goodbye
Porkpie Hat," "Furry Sings the Blues"
and "God Must Be a Boogie Man," all
off the failed Mingus collaboration).
These are, usually, her least appealling
(and now most common) compositions,
interesting on one level as rambling
musical explorations but uninteresting
as songs.
FEW OF MITCHELL'S jazz songs
really stand out from the others
lyrically or musically, and- that's a
major problem-"Coyote" is the only one
that's won any kind of wide recognition,
and typically, that's the only song here
to get more than a fairly subdued
audience response. "Hejira," with its
slowly mounting musical tension
(which doesn't really go anywhere) and

the ear-ballad "Amelia" don't really
come together the way Joni's folk
pieces used to, but they come close
enopgh. Joni's voice has changed a lot
since her folk days, too-once lithe and
wide-eyed, skittering around the upper
registers, she's now a harder-edged,
sometimes harsh stylist, hitting the
right inflections with cool precision.
But she's still no real jazz vocalist; that
voice is still too light, too depthless.
Although it works better at the
playfulness of near-skat (especially on
Court and Spark's ''Twisted"), the in-
cisiveness can get too metallic, as.it
does here on The Dry Cleaner Froth
Des Moines. She probably couldn't
sound convincing on her folk songs
anymore; it's definitely the wrong time
for the one folk revival here, no less
than "Woodstock" (dredged up for the

0a
g inJa
encore, and still in search of a definitive
version), but her delivery-low, cool,
methodical-calculatedly drains
whatever life there is left in it.
. There are, still, moments of real suc-
cess here. "In France They Kiss on
Main Street" loses a few flourishes that
r it had on Hissing of the Summer Lawns,
but it remains a rhapsodic surrender to
romantic conversation, a rush of ec-
static images, and Mitchell's phrasing
grabs its every possibility. ."Shadows
and Light," a murky farewell mass on
the same album, has developed enough
grandeur to be acceptable as a sort of
before-and-after anthem-by now, its
lyrics seem like a dignified answer of
self-defense toward the "critics of all
expression" Mitchell has dealt with
since Hissing's bewildered reception.

zzland
The Persuasions' guest spot is a bit too
conspicuous on that reprise, but perfect
on "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" turned
into a doo-wop riot-it's more fun than
anything else on the set, and fun is what
Mitchell has desperately needed in
most of her jazz experimenting.
Joni Mitchell hasn't gone stale or just*
faded away-how many other circa-
1971 folkies'could claim that?-and her
efforts to grow and change, to get it
right (even if she never goes) remains
admirable. I'll always like her for what
she has done and what she, con-
ceivably, could do in the future, though
hard as I try, I can't really like the
music she's creating now. Shadows and
Light, more than any of her other jazz
works, can be appreciated, but it's still
only halfway to being really enjoyable.

The word's out on campus. ..0
If you want to be in the know, you should
be reading The Daily
. . . the latest in news, sports, les _affaires
acodemiques, and entertainment .. .
CALL 764-0558 to order your subscription today

1
I

THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER
JIMMY STEWART, MARGARET SULLIVAN, FRANK MORGAN. A comedy set
in the romantic Budapest of -times gone by. The benevolent but formal
owner 'of a leather-goods shop is being cuckholded but suspects the
wrong man, an employee who, in fact, is conducting an anonymous lonely
hearts correspondence with another clerk. In their everyday lives these
two keep feuding. Vintage bubbling champagne brewed to perfection by
the magic of Lubitsch. 7:00 & 9:05 tonight at Lorch.
Friday: WUTHERING HEIGHTS with Olivier, Merle Oberon
Saturday: Chaplin's THE GREAT DICTATOR
CINEMA GUILD We're showing through the 20th
DOM HELDER CAMARA
ARCHBISHOP OF OLINDA-RECIFE, BRAZIL
LATIN AMERICA PASTOR & PEACEMAKER
"We can't settle for trivial reformn, we need to build
a complete, humanizing revolution without the
shedding of blood. For all the talk of foreign aid, the
rich are getting richer, while the poor are, getting
poorer every day."
"No Peace Without Development"
FREE PUBLIC LECTURE
Rackham Auditorium, 3:30 Sunday, Dec. 14
Also Workshop/Discussion with Clergy and inter-
ested Laypeople on Saturday, Dec. 13,3:00-5:00 at
First Presbyterian Church, 1432 Washtenaw.
(REGISTRATION REQUESTED,
INTERFAITH COUNCIL 663-1870)
e.5 NDEROSA
DDec lat PON
--- y BONU
Save $2.79 OLIDAY NU
Get6 oh
on two Regular fponderosa
Sirloin Strip Dinners Gift for i
Dinners include " Baked Potato
" Warm Roll with Butter
- All-You-Can-Eat Salad Bar.
OME CUT OUT THIS COUPON EEE5EUE CUT OUT THIS COUPON 0E00
TWO REGULAR SIRLOIN TWO REGULAR SIRLOIN
STRIP DINNERS...$5.99 STRIP DINNERS.. $5.99
Beverage and dessert not included. Limit one Beverage and dessert not included. Limit one
coupon per couple per visit. Cannot be used coupon per couple per visit. Cannot be used
with other discounts. Applicable taxes not with other discounts. Applicable taxes not
included. At Participating Steakhouses included At Participating Steakhouses.

Offergood Offergood
Dec. 5thruDec.
* Dec21 * Dec21r
- -- - m -m A - -m M .M,

pretentious, still create a pleasant am-
bience through their pacing and
sonorities. All in all, this is very in-
telligent, state-of-the-art stuff.
MILES DAVIS' and John
McLaughlin's fusion developed vir-
tuoso instrumentals, sophisticated
composition and eclectic influences
that later bands have been challenged
to equal. Shorter and Zawinul left Miles
to form Weather Report, and their first
four albums were strong contenders.
The first album, Weather 'Report,
dating from around 1972, achieved a
quite ethereal effect, at once rhyth-
*mically exciting and free, acoustic and
electronic, tightly arranged .and im-
provisational. This is, a chamber jazz
that owes more than a little to the
Modern Jazz Quartet. The second
album, I Sing The Body Electric

,.

F

Join
Ulbe Batlig
Arts Staff

ENDS TONIGHT:
INDIVIDUAL THEATRES (G) "MY BRILLIANT CAREER" at 7:10, 9:00
5th Ave at liberty 761*9700 (R) "ONE TRICK PONY" at 7:20, 9:10
- 1IYAM .___
F STARTS
TOMORROW
SHE DO VA
sOLtVE OY

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