Miroslav Vitous Group w/Michel Portal: Remembering Weather Report (ECM 2073)

Remembering Weather Report

Miroslav Vitous Group
Remembering Weather Report

Miroslav Vitous double-bass
Franco Ambrosetti trumpet
Gary Campbell tenor saxophone
Gerald Cleaver drums
Michel Portal bass clarinet
Recorded fall 2006 and spring 2007 at Universal Syncopation Studios
Recording producer and engineer: Miroslav Vitous
Assistant engineer: Andrea Luciano
Executive producer: Manfred Eicher

After the challenging yet ultimately rewarding experimentalism of Universal Syncopations II, Remembering Weather Report comes as a breath of fresh air for bassist Miroslav Vitous, who preens previously undetected feathers in this warped look back. Indeed, similarities to the titular fusion band with which Vitous once played (and which he co-founded with Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul) are glancing at best. Here that original band’s fiercely democratic approach takes on new hues as individual instruments click through the front line like a roulette of alter egos in the form of Americans Gerald Cleaver on drums and Gary Campbell on tenor, and Swiss trumpeter Franco Ambrosetti.

In addition, French clarinetist and new music advocate Michel Porter joins the quartet on half of the album’s six hefty tunes. His involvement unleashes the firmest successes thereof, as in an aching set of variations on Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman” (the only track not from the bandleader’s pen) and “Surfing With Michel,” a spirited duet between Vitous and Porter that is the missing capstone to the core quartet’s great pyramid. Another set of variations on Wayne Shorter material finds the bassist shuffling between arco and pizzicato modes, all the while navigating a flurry of drums with a papercutter’s feel for negative space. A surreal and frenetic sense of control reigns, skipping with assurance.

The tripartite “Semina” is Vitous at his most honest, although this time Cleaver divulges heart and soul, inciting as he does calligraphic brilliance from Campbell and, in the concluding “Blues Report,” a swift kick to the stratosphere, where soars the album’s pièce de résistance, “When Dvořák Meets Miles.” Fine arco playing connects blats of muted trumpet, and all with a percussive finish that lingers sweetly on the palate. As ever, the interactions are subtle yet naked, each element brimming with snap, crackle, and pop.

Remembering Weather Report is not for the jazz tourist. Its highly evolved messages comprise a raw manifesto on what it means to be progressive in a regressive climate. Motifs run the gamut from static to ballistic, but quickly dissolve in favor of broader improvisational paths, each a vein to some distant thematic artery. The album is further notable for being recorded in Vitous’s own Italian studio. His direct involvement in not only the elicitation but also the rendering of these sounds lends remarkable immediacy to the space in which they unfold.

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