60 of 61 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2001
The first reason to get this disk is aesthetic. "Sweetnighter" is a unique recording: it includes the least structured, open-ended music that Weather Report recorded, and it was the last one they made before technological progress armed Joe Zawinul with more synthesizers than was perhaps healthy.
Some jazz fan acquaintances used to point to this recording and complain that Zawinul had kidnapped Wayne Shorter and was holding incommunicado in some safe house in Newark. To them there were no solos. They missed the point. Rather than soloing over an accompanying rhythm section, Shorter plays a kind of running commentary, coming in an out of a mix in which the bass(es) and percussion are given equal billing to Shorter's sax and Zawinul's keyboards. Sometimes everyone solos at once and it takes very, very accomplished musicians to pull this off without it degenerating into cacophony.
Yet it would be misleading to pigeonhole this record as Weather Report surrenders to the groove. Perhaps the most remarkable composition on the disk is Miroslav Vitous' ethereal "Will" which is percussion-less. Indeed, one of the remarkable things about this record are how varied the six pieces are: two open-ended jams - "Boogie Woogie Waltz" and "125th Street Congress;" a fairly conventional Shorter composition "Manolette;" two Zawinul tone poems a la "In A Silent Way" or "His Last Journey," "Adios" and "Non-Stop Home;" and Vitous' transcendent "Will."
The other reason to get this disk is the way it sounds. The mass conversion of analogue tapes to digital formats has yielded some real disasters - e.g. Shorter's "Native Dancer" where entire instruments disappeared from the mix. This recording, in contrast, is a case in which the move to CD is a clear improvement over the original vinyl. Now the two basses on "Boogie Woogie Waltz" and "125th Street Congress" are clearly distinguishable, and similarly the multitudinous percussion instruments are more clearly defined. As another reviewer noted, never have Moroccan clay drums sounded so good. Roller toys and Israeli jar drums, either.
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on August 26, 2004
Prior to founding Weather Report in 1971, Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter were already well-known jazz musicians (players & composers) with impeccable credentials; and, as most fans are aware, both men were major contributors to Miles Davis' "IN A SILENT WAY"(1969) and "BITCHES BREW"(1970). It was therefore quite natural that Weather Report's first couple of efforts would be closely related: while containing some brilliant flashes, these early recordings were less successful (if interesting) continuations of the musical aesthetic set forth in the aforementioned landmarks. The group's third recording ("SWEETNIGHTER": 1973) was the breakthrough that established what most fans think of as the "Weather Report sound". The album inaugurated an approach that satisfied diehard fans while opening doors to "casual" listeners who were not kindly disposed to more esoteric and self-consciously "serious" forms of jazz. The adoption and elaboration of funky rhythm & blues "grooves" (a la Curtis Mayfield, et al ) was a vitally important ingredient that lent the music a propulsion and flow analogous to the bop swing feel that had for decades characterized jazz rhythm. To be sure, Weather Report was not the first band to do this; what set them apart was the absolutely seamless manner in which they integrated R&B grooves, achieving an authentic fluency that allowed them to break free from the reigning "rhythmic paradigm" while simultaneously retaining a connection to the older swing feel by virtue of shared (African) roots.
"Boogie Woogie Waltz" and "125th Street Congress" are lengthy (12 min + ) tunes that exemplify the aforementioned dynamic: bluesy melodic fragments played over hypnotically repetitive grooves, the interjections of oddly placed modulations balancing the rhythmic regularity and surprising the listener as the tunes shift gears toward conclusion. This new rhythmic feel was also the ideal foundation on which to build more elaborate "orchestral" textures. Zawinul's sophisticated application of electronics was, in terms of timbre and concept, a marked improvement over previous efforts; in his hands, synthesizers were more than the self-indulgent and often hideous sounding toys that have given "fusion" music a bad name. An aura of the mysterious and ethereal was yet another prominent Weather Report characteristic, especially exemplified by Shorter, who contributes two tunes: "Manolete" is a texturally complex wash of Spanish-tinged soprano sax and keyboards while the delicate "Adios" is a tune of elegiac tenderness.
The paths started with "SWEETNIGHTER" illustrated that Weather Report had found its true voice and would over the years record an extremely influential body of work that constitutes the pinnacle of "fusion" music. Highly recommended.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 1, 2009
This is a great album to play at parties. Joe Zawinul played piano for one of the funkiest soul jazz combos of the 60s (Cannonball Adderley's Quintet), so it was just a matter of time before he'd bring the GROOVE into Weather Report. And on Sweetnighter, the third in a line of classic studio recordings, he does it in a big way. The experimental, dark sound of the early albums is abandoned for a more celebratory, accessible sound. The album starts with a 13 minute slab of quasi-Latin jazz-funk, Zawinul's "Boogie Woogie Waltz" -- a brilliant monument to layered grooves that builds and builds to one of the band's catchiest, most memorable themes. "125th Street Congress" is similar, though less directed and even funkier. The shorter numbers aren't quite as earth-shaking but still stand high in the Weather Report canon. "Adios" is the last in a line of great Zawinul tone poems, following in the steps of "In a Silent Way" and "Orange Lady" if not quite reaching their level. "Non-Stop Home" is Wayne Shorter's take on the funk, while Miroslav Vitous's "Will" is a beautiful piece of floating melody over interlocking rhythms. And indeed, on this album, every member of the band is part of a huge rhythmic machine. Shorter plays some great saxophone but now he's less of a soloist and more of a colorist; Zawinul doesn't dominate the band's sound yet, but uses synthesizers melodically for the first time. (He used a synth on "Unknown Soldier", but that was purely as a sound effect.)
This is the high point of Weather Report's studio career and one of the greatest fusion recordings.
(This review is based on the previous edition of Sweetnighter, from the 90s, which sounds perfectly fine to my ears.)
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on March 30, 1999
Sweetnighter is hands-down the best fusion album ever pressed. Even after 26 years from it's release, the Report rocks, sways and moves one like no other fusion group. I will never forget walking into a record store in Washington, DC one sunny spring afternoon in 1973 and being captivated by a powerful, exotic, hypnotic cut playing through the store speakers: Boogie Woogie Waltz. I bought the album instantly and have remained a lifelong fan of the group.
The music can be described as rich, atmospheric, funky, mystical, third world, tropical and cool all at the same time. Try closing your eyes and flowing with the images evoked. Side One alone could weave a tapestry of the flow of one's life from childhood (Waltz), through the driving intensity and accomplishments of middle age (Manolete) and the final exit of old age (Adios). Awesome! Better yet, grab ahold to and make love to your spouse to this music. :-)
Each musician adds the flavors of his ancestral homeland into a spicy stew of cosmopolitan musical delight: the cool Austrian funk of Zawinul's keyboards, the reedy American fire of Shorter's sax, the percussive Brazilian gumbo of Dom um Ramao, the intelligent eastern European bass of Miroslav Vituos. I've listened to this album hundreds of time and have never tired of it's virtuosity and the way it clearly defines the jazz fusion genre. Buy it and I guarantee you will not be disappointed.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2001
This is a great album to play at parties. Joe Zawinul played piano for one of the funkiest soul jazz combos of the 60s (Cannonball Adderley's Quintet), so it was just a matter of time before he'd bring the GROOVE into Weather Report. And on Sweetnighter, the third in a line of classic studio recordings, he does it in a big way. The experimental, dark sound of the early albums is abandoned for a more celebratory, accessible sound. The album starts with a 13 minute slab of quasi-Latin jazz-funk, Zawinul's "Boogie Woogie Waltz" -- a brilliant monument to layered grooves that builds and builds to one of the band's catchiest, most memorable themes. "125th Street Congress" is similar, though less directed and even funkier. (If you like these, by the way, check out Kenny Dorham's album Una Mas, which features an acoustic groover with similar ideas.) The shorter numbers aren't quite as earth-shaking but still stand high in the Weather Report canon. "Adios" is the last in a line of great Zawinul tone poems, following in the steps of "In a Silent Way" and "Orange Lady" if not quite reaching their level. "Non-Stop Home" is Wayne Shorter's take on the funk, while Miroslav Vitous's "Will" is a beautiful piece of floating melody over interlocking rhythms. And indeed, on this album, every member of the band is part of a huge rhythmic machine. Shorter plays some great saxophone but now he's less of a soloist and more of a cog in that machine; Zawinul doesn't dominate the band's sound yet, but adds a synthesizer to his keyboard sound for the first time. This is the high point of Weather Report's career and one of the greatest fusion recordings.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 23, 2000
There's a great Gary Burton record, 'Passengers', in which he employs two bassists (Steve Swallow and Eberhard Weber). Although a review of the time (1977) said that two weren't strictly necessary, each bass had a very distinct sound which you could easily spot in the mix.
But four years earlier, Weather Report had recorded this absolute classic, again with two bassists on some of the tracks. 'Boogie Woogie Waltz', in particular, claimed two basses -- Vitous and the relatively unknown Andrew White. But Andrew White gets no picture credits on the album, and when I had the LP, I could never tell for sure that there were two bassists on the track. I wouldn't have been at all surprised if the truth was that Vitous hadn't turned up for several sessions, and that White had to stand in for him.
It is only with the release of this remastered CD and my purchase of a pair of Eltax speakers that I can finally confirm that there are two bassists on this fantastic track. 'Boogie Woogie Waltz' has always been one of my top five Weather Report tracks, and 'Sweetnighter' one of my favourite albums. It is also a fantastic example of what the group could do before Pastorius came along and upset the balance between Shorter and Zawinul.
'Sweetnighter' has never been available in non-remastered format, to my knowledge, but this album was made for remastering. The recording of some subsequent albums (eg 'Procession') is too dense to benefit much from the process, but on this album, the instruments separate beautifully. It is only with this new generation of remastered albums -- listen also to the reworked Steely Dan works -- that I feel finally persuaded that CD produces a better sound than LP.
And finally, let's not forget Muruga, whoever he was. Moroccan Clay Drums never sounded so good.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2010
This monumental achievement by WR is surely one of their top 3 records, though note it is more groove-oriented and ambient than their others. The six tunes cover an amazing breadth of mood and every song is truly great (no need to single out one). Heavy percussion complements heavy bass lines which are lustrous acoustic on some tracks and electric on others. The sax soloing is sparse and atmospheric --even by Wayne standards-- and always magnificent. Together with MYSTERIOUS TRAVELER (likewise groove-oriented and ambient), TAIL SPINNIN' and BLACK MARKET you have four of the great fusion/ world/ ambient releases of all time. You can't go wrong with those -- each and every track.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 17, 2011
Sweetnighter is one "bad a--" work of art. Like Grandpa said "they just don't make these anymore". Music like this is far too risky and organic to produce during this period of Western culture. Besides the songs mentioned in the previous reviews check out "Manolete" on Sweetnighter. If you can "get it" it is one of the most beautiful tunes ever created. I'd like to have it played at my funeral. Maybe I'll fake my death and watch the reactions. That would be a trip!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The third release by Weather Report featured the core of the group, Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul at their peak. The textures of this disc are amazing as the various layers of sound overlap like a tight weave. Rather than extended solos, the solos dart and weave in and out. Joe Zawinul carries most of the leads with his synthesizer but uses his electric piano to create a consistency to the driving rhythms. The funkiness yet smothness of their fusion of jazz and rock is historic. There are two extended jams, the classic "Boogie Woogie Waltz" and the more free form jazz tune "125th Street Congress " which combined take up twenty- six minutes. "Boogie Woogie Waltz" is just an amazing piece of music that is like an unraveling Escher painting that constantly reveals itself to be more than originally catches the eye. If you missed this one in the nineties check it out now as it is still fresh. Recommended for your jazz-rock fusion collection.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2000
Whatever happened to imagination in jazz and fusion? Where are the 'Extrapolations' and 'Sweetnighters' of today? Mclaughlin and Zawinul seem to be the only two guys who are still sound painting, but they're pushing 60 and can you really expect them to do it all? I don't know what Andrew White did on this record; I don't even know who the guy is; when I checked out his resume at the AMG all Music guide site, he is apparently a sax player who has never played bass on any other records! Can somebody set the record straight? I know that Miroslav Vitous is the only bass player qualified enough to produce the lines on this incredible record. It is funk that rises to the level of Stravinsky strictly on the attention that is paid to the cross-rhythms that occur between the bass and all the other instruments in the rhtyhm section (which consists of every member of the band except when Zawinul and Shorter are soloing and even then it's invariably a syncopated and polyrhthmic solo). The tonal variations and dynamics Vitous achieves on his acoustic/electic hybrid bass are the pinnacle of creativity on the instrument and done years before Eberhard Weber. Wayne Shorter's playing is at its absolute peak here and on 'Talespinnin' with a slight falling off on 'Mysterious Traveller.' He categorically refuses to play a single cliche sax line anywhere and comes up with brilliant substitutions that are as hip as they are sophisticated and modern. Just one listen to 'Manolete' lays all questions to rest as to who the most creative saxophone artist of the past 30 years is. It is a tune that seems to contain the world within its few minutes. '125th Street Congress' is funk that grooves and floats at an intensity that energizes to the bones without bypassing sophisticated imagination for the sake of the party and simplifying what shouldn't be simplified. The whole of 'Sweetnigher' sounds so fresh today, I can't even imagine what it must've sounded like 30 years ago when it first appeared, since I wasn't visiting this planet yet then. If you have self-respect enough to hate the New-Age and neo-traditionalist regressive Jazz of today and don't own this, you better hurry up and buy this before your aesthetic tastes become permenantly perverted; then buy 'Talespinnin' to reinforce the timeless healing powers of Zawinul, Shorter and company. Also try to buy the record 'Change of Scenes' by the Clarke-Boland Big Band featuring Stan Getz while it's still available (it is a limited edition Verve release). That's an amazing modern Big Band record that just flabergasted me and will you too. Pat Martino's 1970 classic 'Desperado' is a must buy for any self-respecting fusion fans. For newer stuff, check out Gary Thomas's ultra-cool 'Pariah's Pariah' and Charnett Moffet's masterful much-more-than-just-another-bass-player's-album 'Still Life.'