5,000 light years from Birdland, but I'm still preachin' the rhythm
May 31, 2013 7:11 AM   Subscribe

"From the day of it's release in 1977, every time you heard it, you knew 2 things - you had never heard anything like it and this was something special. Energy, sophistication, soul. Birdland." | Weather Report live in 1978 at Stadthalle Offenbach | Maynard Ferguson Big Band live in 1982, Maynard Ferguson Band, live at Disneyland '83 (decent audience recording), Maynard Ferguson Band live on TV (year unknown) and a studio recording of Maynard Ferguson | Bruce Kaphan Quartet recording Birdland in their studio | Manhattan Transfer Vocalies Live in Tokyo in 1986, the same year when Weather Report disbanded | Future Corps, live
posted by filthy light thief (15 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
The Weather Report disbanded link is an interview with Zawinul in 1997, ten years before his passing.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:15 AM on May 31, 2013

If I had to pick one essential Weather Report song, it would probably be "Black Market" or "Badia/Boogie Woogie Waltz", not "Birdland", but it was a radio hit, so whaddya gonna do.

If you listen to Jaco's recorded work sequentially, from the early 70's on, you can practically hear the cocaine creeping in.....
posted by thelonius at 7:28 AM on May 31, 2013

In 1977 I was a DJ with a late-night jazz show and this record was like a drug. The very first notes picked up the energy wherever they were broadcast. I got phone calls from listeners demanding to know what they'd just heard and asking for me to play it again. I love Weather Report, but damn, this track blew the polyester disco shirts right off the people that I knew, and made many take a fresh look at jazz.
posted by kinnakeet at 7:29 AM on May 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is as good a place as any to leave this montuno arrangement of Birdland.
posted by The White Hat at 7:42 AM on May 31, 2013

So is this the right place to mention that for the longest time I had Weather Report confused with Air Supply?

Erm, yeah.
posted by MartinWisse at 7:49 AM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

If I had to pick one essential Weather Report song, it would probably be "Black Market" or "Badia/Boogie Woogie Waltz", not "Birdland", but it was a radio hit, so whaddya gonna do.

Birdland is a tremendous tune. Teen Town cannot either be overlooked as a radio hit and a tremendous recording in its own right. It makes me a little less sad about being so old that I am old enough to have seen Weather Report twice(!) in my youth.

My quintessential Weather Report song is Nubian Sunrise from Mysterious Traveller, but YMMV.
posted by three blind mice at 8:20 AM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

That studio recording of Maynard Ferguson is a track from his album Carnival. It was the first record album I ever bought when I was a kid. (My band friends had older siblings who had somehow gotten me interested in Maynard Ferguson.)

I put the record on my parents' turntable, put these huge headphones on my ears, sat back in my dad's easy chair and listened to the first side: M.F. Carnival, Fantasy, the theme from Battlestar Galactica (!!!), and Stella by Starlight. I was utterly enraptured. I just left the record there on the turntable and listened to those four songs over and over for...weeks? months? It seems like it was a long time. Those songs were so great, it was all I wanted to listen to.

I can't explain what made me finally decide to take the record off and turn it over any more than I can figure out why I didn't do so the first day I bought it (I think maybe it was every time I thought to listen to the music I was comparing 4 songs I knew I liked to 4 songs that had unappealing titles: "How Ya Doin' Baby"? "Over the Rainbow" (that's not a cool song, I thought) "Birdland"?

Anyway, I finally turned it over, and the first track was Birdland. I was blown away. So much energy and exuberance in both the song itself and in the arrangement and the playing. So many great hooks.

To this day, that Maynard Ferguson track is one of my favorite feel-good jams, a song that never fails to put a smile on my face. And to this day, "Turn the record over!" is my personal slogan to remind me how important and rewarding it is to try new things and not get stuck in a rut (or a groove).
posted by straight at 8:38 AM on May 31, 2013 [4 favorites]

kinnakeet, that was my experience just a few days ago, but as the listener. I heard it and my eyes lit up. My father-in-law was riding with me, and he knew the name of the song, and tried to sing along to the instrumental version, but he had forgotten most of the songs.

I was tempted to simply post one version and write: "Listen! Now! BIRDLAND!," but I found that I couldn't pick just one version of the song. And then I found a write-up on Weather Report and the song, and now you know what went through my head.

straight, I have never had that problem. I'm hopeful to a fault, though I can get impatient. I'll listen to an entire album of decent-to-mediocre music, hoping to find a gem. I'll keep playing an album after a great song or two, because those could have been foretastes of things to come. My problem is getting hung up on album art. "That cover does nothing for me. Skip!"
posted by filthy light thief at 8:53 AM on May 31, 2013

I saw Maynard Ferguson live in the 80's on his "Live from San Francisco" tour. When it was time to do "Birdland" he left the stage and let the rest of the band play it.

Poor guy. Imagine how sick of a song you'd have to be to leave the stage for your most crowd-pleasing song. Worse, imagine being sick of Birdland.
posted by straight at 9:14 AM on May 31, 2013

Two songs woke me up to the power of live music when I was 8 years old. My parents took me to a concert at the neighborhood high school. Before the school band played, a student rock band came out on stage wearing welding masks and coveralls from shop class and played a great cover Uncontrollable Urge by Devo.

While my mind was still reeling from that performance, the band played birdland, and when the catchy part that you wait for came in, I had never heard anything so exciting.
posted by umbĂș at 9:41 AM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

being so old that I am old enough to have seen Weather Report twice(!) in my youth

Massively jealous. I missed my chances. I was about 13 and I was getting interested in jazz. I almost went to see a Weather Report concert just out of curiosity (I knew nothing about them) but decided it cost too much or went to see Adam and the Ants instead or something.
posted by thelonius at 10:46 AM on May 31, 2013

I've been a follower and semi-fan of Manhattan Transfer since their self-titled 1975 album, but I considered them mostly a novelty act, very well-executed vocals serving a willingness to cover anything that sounded interesting. With the album (on cassette for me) "Extensions", the "Twilight Zone/Twilight Tone" hit cemented that opinion... until I turned the cassette over and I heard "Birdland", at which point the cement crumbled. It prompted me to acquire more recordings of Weather Report and Lambert, Hendricks and Ross (Jon Hendricks had written the pitch-perfect lyrics... yes, lyrics can be pitch-perfect) and I was never disappointed. This usually reluctant consumer of Jazz Music (only Brubeck's Time Out had made my 'A' rotation before) moved it several places up in my "preferred genres" ranking.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:06 PM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am not much of a fan of the style, but MT certainly do excel at it
posted by thelonius at 3:19 PM on May 31, 2013

This was one of our favorite songs to play when I was in high school jazz band. Classic.
posted by Saxon Kane at 8:56 PM on May 31, 2013

I'm sorry to say I've just never been much of a jazz fan, but the exception to that for decades has been Manhattan Transfer, and theirs was the only Birdland I knew until now. I still prefer their renditions, but thanks so much for this link to the original! My universe has expanded just a little.
posted by lhauser at 11:19 AM on June 1, 2013

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