Remembering Weather Report

Miroslav Vitous Group, Michel Portal

Vitous was one of the founders of Weather Report and helped to shape its early (and revolutionary) mix of enigmatic, free-flowing compositions and high-level improvisational dialogues, in which all the instruments enjoyed parity. It is this formative period that Miroslav salutes with his all-acoustic band and some phenomenal playing. The obvious musical empathy between Vitous and drummer Gerald Cleaver is a joy, Ambrosetti and Campbell contribute inspired solos – as does guest Michel Portal, another iconic figure in the history of the music. Material, almost exclusively from Vitous’s pen, alludes to Wayne Shorter’s “Nefertiti” and to Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman” – as well as to Miles Davis and Antonín Dvořák.

Featured Artists Recorded

September 2006-June 2007, Universal Syncopations Studios, Clavesana

  • 1Variations On W. Shorter
    (Miroslav Vitous)
  • 2Variations On Lonely Woman
    (Miroslav Vitous, Ornette Coleman)
  • 3Semina (in three parts)
    (Miroslav Vitous)
  • 4Surfing With Michel
    (Miroslav Vitous)
  • 5When Dvořák Meets Miles
    (Miroslav Vitous)
  • 6Blues Report
    (Miroslav Vitous)
Jazz Magazine, Disque d’èmoi
Jazzman, Événement
Consigliato da Musica Jazz
Vitous opts for the precept of „everyone solos, no one solos” … What emerges is a highly sophisticated series of musical dialogues mediated by Vitous’ extraordinarily agile bass that explore a series of his original compositions, some no more than a melodic fragment spun into new shapes by this talented ensemble.
Stuart Nicholson, Jazzwise
Si l’on veut connaître la pente ascendante qu’a prise la contrebasse en jazz, entre Scott La Faro et JF Jenny Clark, un seul accès : les douze premières mesures de Remembering Weather Report. L’ouverture lumineuse, aérienne, du premier thème dédié à Wayne Shorter par Miroslav Vitous. (...) Miroslav Vitous n’en a donc pas fini avec la météo (Weather Report). Formidable bulletin.
Francis Marmande, Le Monde
On peut (...) fermer les yeux et jouir simplement de la beauté des gestes, de l’agilité des répliques, de la profondeur des timbres, de la puissance décontractée des placements, de la qualité des écoutes réciproques et des débats.
Franck Bergerot, Jazz Magazine
Miroslav Vitous … spürt dem Geist der Band hinterher, die Anfang der 70er Jahre die Frontline von Wayne Shorter und Joe Zawinul mit einer höchst agilen Rhythm Section in Einklang zu bringen versuchte. … Mit der Verpflichtung des Schweizer Trompeters Franco Ambrosetti … und des französischen Bassklarinettisten Michel Portal ist dem Bassisten ein Coup gelungen. „Direkte Konversation und Gleichheit zwischen den Instrumenten“ sind Vitous besonders wichtig, und in der Tat singt sein Bass … auf gleicher Höhe mit den Bläsern. … Nicht nur der abschließende „Blues Report“ zeigt, wie viel Spaß die Musiker im Studio hatten.
Rolf Thomas, Jazzthetik
Schon beim ersten Stück der CD ist nicht zu überhören, dass der unbändige Wille zur musikalischen Freiheit, der die späten fünfziger und dann die sechziger Jahre im Jazz prägte, noch immer gilt. …
Eine bemerkenswert inspirierte freie Musik bietet dieses Album, eine gelungene, ästhetisch beglückende Hommage an die ersten Jahre von Weather Report.
Norbert Dömling, Süddeutsche Zeitung
Dass sich der Umgang mit dem legendären Erbe keineswegs nur locker ausnimmt, liegt daran, dass es sich Vitous sowie seine hervorragenden Kollegen nicht leicht machen. Ihr Umgang mit der großen Tradition ist wohl als Versuch der Vergegenwärtigung angelegt. Das schwebend-schwere Zusammenspiel des Trompeters Franco Ambrosetti, der beiden Amerikaner Gary Campbell am Tenorsaxophon und Gerald Cleaver am Schlagzeug sowie des auf drei Stücken mitspielenden französischen Bassklarinettisten Michel Portal nimmt sich deshalb aus, als würden alte Klang-Sedimente verschoben. Es gibt dabei Spannung, es kommt zu Bruchstellen. Und doch erstehen schließlich Räume, in denen diese Musik so frisch und bedeutsam tönt, als wäre sie ganz Gegenwart.
Ueli Bernays, Neue Zürcher Zeitung
Den frühen Zeiten von Weather Report, als die Band noch nicht jenen eng an den Beat gezurrten Funk praktizierte, der sie später berühmt machte, widmet der tschechische Bassist Miroslav Vitous seine neue CD. … Die Hommagen Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul und Ornette Coleman sind keine Remakes. Sie denken einen Ansatz weiter, dessen Fruchtbarkeit sich heute aufs Aktuellste erweist. Kein Klassiker-Kult. Große Klasse.
Peter Rüedi, Weltwoche

Miroslav Vitous invokes the improvisational spirit of his old band in a strikingly original project. A co-founder of Weather Report, along with Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul, back in 1970, the Czech bassist overturned expectations of the role of his instrument inside that ensemble. During WR’s early years, on albums including “Weather Report”, “I Sing The Body Electric” and “Live In Tokyo”, Miroslav’s extraordinarily agile bass was part of the frontline. Indeed, early Weather Report dissolved distinctions between frontline and rhythm section: free dialogue and equal rights for all the instruments was a key component of the group’s original musical philosophy. Vitous sets out to revive it with his new ensemble, while sidestepping Weather Report’s repertoire. Instead he offers dedications to Shorter and to Zawinul (quoting, in the former instance, from Wayne’s “Nefertiti”). He explores a series of variations on Ornette Coleman, speculates on a meeting of Dvorak and Miles Davis, improvises on the blues. In this wide-open acoustic music, another critical distinction between then and now, anything is possible.

Vitous’s artistic path has been a singular one. Born 1947 in Prague, he had his first musical successes while in his early teens, playing in trio with Jan Hammer (piano) and Alan Vitous (drums). A scholarship to study at the Berklee College brought him to the US, and by 1967 he was a central figure on the US scene playing with – amongst others – Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Stan Getz and Herbie Mann.

He was first heard on ECM in the 1970s leading his own band with John Surman and Jon Christensen (“First Meeting”, “Miroslav Vitous Group”, “Journey’s End”). In the 1980s he recorded for the label as a member of Chick Corea’s trio with Roy Haynes (“Trio Music”, “Live in Europe”) and issued a dazzling solo bass album (1985’s “Emergence”). In the 1990s he was heard with Jan Garbarek in duo and trio contexts (“Atmos”, “Star”). After a hiatus during which the bassist was developing and marketing his highly successful symphonic orchestra samples software, he returned to ECM for two volumes of “Universal Syncopations” (2003 and 2007) – both of which were critical and popular successes. “Universal Syncopations II” won the Großer Deutscher Schallplattenpreis, the Album of the Year Award of the German Record Critics.
From 1982 to 1988 Vitous also taught at the New England Conservatory in Boston and was for three years chairman of its jazz department, before returning to Europe as the 1990s beckoned. He is currently based in Northern Italy where he runs his own studio near Turin (he is both engineer and recording producer of “Remembering Weather Report”) and is a strong presence on the touring circuit.

His core band here features US musicians Gerald Cleaver (drums) and Gary Campbell (tenor) – both of whom appeared on “Universal Syncopations II” – and Swiss trumpeter Franco Ambrosetti. On three pieces Vitous is joined by another musician of iconic stature, clarinettist Michel Portal, pioneer of adventurous jazz and more in France. Already in the 1960s, Portal was playing “intuitive music” with Stockhausen and free jazz with Sonny Murray. Few present day reedmen have his range. His vast discography embraces dozens of film scores, collaborations with Boulez, jazz with John Surman or Martial Solal or Joachim Kühn as well as his own bands, Gallic tango adventures with Richard Galliano, black rock experiments in Minneapolis and more. He was last heard on ECM in the company of singer Susanne Abbuehl (“Compass”). Portal is also highly-regarded in the classical world, and has participated in numerous recordings of both 19th century and contemporary repertoire.
Miroslav clearly has a special musical understanding with drummer Gerald Cleaver, and praises his creative freedom – their interaction through this disc is volatile. The Detroit born Cleaver has played or recorded with Henry Threadgill, Roscoe Mitchell, Lotte Anker, Reggie Workman, Marilyn Crispell, Matt Shipp, William Parker, Craig Taborn, Kevin Mahogany, Charles Gayle, Mario Pavone, Ralph Alessi, Jacky Terrasson, Jimmy Scott, Muhal Richard Abrams, Dave Douglas, Tim Berne, Jeremy Pelt, Ellery Eskelin, David Torn and many others.
Trumpeter Franco Ambrosetti is one of the key figures of jazz in Switzerland, first coming to international prominence in the early 1960s through performances with Gato Barbieri and with George Gruntz in the early 1960s. And then, from the 1970s, with Phil Woods, Dexter Gordon, Cannonball Adderley, Joe Henderson, Michael Brecker, Mike Stern, Hal Galper, Kenny Clarke, and others.
Like his bandmates in the Vitous ensemble, Indiana-born tenorist Gary Campbell has a vast range of experience: he has worked with musicians from bop trumpeter Red Rodney to Cuban drummer Ignacio Berroa. His own projects as a leader have recently included John Abercrombie. Campbell is also the author of five books on jazz improvisation.