This week I watched the final episode of JAZZ, the Ken Burns documentary. I was aware that the Weather Report tune ‘Birdland’ is included in the companion CD set. I was also aware that Burns had squashed the last forty years of jazz into the final episode. So I was curious to get his take on the past four decades, wondering if Weather Report would receive at least a passing nod as a noteworthy development in the music. But as those of you who watched know, there was no mention of Weather Report, and little mention of fusion beyond Miles Davis’ supposed sell-out in recording Bitches Brew. In fact, the thing that sticks in my mind is Branford Marsalis’ summation of jazz in the seventies: “Jazz just kind of died. It just kind of went away for a while.”
Nevertheless, thanks to the online transcripts of Burns’ interviews at the PBS web site, we can read what Wynton, Giddins and the rest of the gang had to say about Weather Report in particular, and fusion in general. If you’re interested in how they shaped Burns’ view of the seventies, check out Zawinul Online’s Ken Burns’ JAZZ—The Fusion Transcripts.