Ken Burns’ JAZZ—The Fusion Transcripts, A Postscript

Certainly no page on this web site has generated as much traffic in such a short period of time as Ken Burns’ JAZZ—The Fusion Transcripts, a collection of interview excerpts in which the JAZZ talking heads speak about fusion in general and Weather Report in particular. Among other things, jazz author and critic Gary Giddins is asked if the Weather Report tune ‘Birdland’ is jazz, to which he responds: “The question about whether ‘Birdland’ is jazz should be changed to, ‘Is it music?'” Needless to say, he thinks not.

In an interesting bit of irony, I recently discovered that Giddins reviewed Weather Report’s second album, I Sing The Body Electric, for Down Beat magazine back in 1972. He gave it a rating of four stars (out of five). Among his comments:

“This isn’t a jazz record but a collection of mood or program pieces, tone drawings to which the listener is expected to provide the captions if not fulsome exigeses… The music is brilliantly played. There are several beautiful and haunting strains; the group interaction is often very exciting, and the use of various sound qualities is inspired. But—something visceral is missing. The music is too cold and metallic, as though much of the substance were tinsel… Despite my mixed feelings, there is no question that Weather Report is into something new and stimulating. I hope that these artists will pass out of what seems to be a gee-whiz attitude to the possibilities of electricity and settle into some more substantial cooking. In any case, I look forward to the next installment eagerly.”

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