As we get closer to the International Jazz Day, 30th April, I thought to start listening to jazz by the best to get into the groove.
The first song that played on the streaming app’s playlist happened to ‘Birdland’ by Weather Report from their album ‘Heavy Weather’. The song got me wound up with nostalgia and I immediately called fellow cowboy and musipedia Narendra Kusnur to discuss the album for this week’s Album Talk.
To accompany us for the discussion we invited one of the busiest and best bassist in the country and our dear friend Sheldon D’Silva.
Note: Language may be altered to suit the platform’s requirements.
Me: This album is my introduction to jazz music. My friends and I were listening to Iron Maiden when a friend’s sister gave me this album, after hearing it I was blown away.
Sheldon: The reason I chose the album ‘Heavy Weather’ by Weather Report is because of this album I started playing bass. The first song on the album is ‘Birdland’ but somehow the first song, on the cassette, my dad got was ‘Teen Town’. For a long time I thought the first song is ‘Birdland’ as it was written on the track listing but it actually was ‘Teen Town’. Maybe I was destined to hear ‘Teen Town’ first.
Listen to ‘Teen Town‘
When I heard the song, I was blown away by Jaco Pastorius’ bass on it. I was learning the guitar but my dad wanted me to learn the bass. After listening to Jaco on this song, I was keen to take up bass. In ‘Teen Town’ bass takes the solo position and the tone and texture of the song was something I had never heard before. It is a life changing album for me.
Me: For me too, in a way. I am pretty sure it’s not the first jazz album for Naren Sir.
Kusnur: I got into jazz around 1981 when I was 18 years old.
Me: I was a year old.
Sheldon I wasn’t born yet!
Listen to ‘A Remark You Made’
Kusnur: Before that I was listening to rock. I got into jazz as my dad would get a lot of invites to jazz gigs and I would attend them with me. Mahavishnu Orchestra and Weather Report were the trending bands at the time. Even Chick Correa but I never heard much of him. My first Weather Report album was ‘Black Market’. On ‘Heavy Weather’, ‘Birdland’ impressed me but the song I got hooked on was ‘Palladíum’. I like ‘Teen Town’ and the other song that impressed was Jaco’s ‘Havona’ but my favourite from the album is ‘A Remark You Made’.
Me: ‘Teen Town’ is a bass heavy song maybe due to Jaco.
Sheldon: This is his first solo composition. This is Jaco’s first album with Weather Report as the main bass player for the band. He even sang on ‘Birdland’ and played the steel drums on ‘Palladium’. On ‘Teen Town’ he played the drums instead of the regular drummer, Alex Acuña. Actually his drum recording was meant to be a scratch but the retained it. Like you said, ‘A Remark You Made’ is a wonderful song but it’s all Jaco. Nobody could play fret-less bass like him. So it’s not possible to credit anyone for even writing a part like that. Same with ‘Havona’ and ‘The Juggler’.
Listen to ‘Birdland‘
It’s remarkable how Jaco influenced the band. Around the time this album was released, people felt that of all jazz genres, jazz rock was done and was on its way out. So even Columbia Records was hesitant to release it but when they released it, jazz rock reached its peak. Which is a big compliment for the album considering all the work that had been done before.
Me: Apart from ‘Teen Town’ and ‘Birdland’ which are the other stand out songs for you guys?
Kusnur: Earlier is was ‘Palladium’ but ‘A Remark You Made’ has stuck with over the years.
Sheldon: Definitely ‘A Remark You Made’ and the bass solo on ‘Havona’.
Which one’s yours?
Until next time! Adios Amigos!!