“Tale Spinnin’” by Weather Report (1975)Release Date: May 1975
Produced by Wayne Shorter, Josef Zawinul
Genre: Jazz Fusion, Jazz, Jazz-Rock
Chart Positions: #35 (US), #3 (US Jazz), #12 (US R&B)
Tale Spinnin' is the fifth album by Weather Report, recorded and released in 1975, featuring the addition of Leon "Ndugu" Chancler on the drums. Ndugu was recruited after Josef Zawinul heard him play with Carlos Santana. After the record, Ndugu was asked to join the band as a permanent member, but declined in favor of continuing to work with Carlos Santana.
“Tale Spinnin’” finds Weather Report sporting a more Latin tinged sound with a funk undercurrent. It was the combination of Ndugu on drums and Alphonso Johnson that brought the funk rhythm to “Tale Spininn’” in a way that moved them into a “world” music sound before “world” music was even a genre. But most important in creating this “world” music style was Joe Zawinul’s increased precision in his use of synthesizer and much more pronounced than on previous albums. Zawinul experiments with an array of unusual instruments such as the melodica, which is a hand held keyboard that is played by blowing through a mouthpiece and pressing the keys. He also plays a West African talking drum, a two headed drum whose pitch can be regulated to mimic the tone and phonics of human speech. Other instruments he introduced to the album are xylophone and cymbals. Finally we have Wayne Shorter whose masterful performance of soprano and tenor saxophone sets the mood and ambiance of the music.
"When it came time to record "Tale Spinnin'," Joe Zawinul commented, "We didn't have a band and we had to make a record." It was a drummer that the band needed. Zawinul and Wayne Shorter rehearsed all the music with a drummer but Zawinul was not happy with the results. Weather Report was in the studio rehearsing while Jean-Luc Ponty was next door recording his album "Upon The Wings of Music." Ndugu Leon Chancler, on hiatus from Santana, was playing drums for Ponty. It was during a break that Zawinul and Shorter asked Chancler if he would like to do a session with them. That session lasted a week. These recordings became "Tale Spinnin'."
Although the album is full of highlights none of the songs were released as singles. Though several did receive airplay on FM album oriented jazz radio stations in the 70s.
“Between The Thighs” brings the funk out in an enormous way most notably with in Shorter’s sax solos brining on the brass in an urban way as never before heard on a Weather Report album accompanied by Zawinul’s funky keyboard spells and synthesized idiosyncrasies. This is one of the album’s more dramatic entries. “Freezing Fire” continues in the same vein with a more pronounced otherworldly arp synthesizer performance by Joe Zawinul.
The album closes with the mesmerizing ballad “Five Short Stories” in which each note is carefully crafted and precisely communicated with skill and emotion.
The album’s most prominent highlight is “The Man In The Green Shirt,” this song displays the complex compositions that Joe Zawinul is capable of producing. Leon Ndugu Chancler's drum patterns sweep through the album with a quick and steady tempo. Just as impressive is Alphonso Johnson’s amazing bass that rips through the song like the fluttering of a falcon’s wings yet contains a sort of pacifying effect that sends a warm feel to the soul. Driving the song again is Joe Zawinul’s smooth groovin' achievements on the synthesizer, though this time with an even more fascinating and incredible force. The song skyrockets into a stratosphere that takes you beyond the world of music and into a futuristic galaxy of human emotion and comfortable numbness.
On the original LP inner sleeve, Zawinul explained the background behind "The Man In The Green Shirt":
"I was in Saint John in the Virgin Islands on the 4th of July and there was this incredible old man, black and old, the blackest eyes you ever saw. Now everybody was dancing and nobody paid any attention to him; he was wearing a long green shirt. The music was unbelievable-they had the St. Thomas Steel Band, the original one, the best in the world. The man in the green shirt was there, out there dancing by himself, and I've never seen anyone dance like this incredible old black man in my life. It was his age, his maturity, his wisdom."
The Man In The Green Shirt (1975)
Eric Kriss wrote the following review in September 1975 for Down Beat Magazine:
“After several years of experimentation–both successful and unsuccessful–Weather Report has arrived, so to speak, at the crossroads of space conceptualization, a magical point at which all the musicians seem to feel each other without effort. The result is this brilliant album, Tale Spinnin’, a mixture of folk song and sophisticated jazz in a charming, unpretentious synthesis… Most of the compositions, even those written by Zawinul, bear the unmistakable stamp of Shorter’s thinking. Like Shorter’s recent solo release, Native Dancer, the melody lines are crystal clear and seem to be suspended over a canyon of flowing rhythms… I highly recommend this LP, especially to those who haven’t listened to Weather Report lately. My imagination has been captured, and that doesn’t happen often.”
Weather Report (1975)