Weather Report were a jazz fusion band of the 1970s and 1980s. As well as recording wonderful music, they came up with a band name illustrating the effort that has to go into finding just the right words.
In 1970, pianist Joe Zawunil, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, and bassist Miroslav Vitous, all luminaries of the jazz scene, decided to form a new band. They did not, however, have a name to describe themselves and their music. Zawunil, in an interview with Jazz Forum magazine, recounted how the three of them met at his New York apartment and went through countless names. They kept coming back to Daily News. Knowing this wasn’t quite right, the struggle continued, until Wayne Shorter pondering on the fact that news programmes always contained a weather bulletin, suggested Weather Report.
Weather Report is a better band name than Daily News because it is difficult to see a jazz band as a group of journalists. A clear story does not arise from free flowing music without lyrics. If a piece of jazz music were a news story, you wouldn’t be able to work out what was going on in the world that day. Daily News is too literal.
Weather Report tells a different story. The weather is vast and ever changing, benign, glorious, dull, violent. Our ability to understand and predict the weather is partial. It’s like listening to music and feeling there is a pattern and meaning there, which is beyond our ability to fully comprehend.
Weather bulletins always come after the news, a tacit admission perhaps that talking about weather is shorthand for talking about nothing important. Nevertheless, we might round all this up by remembering that, despite their position at the bottom of the news pile, weather reports can pass on information that will blow your house away. Music is harmless entertainment, and a force with enough power to move millions. It’s a breeze on a sunny afternoon and a landscape-changing storm.
None of this is in the Daily News; it’s all in the Weather Report.