Take 5! Five Questions with Jazz Drummer Harold Summey
July 16, 2013
Jazz drummer Harold Summey will present the music of the Weather Report at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Take 5! concert on July 18, 2013 from 5-8 p.m. in the Kogod Courtyard. Laurel Fehrenbach, Public Programs Coordinator, asked Summey a few introductory questions about this rarely heard music.
Laurel Fehrenbach: Tell us a little bit about the Weather Report as a group? Who was in it and how did it get started? Harold Summey: Weather Report was started and co-led by Austrian keyboardist, Josef Zawinul and American saxophonist, Wayne Shorter. A seminal jazz fusion band of the 1970's and 80's, it made household names of musicians such as Omar Hakim, Jaco Pastorius, Airto Moriera, and Victor Bailey to name just a few. It's creation could be attributed to both Shorter and Zawinul's experience playing with Miles Davis and his experimentation with open and extended improvisation and rock rhythms. But, the fact that, at least in the beginning, Weather Report's improvisational concept involved the entire group rather than one preeminent soloist dominating the musical space, set the group apart. The original members were Joe Zawinul, keyboards, Wayne Shorter,soprano and tenor saxophones, Dom Um Romao, percussion, Eric Gravatt, drums, and Miroslav Vitous, bass.
LF: What are some of the other styles of jazz that influence their music? HS: One can hear various influences in the music of Weather Report including rock, free jazz, and Latin styles and, at times, R&B. With the addition over the years of several gifted percussionists including Brazilians Dom Um Romao and Airto Moriera, the music took on a distinct world music flavor.
LF: The group was around for a long time. How did it change over time? How did the effect the music that was produced? HS: The group started as much more of an extension of the Miles Davis groups of the period but gradually moved into much more predetermined arrangements. With this gradual change their hugely successful 1977 recording, "Heavy Weather" which included the Billboard hit, "Birdland", was made possible.
LF: What impact did the Weather Report have on the rest of the jazz world? HS: I think the lasting impact of Weather Report starts with the contributions of its members as composers, particularly Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter. More broadly, the linking of one of the essential elements of jazz, instrumental improvisation with interesting composition, world rhythms, and the drive of rock and R&B rhythms is still prevalent in the "smooth jazz" music of today.
LF: What is it about their music that you love so much? Why do you think it is important to showcase this music at Take 5? HS: With that said, as a serious musician I am very much interested in showcasing music that would not otherwise be heard but is nevertheless important to our cultural heritage. Just as we study and perform the works of great European masters of music, even more so should we study and perform American masters, their works, and their other influences and contributions.
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