Jazz Friday – Birdland

This week’s Jazz Friday pick is my first pick from the fusion jazz movement. In the 1970s and 80s, a lot of jazz musicians started fusing jazz to R&B, rock, and other genres of music. One of the pioneers in this form of jazz was Weather Report, founded by more traditional jazz artists Wayne Shorter, Miroslav Vitouš, and Joe Zawinul. (Zawinul composed a prior Jazz Friday pick: Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.)

Weather Report saw itself as jazz pioneers and over the years came to define the fusion jazz movement. Their most popular song by far is Birdland from the Heavy Weather album. The song was named after a New York jazz club that was ground zero for a lot of the bebop, cool, and post-bop eras that I keep writing about. Interestingly, the club itself was named after Charlie “Bird” ParkerBirdland also features bassist Jaco Pastorius, who is a legend in his own right and will get his own Jazz Friday post at some point. Birdland has become a standard with lots of jazz artists covering it over the years. I first played it with a big band in the 80’s. If you add one fusion song to your library, you’d be hard pressed to do better than Birdland.