Saturday, August 15, 2020

Pic(k) of the Week: Mysterious Traveller

Weather Report: Mysterious Traveller (front)

First thing first. The artwork is an illustraion Helmut Wimmer created for the Hayden Planetarium in New York City.
Helmut Karl Wimmer (1925-2006) was the Art Supervisor of the American Museum of Natural History's Hayden Planetarium. His works appeared in many planetariums, museums, and scores of publications. Wimmer was born in Munich, Germany, in 1925, and was apprenticed at the age of fourteen to train as a sculptor and architectural model maker. At eighteen he was in the army and served with the Alpine troops. At the end of World War II, Wimmer was captured by Czech partisans and turned over to the Russians as a prisoner of war. In 1949, Wimmer was released and returned to Munich where he found work as a sculptor. In 1954, he decided to emigrate to the United States. Once in New York, a chance recommendation led him to an opening in the Art Department of the Hayden Planetarium.

In 1974, the jazz-fusion group, Weather Report, used the artwork (with permission) as the cover for its fourth album, Mysterious Traveller.

All About Jazz wrote of the group and album:
In 1974, three years after the band's inception, Weather Report became one of the world's most popular jazz groups due to their uncompromising originality and musicianship. This was the year that founding member Miroslav Vitous was replaced by Alphonso Johnson, who became a critical asset as both a fluid, creative bassist and a composer. Drummer Ishmael Wilburn and Brazilian percussionist Dom Um Romao, with a shifting cast of supporting players, laid the foundation for the band's most exciting incarnation yet. The overdue reissue of Mysterious Traveller is a welcome acknowledgement of this mid-period lineup's importance in the evolution of fusion. [...]

Zawinul's motto for the group was "We always solo, we never solo." The special combination of freedom and composition that Weather Report consistently achieved on record amply testifies to that philosophy, and Mysterious Traveller is a quintessential piece of evidence.

To me, 1974's Mysterious Traveller marked Weather Report's transition from the improvisational sound of Miles Davis' Bitches Brew, in its first albums, to the more composed-through funk/rock vamping of its later efforts. It's also my personal favorite of Weather Report's pre-Jaco Pastorius oeuvre, and, in particular, these cuts: Blackthorn Rose, a beautiful soprano sax/piano duet between Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul, respectively; the miniature electronica of American Tango; the ethereal (and mysterious) title track, Mysterious Traveller; and the funky workout on Cucumber Slumber.

Weather Report: Mysterious Traveller (LP)

The disc was a wonderful find in an Avondale Estates, Georgia, USA, thrift shop —in good condition— on 13 August 2020. The bad news was that it was there because a local used-record shop —just across the street— had shut down due to the pandemic, disposing of its unsold stock.

  • The album cover and inner liner erroneously list Jungle Book after American Tango on side 1 and completely omit Cucumber Slumber.
  • We won't mention that "traveller" is not quite the accepted American English spelling of the word, "traveler" (with one 'l').
  • Hear the entire album on YouTube: here.

  • Pic(k) of the Week: one in a weekly series of images posted on Saturdays, and occasionally, but not always (as is the case today), with a good fermentable as the subject.
  • Photo 33 of 52, for year 2020. See it on Flickr: here.
  • Camera: Olympus Pen E-PL1.
    • Lens: Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II R
    • Settings: 33 mm | 1.3 sec | ISO 200 | f/5.0
  • Commercial reproduction requires explicit permission, as per Creative Commons.

  • For more from YFGF:

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