Shakti and Weather Report at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall

This is one of the top five concerts I ever attended.

It came on April 23, 1976, just a few days past my birthday. Shakti with John McLaughlin, opened for Weather Report on the latter’s Black Market album tour. For those who have not been there, the Kennedy Center’s sound quality is exquisite anywhere in the hall.

McLaughlin, for a time, became known as Mahavishnu John McLaughlin. Prior to going acoustic with Shakti, his “Mahavishnu Orchestra” recorded a series of very popular fusion jazz albums. I like to describe it as “jazz at the speed of coke,” for it’s nearly hypersonic music. Some people doing coke that’s cut with speed might keep up with the tracks. Try the “Noonward Race” on the Inner Mounting Flame CD/LP from 1971 as an example (find it on YouTube, Spotify, et al).

With Shakti, he and his fellow musicians slowed—slightly. Here’s a four-minute track from the album 1976 album, “Lotus Feet”—that they played at the April 1976 concert.

If you want to hear more, here’s a link to the whole album. As you listen to the 29-minute “What Need Have I For This—What Need Have I For That—I Am Dancing At The Feet Of My Lord—All Is Bliss—All Is Bliss,” final arrangement, Imagine the members frenetically beating any of the three Indian percussion instruments with bare hands—the clay pot ghatam, the drumheads of the mridangam, or the two tablas.

A clay pot played by T.S. Vinayakaram
Played by T.S. Vinayakaram, pic  Wikipedia
Played by Zakir Hussain


Wooden drum
Played by R. Raghavan, pic Duke University music collection


Weather Report’s repertoire sounded quite different. The group regularly changed personnel, according to commentaries. All on this performance were renowned for various instruments and members of previous bands. The Black Market had an evolving sound as people came and went over time. Throughout most of its existence, the band was a quintet consisting of Zawinul, Shorter, a bass guitarist, a drummer, and a percussionist. While generally labeled as a jazz fusion group, they went beyond it sometimes. For this tour, the musicians were Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul, Jaco Pastorius, Alphonso Johnson, Chester Thompson, Alex Acuna, Don Alias, and Narada Michael Walden.

A Wikipedia article says that Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter and Miroslav Vitous founded the group. While at the Florida Nature and Culture Center in Florida (FNCC, the SGI-USA Buddhist group retreat) I told fellow Buddhist Wayne Shorter how much I enjoyed the concert. He passed away recently after an illustrious career.

I loved Gibraltar, among many other songs from this concert. Here’s a link to a 5-minute cut of the tune on YouTube.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.