Reflector #37: Weather Report – “Lusitanos”

Weather Report saxophonist Wayne Shorter's first wife was Portuguese, but that only partially explains this song. If at all.

Weather Report is the band saxophonist Wayne Shorter founded with the Austrian Joe Zawinul on keyboards in 1970 after he stopped collaborating with Miles Davis. In its lifetime until the mid-1980s, it integrated a long list of musicians, including cult bassist Jaco Pastorius, and various musical styles, thus becoming a reference for fusion jazz.
In 1975, their album Tale Spinnin’ included the track “Lusitanos.” This is the Portuguese word for Lusitanians, a Celt-Iberian tribe, settled roughly in the western Iberian peninsula, that fought and resisted a long time before they eventually succumbed to the Romans in the 2nd century B.C.  They also loom as far as one can go searching for a native people — to now be considered the ancestors of the Portuguese. Hence, the prefix luso is applied to anything Portuguese-related.

As Shorter explains, the title of the track was inspired by his life with his first wife:

“ ‘Lusitanos’ (…) was a first name given to the Portuguese, meaning people of light. My first wife, who passed, was Portuguese, and I used to ask her, ‘Where did [the word] Portugal come from when they broke free from the Romans?’ I was actually trying to think about a sound which celebrates the Portuguese fado, and how the girls sing with the black shawls on their heads and all that stuff”. (JazzTimes  – 01/06/2002)

Fusion sometimes goes hand in hand with confusion, but what matters is the final outcome — and in this case, it was worth it. 

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