"Procession" may not be one of Weather Report's best albums, but it's one of the best jazz-rock recordings of recent years -- an indication of how completely Weather Report has artistically dominated the fusion movement that promised so much a dozen years ago but delivered so little.
Keyboardist Joe Zawinul and saxophonist Wayne Shorter -- the founders, leaders and unchanging core of Weather Report -- are among the few to realize that composition is the key to making jazz and rock elements fuse properly.
The album's best compositions are Zawinul's title tune -- which begins with tentative, counter balanced synthesizer-bass exchanges, shifts gears into an assured, rolling trot and then subsides slowly -- and Shorter's "Plaza Real," a moody ballad with reluctant stop-and-go phrases that finally break open into a cathartic sax solo.
"Where the Moon Goes," an ambitious collaboration with Manhattan Transfer, doesn't quite hang together. Performing on record for the first time are Weather Report's three young rhythm players: All are quite good, especially Omar Hakim. But none is a major voice who can compete with the leaders as an equal -- something bassist Jaco Pastorius did achieve in the previous version of Weather Report. ON RECORD, ON STAGE THE ALBUM WEATHER REPORT -- Procession (Columbia FC 38427). THE SHOW WEATHER REPORT, Friday at 8 at the Warner Theater.