Probably most renowned for being an early Weather Report member, bassist Vitous has done many other things before and since.
Mountain in the Clouds
Oct. 1969 / Atlantic
Originally released as Infinite Search then re-released on Atlantic with the above title, this is an energetic jam session with Vitous, Joe Henderson, John McLaughlin, Herbie Hancock, and Jack DeJohnette, a veritable supergroup on the threshold of an electric decade. The high point is “Freedom Jazz Dance”, emphasis on freedom. After that come some moodier pieces and a basement blowout (“I Will Tell Him on You”). With virtually every other fusion group relying on electric bass for grounding, Vitous’ nimble doublebass makes the music stand apart. Nevertheless, this isn’t really a group, more a temporary alignment embarked on a collective discovery. Then they all went their separate ways.
The A-list team: Jan Garbarek, John McLaughlin, Chick Corea, Jack DeJohnette, and Vitous on bass. Perversely enough, the quintet unites in full only on the lengthy mosaic “Univoyage”. The personnel otherwise work as smaller units within a program of intimate vignettes with Vitous and DeJohnette the sole constants. Miroslav is in top form, sparring with McLaughlin’s rabbit-quick guitar in “Faith Run” and feeding the ethereal synergy of Corea and Garbarek in “Sun Flower”. Saxophonist Garbarek leads the way in “Bamboo Forest” and “Brazil Waves” (the titles are descriptive enough), digs in on “Tramp Blues”, and engages in an icy call and response with Vitous in “Beethoven”. This is one of Jan’s finest efforts anywhere.
The full album lacks somewhat in cohesion and direction though, at least on first listen. A couple of choice melodies aside, Vitous’ compositions are just the barest of sketches, and the group doesn’t quite make up the difference with any flat-out improvising. In fact, here’s the spoiler: the majority of everyone’s contributions, apart from bass and drums, were overdubbed. (Thus no exact recording dates given.) It’s not immediately obvious at all, which says a lot about the reactive sensibilities of these players, not to mention the great engineering/mixing job. And it explains some of the reticence in the tracks; you can’t imagine these guys being so reserved in each other’s actual company. There’s also a brass trio that augments three of the tracks, and they are obviously overdubbed - there’s no way to premeditate their entrances into these loose tunes.
The continual reconfiguring of the players can be disorienting, although we get a hint of what a whole trio album from Garbarek, Vitous, and DeJohnette might sound like. Make no mistake, it is a very fine record, and anyone with an ear for Garbarek or Vitous or general “ECM-ness” must check it out. Of all the tracks, “Univoyage” is the most rewarding and virtually worth the purchase by itself.