For those of you who might not be familiar with Miroslav Vitous, he has a sterling musical history, right up to present day. He came to the US in the late sixties and became part of the New York scene in a quick fashion working with such greats as Chick Corea, Miles Davis, and Stan Getz to name just a few. He then became one of the founding members of the legendary Weather Report ensemble, which furthered an already outstanding career (at a very young age I might add).
He’s kept himself an active part of jazz history with the release of 13 solo albums to date, his latest being “Remembering Weather Report” which is reviewed in this issue… a very progressive and interesting CD. The respect from his peers is unquestioned, and his voice on upright blends in with many of the household names in jazz on this instrument we’ve come to know. He maintains a busy touring schedule, and like many of his contemporaries have showed tremendous longevity in what has become a fairly tough market as of late.
His early efforts in the Weather Report days were groundbreaking, and a listen to his newest release shows that his musical integrity is in tact as he displays an aggressive 21st century musical approach… good to know these kinds of statements are still alive and well out there.
Jake: Tell me about your new release “Remembering Weather Report”, and what inspired this particular CD.
Miroslav: I started to write music for the band album about 12 months before the passing of Joe Zawinul, and noticed that one of the songs I was writing (Semina) had a strong resemblance with Zawinul’s “In a Silent Way”, in essence. (It was within the same spirit I come from, as Zawinul’s father was from Moravia, which is part of Czech Republic). I was quite surprised, and did not know why this came to me like that……. then I understood when Joe had passed that it was part of remembering Weather Report.
Aside from that, I think it is now time for the public to find out what my true presence in Weather Report really was, as both Zawinul and Shorter had denied me of the true recognition of the role I played in the development of the new music which we started to play, and consequently upon my departure, they stopped playing.
It’s the right thing to do at this time, and it was only delayed by greed and worldly negative qualities before this could fully materialize. I think now is the time to go in this direction, as I see no other way to go.
Jake: Tell me a little about your time spent with Joe Zawinul and the Weather Report days.
Miroslav: Well, there’s a little story here. I meet Zawinul in Vienna at the Friderich Gulda Jazz Competition in 1966, which I had won, and consequently that was my ticket to the USA, and freedom. My father was also there and met Joe who was a member of the jury as well. Zawinul had used this as far as gaining an infinite trust from me, as he said to me that he promised my father that he would take care of me in the USA. (I was 19 years old coming from communist country!) I did receive an offer in Vienna to join Cannonball Adderley’s band, which Joe was a part of at that time. Upon my arrival in the USA, it did not materialize for a number of reasons, but one of them was that Zawinul did not want me in Cannonball’s band. I found this out long after my departure from Weather Report.
Joe was a first class manipulator. He manipulated everything he could to his benefit… even Wayne Shorter. It took Wayne a long time to recognize this himself. Consequently, the memory of all of the events for me was even more distorted by Wayne Shorter’s wife having a hand in the disappearance of my legal papers of owner ship of the Weather Report band, as I owned 1/3rd of the band. I could not ever claim that, as the papers where set up in this way; whoever has possession of the stock owns it.
There where 3 stocks total. She had stolen my papers from my apartment, as she had access to them through her half sister who was living with me at the time… an unfortunate situation for me. (This sounds like a detective plot.) It was indeed a financial blow, but even more so it felt as if someone was denying my existence for many, many years.
I have finally overcome this and now can make it public, as this is what happened in all truth. By the way, I made a few attempts to contact Wayne Shorter about this to straighten it out, but it was completely met with silence. I could not get any response from him whatsoever. That really was the most difficult thing I had to face with this.
Jake: You were teaching at the New England Conservatory and became Chairman of the Jazz Department at NEC in the eighties. My question is, do you feel your approach as an educator has evolved or changed in any fashion over the last couple of decades?
Miroslav: It is hard to say as I have not been involved in teaching for quite some time. I am sure I would be doing things differently in accordance with what I have learned, and what I have realized. However, I can tell you that the reason that I stopped this direction was because of a serious conflict in values. The money, I discovered as Chairman of the New England Conservatory, HAD MORE WEIGHT THAN ANY SERIOUS DEVOTION TO THE RIGHT COST AS FAR AS MUSIC/LOVE & TRUTH. That was enough for me to quit.
Consequently, I have also realized that because of that set up, my presence was really not worth the time. I have had some talented bass players, but for me it was still not worth it. Maybe 3 or 4 of the students (during 7 years) did get what I would consider to be the right thing. But it was only because they came with the right approach and love for the music. The school did not have much to do with that. This I fully realize, and know that as far as the educational level is concerned (and others), we have to dismiss the “money” value, as it only delays, interferes, and destroys us in the end as far as such important issues as life, love and existence.
Jake: You’ve also been a clinician for quite some time. Has your approach for clinics changed as well?
Miroslav: Obviously; as I evolve, my teaching evolves as well…
Jake: You took a seven-year break to pursue making orchestral sample libraries. Do you feel that experience had an effect on you musically in any way when you returned to playing?
Miroslav: Absolutely, in the most positive way. While I was working on the sounds, I received an education which is not in existence in our educational system (This is just a funny remark to point out how primitive our school educational system really is)… There are other things much more important to learn than what is recognized by the curriculum board.
I have learned by listening, where the sound actually comes from. (It does not come from this planet) I am speaking in the terms of the universal acoustic laws and our potential to hear that sound. This by far surpasses any existing education we have so far, (we don’t even pay attention to where things comes from …) as we are dealing directly with the universe, and not our poorly limited money oriented worldly systems.
Jake: As far as acoustic bass goes, what players are you listening to that you feel are contributing to the evolution of this instrument?
Miroslav: To tell you the truth, I really don’t have the time to listen to other music (only sometimes). Between my work and the concerts, my ears need some rest. It also has something to do with moving forward to create new things. If you listen to other music all the time, (and I am not speaking of other bass players) by the nature of our existence you would be strongly influenced by that. So it is probably a good idea to go on your own instead of listening to see how you could improve yourself with other people’s ideas. Of course all of this depends on how much talent you have, and sometimes by listening to other things, you’re able to realize things you may not have if you hadn’t heard them. So it is all about timing and destiny when you hear that. Many of you will realize this.
We may as well take a look at this: WHAT IS A TALENT? (Could it be by any chance a spirit, which came with you coming into this world?) If you have enough talent, and your own ideas, you should be by far preoccupied with them. This is what is happening in my case.
Jake: You’ve got a quote on your website from Miles Davis, that being: “It’s always been a gift with me, hearing music the way I do. I don’t know where it comes from, it’s just there and I don’t question it.” Has your relationship with music over the years had this same effect on you as well?
Miroslav: It seems that I have inherited this, as it was always happening—but I only became aware of this in the past few years.
Jake: And finally, do you plan to do any touring stateside in the near future?
Miroslav: Of course….
Visit online at www.miroslavvitous.com
(Note from the Editor: Article based on written answers and edited for clarity and brevity)