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Album Review

Joe Zawinul's final edition of his Zawinul Syndicate band was a terrific ensemble that was perfect for any jazz festival. The multi-ethnic content, driving funky pulse, and Zawinul's colorful keyboard foundation kept listeners on their toes and rapt with attention. Using percussion and guitar with no other solo instruments, Zawinul was fully able to carry the proceedings with support from very talented performers who always complemented the music, but never got in the way, or dared to. This live double-CD set perfectly exemplifies Zawinul's personalized direction before he suddenly passed away, and exudes all of the energy the group produced in concert. For Weather Report fans, there are many direct or implied signposts that remind us why that band was so unique under the Austrian-born keyboardist's direction. But at the core is Zawinul's expanded sound, based in technological advances, conjuring up any number of folk based motifs from around the globe. "Orient Express" and "Madagascar" start the voyage in good form, reminiscent of Weather Report's "Black Market" phase, as electric bass guitarist Linley Marthe channels Jaco Pastorius as Mediterranean music is contemporized with an American backbeat. Late period Miles Davis simplicity is employed during "Scarlet Woman," perhaps a cousin of "Back Seat Betty" in its slow and mysterious but eventually composed strut. The mbira or thumb piano is played by Paco Serv alongside Zawinul's vocoder and synths on the sparse "Zanza II," and "Cafe Andalusia" concludes the first CD in a straight rock-funk beat with wordless vocals from the impressive Sabine Kabongo driving an unstoppable forward motion and kinetic energy. Seems like the band can't wait to dive into "Fast City/Two Lines," a speedy bullet train combo tune, fueled by the stinging Santana-like guitar of Alegre Correa, inspiring fine solos from Marthe and drummer Serv. -"Clario" is all Correa's, a spotlight on Brazilian Jobim-styled sounds, induced by his toned down guitar, ramped up scats, and yells. The Weather Report touch returns in "Badia/Boogie Woogie Waltz," a seamless transition between free time and 3/4 where Zawinul's understated synth and Correa's berimbau identify the universal global village as welcome to all. Wayne Shorter joins the group for a thinly veiled version of the Miles Davis groundbreaker "In a Silent Way," reuniting the old mates in a body of improvisation featuring small, clipped notes and phrases on soprano sax, returning after a respite to briefly state the riff on which a thousand stately, elegant and wistful counter harmonies were built upon. When the Zawinul Syndicate performed, they left nothing on the stage, extracting every ounce of their souls for all to hear. The leader demanded this commitment, and when you listen closely to his layers of pure sound and merging cultures altogether wrapped up, one wishes he could have had a prominent position in the United Nations. Our world was a better place with Joe Zawinul in it. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

Customer Reviews

Mixed Feelings

I love Joe Zawinul, especially during his Weather Report & Miles Davis years. I am a fan, but I have very mixed feelings about the overall production quality of this album. For starters, most of the tracks sound like reissues of old Joe Zawinul masterpieces with the Weather Report band. I have the originals (vinyls and cds) and any reissue of the original tracks are a waste of musical resources. I was hoping to hear a seventy-five year old Joe Zawinul doing (live or studio recorded) fresh takes on his original classics. I know his music very well and know many of the tracks were pulled from the vaults and laid down on the compact discs. If you have never heard any of the original Zawinul bands, then maybe the tracks may provide you with enough incentive to check out other recordings of Weather Report and Miles Davis. Otherwise, I do not think I would recommend this offering. It's not the music, but the bad idea of the recording studio to just dust of some old gems and put them together for a seventy-fifth anniversary album. Sorry....

How he will be missed....

I have had the great privledge to see Joe play with Cannonball and Miles, Weather Report and Syndicate.... There is a great emptiness in the world of music with Joe's passing. I have all his records and this is as great as all the others. The energy, focus, the layer upon layer of sounds, words, rythms....

To see him live was a peak experience... You were never the same when you walk out of one of his concerts... This album deserves it's place along side of his other overwhelming excellent albums....

Good by Joe, how you will be missed......

This is a great memorial

This is a great memorial to an amazing and important musician. It isn't the best collection of his music (Check out WDR's Brown Street), but it is magical in that it is a fun listen and was recorded in the last year of his life. I had the joy to see this band that year and it was my lifetime's musical highlight.

Biography

Born: July 7, 1932 in Vienna, Austria

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Joe Zawinul belonged in a category unto himself -- a European from the heartland of the classical music tradition (Vienna) who learned to swing as freely as any American jazzer, and whose appetite for growth and change remained insatiable. Zawinul's curiosity and openness to all kinds of sounds made him one of the driving forces behind the electronic jazz-rock revolution of the late '60s and '70s -- and later, he would be almost alone in exploring fusions between jazz-rock and ethnic music from all...
Full Bio
75, Joe Zawinul
View in iTunes
  • $19.99
  • Genres: Jazz, Music, Hard Bop, Fusion
  • Released: Feb 24, 2009

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