Joe Zawinul & The Zawinul Syndicate
When Joe Zawinul performed at Festival Jazz Lugano in Switzerland on July 7, 2007 – his 75th birthday – the influential composer, keyboardist and bandleader was deathly ill and knew it. But he did not go gentle into that good night. This live set, captured on the double-disc 75, serves as testament to that, stunning in its power and sheer joy.
Zawinul’s seven-piece Syndicate suggests a mass-of-muscles brute with the feet of a dancer. The band tears through a set that draws from various points in the leader’s career : “Badia” and “Boogie Woogie Waltz,” from Weather Report’s Tale Spinnin’ and Sweetnighter, respectively, and “Madagascar” and “Fast City” from the group’s Night Passage; as well as pieces from his post-Weather Report career, such as “Orient Express” (which receives an exhausting workout) and “Café Andalusia.” Included on a bonus track, Zawinul and Wayne Shorter perform a beautiful 14-minute duet, revisiting “In a Silent Way” at a concert in Hungary the following month.
Zawinul explored world music long before it became a marketing tool. “The world is my place, not Austria or America,” he was quoted as saying. 75 speaks to that belief – through the multinational make-up of his band; the instrumentation (high-tech side by side with traditional); and the music itself, an organic blend that at any given point draws from African and Latin grooves, post-bop single-note improvisation, Indian singing, and European classical harmonies. Even his singing with the Vocoder suggests his reaching for some form of communication that transcends specific languages and accents. Whether it succeeded or not is besides the point. It always was. From Dinah Washington and Cannonball Adderley to Miles, Weather Report and his own Syndicates, for Zawinul it was always about the search.
- Fernando Gonzalez