Wednesday, September 12, 2007

In Memoriam: Josef Zawinul in a silent way now.....

This one came out of left field for's like that "not so funny all the time" line about someone dying, and the response would be "I didn't know he was sick..."

This situation would be that for me. Just the way that Joe Zawinul would stand at his keys and have that boxing stance that came from a full knowledge of the sport and how it weaved in with what he did with his music, and his life. He seemed so pugilistic and invincible, that somehow in the back of my mind, he would be around forever, like his musical output. Sadly, I was mistaken somewhere...
Zawinul, who stood as tall as Miles Davis, in pointing the way with what music would sound like in the future with his direction and composition of such items, kept vital even to the end of his life, forcefully swinging and putting out how things would sound in a world dominated by truly world sounds, and how Jazz music was truly World music, and vice versa

From email, this next wonderful thought came from my fellow broadcaster on KBOO 90.7 FM, and generally smart guy, Dan Flessas, who's name has graced this blog before....

....mercy, mercy, mercy....another big part of my youth moves on--how i listened to music, what i listened for, what i heard, i got directly from these radical adventurers--Zawinul, Max Roach, Miles, Bird. But for a kid of the 60s and 70s bred on Hendrix and The Mothers...

Weather Report literally changed my life. Each new record seemed like a visit from the future. Zawinul and Shorter turned me on to 3 of my favorite bassists--Miroslav Vitous, Alphonso Johnson, and Jaco Pastorius (Victor Bailey was no slouch, either..), but it was always Zawinul's sound that never ceased to surprise me. Hypnotic, mystical and intensely funky, he could transport you along in concert like nobody--i often found myself taking off my clothes in the frenzy Weather Report created (well, i was younger, heh)...

He didn't just play, he told stories without words.

long live Josef Zawinul!


Jazz great Joe Zawinul dead at 75

VIENNA, Austria (AP) - Jazz keyboardist Joe Zawinul, who soared to fame as one of the creators of jazz-rock fusion with the band Weather Report, has died, a hospital official said. He was 75.

Zawinul died early Tuesday, a spokeswoman for Vienna's Wilhelmina Clinic said, without giving details. He had been hospitalized since last month.

Zawinul suffered from a rare form of skin cancer, said his manager Risa Zincke, according to the Austria Press Agency.

Zawinul, who turned 75 on July 7, won acclaim for his keyboard work on chart-topping Miles Davis albums such as "In A Silent Way" and "Bitches Brew," and was a leading force behind the so-called "Electric Jazz" movement.

In 1970, Zawinul and saxophonist Wayne Shorter founded Weather Report and produced a series of albums including "Heavy Weather," "Black Market," "I Sing the Body Electric," and the Grammy-winning live recording "8:30."

He is credited with bringing the electric piano and synthesizer into the jazz mainstream but was frustrated by the lack of respect for electric keyboards and new technology among jazz purists.

"There is no difference between a Stradivarius or a beautiful synthesizer sound . . . ," Zawinul said in a 2007 interview for Jazziz magazine. "People make a big mistake in putting down electronic music. Yes, it's been misused and abused, but that's true of every music. . .

"There is nothing wrong with electronic music as long as you're putting some soul behind the technology."

Earlier this year, Zawinul released the CD "Brown Street," a live recording made at his Vienna jazz club, Birdland, pairing his small combo and Germany's WDR Big Band, on which he revisited such vintage Weather Report tunes as "Black Market," "Boogie Woogie Waltz," and "Night Passage."

This spring, he toured Europe to mark the 20th anniversary of his world music group, the Zawinul Syndicate. He sought medical attention when the tour ended, the Viennese Hospital Association said in a statement last month.

Austrian president Heinz Fischer said Zawinul's death meant the loss of a "music ambassador" who was known and cherished around the world.

Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer praised Zawinul's "unpretentious way of dealing with listeners" and said he wasn't "blinded by superficialities."

Zawinul's son, Erich, said his father would not be forgotten.

"He lives on," Erich Zawinul was quoted as saying by APA.

Born in 1932, Zawinul grew up in a working-class family during the Second World War in the Austrian capital. He played accordion on the streets to make money and received classical piano training as a child prodigy at the Vienna Conservatory.

In the postwar years, he grew interested in American jazz, playing in a dance band that included the future Austrian president Thomas Klestil and making a name for himself on the local jazz scene in bands led by saxophonist Hans Koller and others.

"One thing about Viennese musicians, they can really groove, more than even the German bands can," Zawinul said in a 2007 Downbeat magazine interview. "It's something in our nature, perhaps. We're cosmopolitan and interracial - Czech, Slavic, Hungarian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Turkish a little bit."

In 1959, Zawinul emigrated to the United States on a scholarship to study at the Berklee School of Music in Boston but left to join Maynard Fergusion's big band. He next landed a gig with Dinah Washington. His funky piano can be heard on her 1959 hit "What a Diff'rence a Day Made."

Zawinul rose to international fame after joining alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley's band in 1961. During his nine-year stint with the band, he composed such tunes as "Walk Tall," "Country Preacher," and most notably the gospel-influenced, soul-jazz anthem "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," his first important recording on electric piano, which climbed the pop charts.

Zawinul's pioneering work on the new Fender Rhodes electric piano caught the ear of Miles Davis, who was impressed that Adderley's band was being booked into rock venues like San Francisco's Fillmore West.

"Miles came to all of our gigs and he told me, "That's the way music is supposed to be played - open it up," Zawinul said in the Jazziz interview.

In the late '60s, Zawinul recorded with Davis' studio band, His tune "In a Silent Way" served as the title track for the trumpeter's first foray into the electric arena.

Zawinul's composition "Pharoah's Dance" was featured on Davis' groundbreaking 1970 jazz-rock fusion album "Bitches Brew."

After releasing his debut solo album in 1970, Zawinul teamed with Shorter, who had just left Miles' band, to form Weather Report, which became the preeminent jazz-rock fusion band of the 1970s.

The band became known for its collective improvisations, innovative compositions, high-energy rock grooves, world music beats and use of cutting-edge electronics to create an orchestral sound.

At the core of the group was the interplay between the introverted Shorter and the extroverted Zawinul.

"I have no idea how we did it. It was just one of those things," Zawinul recalled later.

"It's funny how we work together. . . I have perfect pitch and Wayne is close to it. . . . He is a great poet. I don't even call him a saxophone player and I don't call myself a keyboard player. I'm a musician who tells stories and we could tell stories together."

Weather Report enjoyed its biggest commercial success with the 1977 album "Heavy Weather" which featured Zawinul's catchy tune "Birdland," which became one of the most recognizable jazz hits of the '70s after it was also recorded by Maynard Ferguson and the vocal group Manhattan Transfer.

After Weather Report broke up in 1986, Zawinul went on to form The Zawinul Syndicate, which brought together a global village of musicians who recorded such albums at the Grammy-nominated "My People" (1996) and "World Tour" (1998).

Zawinul's wife, Maxine, died earlier this year. Plans for Zawinul's funeral were unclear but Vienna Mayor Michael Haeupl told reporters Tuesday morning he would be given an honorary grave in the capital.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home