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Zawinul gone at 75
September 11, 2007 4:22 AM   Subscribe

The very great Joe Zawinul has passed at 75 Accordionist, proud Austrian, composer of Mercy, Mercy, In a Silent Way, and Birdland, associate of Miles, McLaughlin, Cannonball, Hancock, and Shorter, arguably the father of world music, Zawinul has left the building.
posted by Wolof (43 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by Thorzdad at 4:44 AM on September 11, 2007


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And at his most accomplished he was credited as a pianist and keyboardist. There's no YouTube video for it, but one of his best records EVAR was 1967's The Rise and Fall of the Third Stream, notable before he was interpolated by the Big Business of Columbia and Miles Davis. Third Stream pretty much validates everything that was neither Columbia™ or Blue Note™ jazz during that period.

Good on 'ya Joe! You'll be missed.
posted by vhsiv at 4:58 AM on September 11, 2007


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It was just six years ago that I saw him play in NYC. He didn't seem that old. I had the chance to shake his hand and tell him in person how much I appreciated what he'd done for the music world, and that he would always remain one of my all time favorites. My roommate in high school (Interlochen Arts Academy) introduced me to him. Weather Report's Sportin' Life. Wow. And still and always. Wow.
posted by strangeguitars at 5:00 AM on September 11, 2007


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posted by SNACKeR at 5:07 AM on September 11, 2007


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I tell you what, too, Zawinul could program synths like nobody's business. Got great sounds out of the old vintage axes that were brand new back when he started playing them in the 70's. He was an original old school synthesizer wizard. And unlike some of his contemporaries, who started using synths but mostly played them as if they were playing a piano, Zawinul intuitively understood that the synth was something unique, something to be approached in a new way. Those delightfully simple and very musical little patterns he'd come up with for Weather Report tunes were brilliant.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:51 AM on September 11, 2007


One of my very first interviews was with Joe Zawinul. Midway through the interview, when he told me that he "invented hip-hop" I broke out laughing, thinking he was joking. He wasn't, of course, and the mood quickly turned belligerent. He shot down my next question and the interview ended shortly thereafter.

It was my baptismal of fire; in fact, it was probably one of the most educational interviews I've done in ten years. Still, I suppose I'll always think of him as a smug cockface.

Good night, funny man!
posted by Ljubljana at 5:51 AM on September 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


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posted by languagehat at 5:56 AM on September 11, 2007


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posted by crawfishpopsicle at 5:58 AM on September 11, 2007


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posted by Foosnark at 6:08 AM on September 11, 2007


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posted by chillmost at 6:18 AM on September 11, 2007


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Must go pull out one of the Weather Report LPs.
posted by fuse theorem at 6:23 AM on September 11, 2007


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posted by OverlappingElvis at 6:48 AM on September 11, 2007


Two formative musical experiences: Weather Report's underappreciated-by-most 8:30 (which introduced a high-school aged me to 'Birdland', Jaco Pastorius, world music, and a world of modern jazz which was joyous, electronic, and neither artwank nor AOR) and a mixtape somebody gave me decades ago with Zawinul playing 'In a Silent Way' entirely on synths which, strangely, felt so much more organic than the Miles Davis version.
posted by ardgedee at 6:59 AM on September 11, 2007


to add to what flapjax said about Zawinul's synth programming...

I read an old interview with him from the early 1970s where he talked about how he played two ARP (monophonic) synthesizers - at the same time (see pic below.) What makes this really remarkable is he reversed the keyboard tracking of one of the synths - so the notes would get lower, not higher, as you went up the keyboard. He could solo, play 2 note chords this way, generally Zawinul-around, like it was a freaking normal thing to do...

Being an analogue synth fan who has enough trouble playing ONE keyboard in the proper manner, this fact always left me feeling, uh, "humbled"

posted by pellucid at 7:01 AM on September 11, 2007


Oops.. here's that pic (early 1970's ARP synthesizer ad)
posted by pellucid at 7:03 AM on September 11, 2007


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posted by ob at 7:26 AM on September 11, 2007


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He's now jamming with Miles & Jaco.
posted by mike3k at 7:37 AM on September 11, 2007


By the way, issue #9 of the excellent Wax Poetics magazine (one of the very best music rags around, IMO) features a fine article on Zawinul. Recommended.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:38 AM on September 11, 2007


one of the best concerts I've ever seen was Weather Report at the Beacon in NYC around the time of the Iran hostage crisis. didn't know a single one of the tunes they played that night; didn't matter. that unit was a freight train that flattened you with its power and musicality. Zawinul ruled that bad-ass roost.

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posted by the sobsister at 7:48 AM on September 11, 2007


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Sad news. Must have a listen to In A Silent Way and some Heavy Weather when I get home.

Just goes to show: a gentleman is someone who plays the accordion, but prefers the ARP Odyssey...
posted by El Brendano at 8:20 AM on September 11, 2007


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posted by mkhall at 8:31 AM on September 11, 2007


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Oh gods. I just adored him and I didn't even know he passed until I saw the blue this morning. In a Silent Way is my desert island disc, my favorite jazz album, and the one album that turned me from a New Romantic and Smiths fan into a Ambient/Jazz/World music fan. I never saw him in concert, but Heavy Weather is on regular rotation in my iPod. This is just so sad.
posted by Dantien at 8:39 AM on September 11, 2007


Zawinul was a musical original and was my introduction to Jazz in the time of Jazz-fusion in the 70s. I remember thinking how great the music was then, and I still think it's just as great now. It's somehow timeless and just as often shows up in my iTunes playlists alongside more contemporary selections. I recall seeing Weather Report in 1978 when they had Shorter, Pastorius and the great percussion of Alex Acuna. An amazing night! Still one of the most musically diverse in terms of influences; American, South American, African, European, it's all there.

He will be missed.
posted by gallois at 8:44 AM on September 11, 2007


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(I had the privilege of seeing him on the final tour -- just happened to be passing through Freiburg im Breisgau the same night he was. By far the best show I've ever accidentally seen.)
posted by Vetinari at 8:45 AM on September 11, 2007


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I've spent a lot of time listening to Weather Report. I think I'll spend a little more today.
posted by Songdog at 8:52 AM on September 11, 2007


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posted by fingers_of_fire at 8:57 AM on September 11, 2007


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(sidenote: my computers are named miles, cannonball and herbie)
posted by furtive at 10:23 AM on September 11, 2007


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posted by zoogleplex at 10:56 AM on September 11, 2007


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posted by juv3nal at 11:43 AM on September 11, 2007


Zawinul's amazing and colorful innovations in his use of the Fender-Rhodes electric piano in the early seventies helped introduce new possibilties of this potent new sound color for all kinds of musicians. He did the same thing with the first clunky ARP 2600s, the Odyssey and later the Prophet V and KORG synths.

Besides all of those formidable contributions, his own compositions (along with Shorter's) stretched jazz structures in radical new ways at the time -- a fact he is not often enough credited for --and yet made them sound entirely logical to the keyed-in listener. So many of his European harmony-drenched fusion works stand the test of time, and he put them in refreshing and brand new rhythmic contexts.

Even 37 years after I first heard it, I still think "Between the Theighs" (from Weather Report's "Tale Spinnin') was a forerunner of so many things that came after. It's funky and swings at the same time; a sonic masterpiece. His tribute "Cannonball" (from "Black Market") for his old boss can still make you cry. And there are so many others...

Zawinul was a visionary, a world citizen and real genius in the truest sense. Rest in peace, Joe.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 11:48 AM on September 11, 2007


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posted by eclectist at 12:07 PM on September 11, 2007


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posted by mi at 12:31 PM on September 11, 2007


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posted by ChuqD at 12:38 PM on September 11, 2007


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One of the many reasons I'm addicted to synths. I remember there were two camps in the jazz fusion world, the RTF bloodless bastards and the funky Weather Reporters.

Say hi to Jaco for us, man.
posted by djrock3k at 2:05 PM on September 11, 2007


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posted by Superfrankenstein at 4:36 PM on September 11, 2007


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posted by paulsc at 5:00 PM on September 11, 2007


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posted by asok at 5:13 PM on September 11, 2007


Yeah, I have been a huge fan of Joe since I was a youngster. I've loved "In A Silent Way" (the whole album) since I was 12. When I was in my 20's I found out how great it is to listen to after smoking pot. Much better than anything Pink Floyd ever did. I was a big Weather Report fan too starting back in the 70's. I think aside from his obvious skills, he was also able to pick not only great musicians, but ones that fit with his vision, and he wrote his music to take full advantage of their abilities. I remember reading an interview of him explaining how difficult it was to play the opening to "Birdland" since he's playing in different times with each hand. I've seen a couple of drummers who could do something similar, but never a keyboard player. Awesome player, and I'm glad I have his music to keep me company.

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posted by Eekacat at 5:22 PM on September 11, 2007


I broke out laughing, thinking he was joking. He wasn't, of course, and the mood quickly turned belligerent. He shot down my next question and the interview ended shortly thereafter.

Much like my interview with him after a Weather Report concert in Harrisburg PA (they opened for Earth, Wind, & Fire, July 12, 1975). He kept contradicting himself, seemed irritated the whole time, and our talk didn't last long — but I loved (and still love) the music. (At a house party after an earlier Weather Report concert, in State College PA, I couldn't get much out of Wayne Shorter either, but he was more pleasant about it.)

I never thought of what Zawinul did as ’world’ music — he told me his biggest influence was Charlie Parker, and he got turned on to jazz by U.S. Armed Forces Radio when he was a teenager in Austria, listening to people like Stan Kenton, George Shearing, Benny Goodman, and Louis Armstrong. He certainly was good at what he did, though; Birdland is undeniably a modern classic. And just last weekend I was playing the Cannonball stuff like Mercy, Mercy, Mercy for my son, telling him how great it was.

Hard to believe he was 75; sorry to hear he’s gone.
posted by LeLiLo at 8:39 PM on September 11, 2007


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posted by eritain at 9:24 PM on September 11, 2007


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posted by hortense at 10:31 PM on September 11, 2007


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posted by pilgrim at 2:13 AM on September 12, 2007


I was named after him. My middle name is Zawinul.
posted by Geezum Crowe at 2:28 AM on September 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


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