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Is it me or is Joe Zawinul.........

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At some point in his mid-30s, Zawinul made some important changes in his life, beginning an intense programme of self-improvement. He cites the ‘little crisis’ when bebop piano master Barry Harris, a predecessor in Cannonball's group congratulated him for an Adderley recording on which Zawinul played exactly like Harris. For a few moments, the former felt he had ‘arrived’, a Viennese émigré who could play bebop like a native New Yorker. ‘The great Barry Harris thinks it was him playing when I was playing.’ After a few more seconds reflection, he decided, to ‘pack all my records up and not listen to music.’ Though still obliged to play others’ music, he was determined to forge a path for himself.
- John L. Walters, Unknown Public

I think I read a similar version in Keyboard Magazine in the 80s.

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To Dan Gould and Peter Friedman, with Love.

signed, Joe Zawinul.

:rsmile:

:rofl:

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At some point in his mid-30s, Zawinul made some important changes in his life, beginning an intense programme of self-improvement. He cites the 'little crisis' when bebop piano master Barry Harris, a predecessor in Cannonball's group congratulated him for an Adderley recording on which Zawinul played exactly like Harris. For a few moments, the former felt he had 'arrived', a Viennese émigré who could play bebop like a native New Yorker. 'The great Barry Harris thinks it was him playing when I was playing.' After a few more seconds reflection, he decided, to 'pack all my records up and not listen to music.' Though still obliged to play others' music, he was determined to forge a path for himself.
- John L. Walters, Unknown Public

I think I read a similar version in Keyboard Magazine in the 80s.

Wow. That is fucking inspiring to me.

Holy epiphany, Batman!

Can I wait until I get my WR boxset from JoeG? ;)

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Can I wait until I get my WR boxset from JoeG? ;)

First you need to be able to sound indistinguishable from Joey DeFrancesco. Then you can throw out all your CDs.

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A decent article about Zawinul in the Jan. 2007 edition of Keyboard Magazine:

In Josef Zawinul's hands, synths become human.

Synth Street

By Ernie Rideout | January 2007

As many longtime readers of Keyboard magazine will attest, it's easy to fall under the sway of Josef Zawinul. His penetrating gaze, gregarious nature, and mix of old school and old world lingo make it easy to spend time with him, should you be lucky enough to get a few moments backstage after a show. For decades, he's surrounded himself with the hottest players in the world, fronting bands that are consistently over-the-top in terms of energy and creativity. His ultra-cool voicings, emotionally charged melodies, and massive grooves keep you listening time and again. His compositions evoke places and moods that absorb you entirely.

It's when you realize that his synthesizers are actually speaking to you in a nearly-intelligible language that you become a true Zawinul devotee. With his ear guiding his astonishing touch, his deft control of envelopes and filters, and his ability to create exquisite layers and blends instantly, Joe's sound is at once instantly recognizable and constantly evolving. Very few artists have committed themselves so deeply and for so many years to creating their own sonic world with synths; Joe's logged more time on these beasts than just about anyone. In many ways, very few have taken synthesizers as seriously as he has.

"I think the synthesizer is an equalizer," he told us back in 1977. "It's going to show more than any other instrument were a musician is at. It'll show what's in you; whatever is in you will be revealed. It'll show your scope as a musician." In his case, synths are still revealing new things about him, and vice versa.

Joe is quick to point out that his approach to synth programming is more intuitive than studied, though he can discuss the differences between an ARP filter and an Oberheim filter as much as you want. "All the sounds I program myself," he said recently. "I don't know much about electronics, although I do know what the knobs are doing. My sounds are very special. But there's a certain way of playing those sounds. If they're not played the same way, they won't sound correct. A synthesizer is not a piano, you know? Sorry to say, still too many keyboard players look at it as though it were a piano, and translating things they'd ordinarily play on a piano. And it does not work. In other words, on a synth, each sound you have is another instrument. It's the difference between, let's say, the trumpet and the guitar. It's a big difference, and unless you play it differently, with a different attack, it's gonna sound awkward.

"The synthesizer is a very difficult instrument to play, because you have to practice each sound, and get each attack so you get the right feeling of the particular sound. Too many players still sound awkward today playing this music, and that gives the synthesizer somewhat of a bad name. The instrument itself is a wonderful thing. Like everything, it's a tool; but this is the master tool of all the instruments."

One reason Joe's ear and touch are sensitized to the possibilities inherent in synths is that he spent his early professional years playing not only piano, but also violin, accordion, clarinet, trumpet, and mallet percussion, such as vibes and marimba. He takes on the personality of any given sound he's playing on a synth, feeling a bow drawing across a string, the buzz of the lips in a mouthpiece, or the bending of a reed under pressure. And perhaps most significantly, on a synth or on a vocoder, he can become a vocalist.

"With the vocoder, I can sing!" he says. "I like that quality. I could never be a singer, even though I have perfect pitch. That doesn't mean anything, man. The vocoder is something that allows me to really express myself. And it's fun to do.

"People who can sing have another concept of playing. They feel melodies. So it's very important to me that the guys in my band have not necessarily a voice but a concept of singing."

Another significant human element to Joe's synth technique is the emotional content of his songs. "All my songs are stories," he says. "I don't have that many tunes in the book at any giving time with the Zawinul Syndicate. But in my stash at home, I have several thousand. I wrote 700 tunes in the past two or three years. Now with the computer, it's so much easier. In the old days I would improvise my composition, on my synths, playing all the parts. I would tape the improvisation, then transcribe it for the band afterward. But now I just play it, I don't need to write it down. I use Sibelius, and I can print it out; 90 per cent of the work is done. I record into Pro Tools simultaneously.

"Every sound gives me another thought. I get a sound on a synth, and that becomes a tune, because that very sound makes me think that particular way." For more on Joe's current synths, see page 28.

Syndication

For the past 20 years, Joe's main performing and recording vehicle has been the Zawinul Syndicate, an ever-evolving association of extraordinarily hot musicians from nearly every corner of the world. The lineup we witnessed at a recent performance at the San Francisco Jazz Festival includes bassist Linley Marthe from Mali, percussionist and vocalist Aziz Samaoui from Morocco, guitarist and vocalist Clovis Nunes Correa from Brazil, and percussionist and vocalist Jorge Bezerra from Brazil. All of them play with incredible energy and fire, and none of them take their eyes off of Joe for more than a few seconds during the entire show. Where does Joe find these amazing cats, and how does he know he's found the right ones? How does he turn talented sidemen into a cohesive human instrument that follows his every move?

"They find me, it's much easier," says Joe. "I'm not a listener to music, I'm not so aware of who is who and what's being done by these people. But I have people who are consistently out there and hearing people. I get back information from people whose judgment I trust. And I just try guys out. Usually these are people who grew up with Weather Report and they know my music pretty good, you know?

"People always try to give me tapes, but I don't even take 'em. Because I don't want to be taking something and then not listen to it. I just tell 'em that from the beginning. I'm listening to my own music, not anybody else's. It doesn't have anything to do with any disrespect. I've just gotta keep my head clear.

"I don't really know what I'm listening for, but if it's there it's there, if not, then we cannot do it. The guys who come into my band are very well prepared, I tell you. And once they've been in, they're not the same. Linley has a great potential. And he's three and a half years in the band, so he's a different kind of guy now. There's a lot to pickup, and he's still learning, and we're communicating. That's the main thing."

The music of the Zawinul Syndicate involves a lot of vocal performance on behalf of everyone in the band, including Joe. Much more so than even Weather Report, which, for a band of instrumentalists, had a lot of singing going on. How important is it that a Syndicate member has a strong singing voice?

"This is not something that has to be there. But I like it when it is there. It's very important to me that they have not necessarily a voice but a concept of singing. It's always been like that with the Syndicate.

"I don't discuss the text of what they sing, and not the notes. I discuss with them what to sing, what I need in certain pieces. I tell them the stories. All my songs are stories. So I'll tell Aziz the story of 'Badia,' she was an old girlfriend of mine, an Egyptian nightclub dancer. So I just tell him the stories, and then give him ideas of what this person was like, or what this place was like. I don't talk about the meaning of the words he sings. And with this, Aziz is really coming into his own, man.

"For instance, the very first song we played, after the intro, it's called 'Search.' We're searching our whole life for the things we need. And then we return home to find it. Then the next is 'Orient Express,' when Agatha Christie found her character of Poirot, she was in Syria at a train station. Her husband was an archaeologist, and they lived in Syria. While she was standing on the platform, the idea came in to her head. So I tell Aziz these kind of stories, and then he can make up his own little thing. In 'Blue Sound Note Three,' it's a story about one special note in that song, it was a blue sound, not a black sound. It's the ballad we play where Jorge at the end kind of preaches in his tribal language. It's all storytelling.

"What I get from these guys in the Syndicate, I couldn't have done with Weather Report. It's another world. It's another kind of music. I'm not even sure if Wayne [shorter] would even fit in there, and to me, he's the greatest. And when you listen to a Syndicate album, you don't miss anything. Number one, it's based on singing, and purposefully so. And on dance. Duke Ellington speaks the foreword at the beginning of many of our shows, and it's also on the My People CD. He says, 'who are my people? My people are the people." We are based on having fun in life. We work hard, but have fun in life. We don't let the hard work be any kind of negative thing. It's just a wonderful positive thing that you have the opportunity to work regardless of the work one does. People like to dance, to eat, to have fun, and go on and have children and raise 'em well. And don't step on nobody and don't let nobody step on them. And everything is documented by singing, in the Syndicate."

The Syndicate doesn't present Joe with his only opportunities for performing and recording. His recent release with the WDR Big Band, Brown Street, reunited Joe with Weather Report and Syndicate alums Alex Acuna, Victor Bailey, and Nathaniel Townsley. "The WDR big band, they've been together for 25 years, they're very experienced," says Joe. "Vince Mendoza orchestrated my original arrangements from the Weather Report days. I play my whole rig, so it doesn't sound like an ordinary big band record. I'm mixing in there with the sound and playing melodies on top, and they're with me. It's quite impressive. I was conducting the band from the keyboards, cuing them like I do with my own band. So it was much more like a jam, an organized jam with a small band. We recorded it live at my Birdland club in Vienna."

The 20th anniversary of the Zawinul Syndicate is coming right up, and to celebrate, Joe's releasing a box set of live recordings. "Ivan, my son, is doing it," says Joe. "Next year we'll come out with a live box set that he recorded off the board tapes. It's phenomenal, a three-CD set of the last 20 years of the Syndicate."

It may be 20 years old, but the Syndicate is going strong. And Joe's incredible enthusiasm for the band has not diminished one bit in all that time; he seems more excited about the current lineup than about any band he's ever had. "We got great reviews in New York," he gushes. "We got standing ovations at Lincoln Center for two nights. And you know, we're not trying to play jazz, we're just playing music. We're just trying to have fun."

http://www.keyboardmag.com/story.asp?storycode=16824

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I found another interview that I think is interesting, especially the following part:

You recently told me you believe America is in cultural decline—that there are far fewer storytellers than there used to be.

Everything is in decline the moment you stop giving the artist freedom. That goes for everywhere, but it is happening in America right now. I think record companies are at great fault. In general, they don't want to develop talent, but rather get the most out of them in the short-term. They're steering people to things they perhaps wouldn't do but have to do and not everyone has the integrity to say "No way." People are hungry and they have to make money and take care of their families, so it's a great pressure. Only when you can afford it from an artistic or financial point of view can you express what you want to express. Before I made My People, I was with Sony for a long time and then there was interest from Verve Records over at Polygram. They told me at the first meeting I had with them—and it was the only meeting I had with them—that they wanted me to sign up but only to play acoustic piano on the first record and only Duke Ellington's music. I got up and left.

Despite you being a big Duke Ellington fan?

I'm the Duke Ellington fan, but that had nothing to do with it. They were telling me what to do and not only that, it was a question of "What is in it for me to play Duke Ellington's music? I'm a composer. I like my music and I like it as much as I like Duke Ellington's music. Duke is one of the greatest musicians who ever lived, but everybody is an individual and it has nothing to do with being better or not as good. It's about the storyline—what you have to tell. And in that respect, I like my music just as much. It sounds very different, but in principle it's still the same.

So, where have the individuals—the storytellers—gone?

They are many storytellers, but they're hidden somewhere. In the older days that's all you had. You didn't have these phenomenal music schools which are everywhere today. That was not so good because the people didn't play their instruments as well as they do today. That was the way times were. If you didn't have a sound of your own, you couldn't make it. All the guys I used to play with when I came to America—each one was a different individual. They had different sounds and different ways of playing and that's what made the business go around. But today, jazz has become very boring. And when I talk about jazz music, I'm talking about who everyone talks about when they talk about jazz.

People tend to toss names such as Wynton Marsalis and Keith Jarrett around when the word "jazz" is invoked in the mainstream these days.

To me, this is very boring music—most of it. It has nothing happening. Nothing is sticking. They're playing music perfectly with wonderful intonation and technique, but it's dangerous for jazz itself. I do wish these people all the best. I'm happy that it goes like that in a way because we used to live like rats when I didn't make any money. We used to have to play every night and drive everywhere. We didn't have the accommodations available today. It was a difficult time, believe me. We all had families to support. I very much respect Wynton as a noble guy who is doing a lot for keeping the great names alive, but the music comes out short. Those little upstarts—that age group, it's not happening. When I listen to old Cannonball, Horace Silver, Blue Mitchell, Art Blakey and Miles stuff, it's way, way, way superior. It's in another league—the fire, the excitement. But that doesn't mean the new guys don't have it, they've just been geared to do the same stuff. I was able to afford to say no, but how many people can say no to a major league contract? Wynton has enough power to do what he wants to do, but it's just not my cup of tea.

If I was coming up now I don't think I'd like to be going in their direction musically. But it's not their fault and it's not criticism because it's not just music. Everything happens like that. It's a spiral going down. In the arts, music and movies, everything is now geared up to a specific audience—the young people, who in general listen to music. And it's not music anymore. Rock & roll was a great movement and very important to all of our lives, but it happened. It made it possible for jazz musicians to get a piece of the rock. It was a great change and cultural movement but the way it's developed has got more and more ugly. The way songs are being performed today compared to the older days—now, you don't understand the words and they have so many embellishments and very little substance. I hope I don't sound like I have sour grapes. I'm a very happy, happy person. But if you ask me, I'll tell you what I think and it's just not happening for me.

The full interview is here: http://www.innerviews.org/inner/zawinul.html

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As someone who has little (a few of those Cannonball records) to no (everything subsequent) use for Zawinul, yeah, I'd say he's got a helluva an ego.

I'd rather hear Barry Harris "imitate" any day.

I dug him in those days. The record with Frog, Soulmates, is a m asterpiece. Great Joe, great Ben, Great Thad.

To put a qualifier on my earlier comments---I wanted to avoid talking about music (so I won't answer your Barry v. Joe gambit) I have to say for clarification mostly that listening agian Weather Report to me is a bit turgid and pompous. Very little holds up. Also a guy I'm staying with here in Holland played a Zawinul Syndicated world tour CD and it also sort of bored my ass off.

Again, I say this for for, er, clarification purposes....yeah, yeah. That's it.... :excited::crazy::party:

Well there you go. You don't particularly like where Zawinul went. Fair enough, but are you sure that's not coloring your other opinions? I mean, any decent musician (and I stress musician because I don't expect non-musicians to have an interest in too much beyond whether or not they like the way something hits them) should be able to look at Zawinul's post-Cannonball music and recognize that it's not just a bunch of flashy formulaic easy bullshit. There's plenty of meat there, whether or not its a type of meat that's to your liking.

Now, if you, as a musician who I'm sure recognizes the various elements that go into a composition, can't at least hear that much, then I just have to say that you got your head up your ass, which would offer a feasible enough explanation of why your ears would be full of shit. :g

"That's when I went home and threw out all my records. Because why should I imitate an imitator (presumably of Bud Powell?)"

Is he wrong?

It doesn't mean Barry is a bad player (he's a monster) but there are stylists and there are innovators. Zawinul didn't want to be a stylist, he wanted to innovate and so he did. Simple as that.

It doesn't mean Barry's music is any less valid in the general sense, it just means that Zawinul didn't want to go down that route. Thankfully, he lived up to his own expectations of himself!

I really don't agree with this. You don't 'choose' to innovate.' You evolve. Otherwise it could very well end up being awfully self-indulgent. To me the proof of and in part the definition of 'innovation' is usefulness to other people. That's why we call them trailblazers, right.

I really mistrust this thing of wanting to innovate and then poof it happens. Real individuality is very, very rare. I've known a lot of guys that sang that song and their music didn't hold up. Again, there has to be a use of the innovation because it replaces and improves something that came before and outlived its usefulness.

And that, I thhink, is one of the biggest lies of the post-Wynton generation, that one shouldn't "choose" to "innovate" because it's something that you can't make happen. Well, no, you can't force it, but you can seek it by challenging yourself to go beyond what you already know. Remember Miles' dictum to "don't play what you know. Play what you don't know"? Whatever happened to that?

No, this whole, "I'll explore what's already known because pursuing my own individuality is going to be a dead end anyway" thing is a cop-out masquerading as "humility". Even if you'll never be an "innovator", you owe it to yourself to at least be an individual. And this fatalism towards accomplishing wven that little bit of not too much is what's allowed a lot of boring people with no ambitions beyond becoming competent craftsmen to kid themselves and the world at large into thinking that it's some sort of major accomplishment to to stand pat and just polish what's already been polished. That's a caretaker's job, nothing more and nothing less. It sure ain't the stuff that makes for progress in music or, more to the point, in life.

Of course you can't "choose" to innovate. You either have it or you don't. But you sure as hell can choose to dig inside yourself to see what's in there beyond what's already been put there by history. I mean, sure, it's a "challenge" to perfect one's own abilities in a pre-existing paradigm, but let's be real - pretty much all the questions have already been answered, and the "challenge" mostly lies in getting the fingers to do the work. No small challenge, that, but if you already got a map, somebody else has done the really hard work.

Don't get me wrong, I respect the hell out of craft & craftsmanship (and I have real issues w/people who try to "move ahead" wthout it), but it really pisses me off when I see craftsmanship equated with spirit. They're not at all the same thing, and this implicit contention that they are is nothing but a goddamned motherfucking LIE. A spirit that allows itself to be content with "mere" competence is a spirit that is content to leave things as they are, and that can be for only one of two reasons that I can see - either the way things are are already to your liking and you don't want to be "upset" or else you're at root, a coward who's afraid to find out what's really inside you. (and I'm using "you" rhetorically here, no personal directiveness intended) If you reached the first zone after doing a lot of searching & discovering (like, say, Horace Silver), hey, more power to you then, you've earned it (as long as you (hopefully) continue to evolve through refining and don't just turn into a regurgitator living off your past glories).

But otherwise, it's a concession that to one degree or you're "done" as a growing, actively evolving human spirit. And quite possibly you never took the first steps towards even realizing that you could be such a thing. You're just going to be one of those people who accepts your role as defined by somebody other than yourself and who goes about the business of being a happy servant to a master who you chose w/o first exploring all the options (especially the ones that may or may not reside within yourself). Volunteered Slavery. Fuck that.

Whatever one's opinions are of Zawinul's music (and for the record, I'm a big fan of a lot of WR, as well as that live Syndicate thing, but find a lot of "failures" along the way as well), I'd think that it must be noted that he was not somebody who chose to accept somebody else's definition of who/what he "should" be, and that alone makes him a hero of mine, as it does damn near every "jazz musician" who's worth a flying fuck in my book. He's stayed treu to his own definition of himself, even when the results weren't what they should have been. And when they were (more than often enoug imo), he accomplished something that the "craftsmen" of the world never can, will, or maybe even be able to conceive of - he built a house to live in that was of his own making.

Some people rent forever (and DAMN is the joke on them...). Some people buy pre-owned and leave it as it is (oh well...). Some people buy pre-owned & rennovate (not a bad deal there, if you can pull it off). Some people buy new and either do or don't keep it fresh after they do (America is the land of opportunity, even if the opportunity is to get somewhere and stop). But a few people take up the challenge to design and build what they want how they want it. That's the Old World/Pioneer spirit at its finest if you ask me (especially when no indiginous peoples are exterminated, and I sure as hell don't see Zawinul "exterminating" Barry Harris or anybody else), and to hear all this talk that it's not even a goal worth pursuing in the first place tells me a lot about why the Jazz Cave continues to get mustier and mustier.

WHY I OUGHTTA... :g:excited::party:

Limited time here due to being in a for pay Internet station in Den Haag Biblioteek. Jim, you have a lot to say as always. BTW I just looked and my head is not up my ass but next to some boxes in the farmers market. I'll figure it out and get back to you.

Glad I provoked some thought from you guys. My Weather Report etc. comments were for fair disclosure. No slam on Zawinul's considerable talents, that was never my intent. More like, as Jaki Byard used to say 'you just have to roast these cats sometimes!'.

As far as the 'innovation' thing, of course it's great and exciting to innovate. It's what we all would want. But I really do believe that it can't be forced. It evolves, usually after a lot of trial and error. And other avdanced thinkers let us know by incorporating the innovation. Innovation and originality are not the same, and are too often confused. There's bad originality and good originality. Again usefulness to at least some others is a good benchmark of quality. And my own very personal take---the thing I myself reach for---there is something in music reachable by/to all people. Bill Evans called it 'the universal musical mind'. It has to do with a musician reaching people on a human level in a way they can't even explain but can feel. When the human and the original intersect like with Pops, Miles, and a handful of others this is an exciting thing and to me a most desirable goal. But again it can't be forced.

Keep it real. The people will know.....

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No arguments from me, except to say that I think Zawinul did innovate, just like he set out to do. Did he "force" it? It doesn't matter... the results speak for themselves. He's sincere in what he does and devoted to it, and that speaks volumes. You may not like it, but he's achieving his goals.

Of course true innovation is hard, and originality for the sake of originality is usually non-interesting, but then again that doesn't mean one shouldn't try.

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I really don't think the issue is whehter or not one should "try" to "innovate" nearly as much as it it is whether or not one should listen to one's gut when said gut says to go a different way, even if it says it in a faint whisper. There's a lot of external pressure (and sometimes even more internal pressure) to ignore that voice of the gut, and it takes a lot of courage to not only listen, but to follow through on that call.

Now, if one's gut never makes that call, ok. But I think it's a rare human who goes through life without hearing it at least once or twice. The gut probably makes that call a helluva lot more times than that, but conditioning prevents a lot of people from hearing it. The ones who do hear it and do act on it are by no means guaranteed success. But oh well.

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No need to revive the discussion/disagreements in this thread, but I came across these words from Joe Zawinul that fill out the details about his relationship with Barry Harris and emphasize how much respect and love he had for him. I thought it would be good to enter them into the record here. From 1984:

“Barry and I used to rehearse together a lot at that time. It was kind of a one-sided relationship in one respect, though. I got a lot from him. Coming to jazz when and where I did, I missed the bebop thing, and that was the style of piano playing I wanted to learn. To my mind, Barry was about the closest there was to the pure bebop style—after Bud Powell, that is. Barry has got that down beautifully; he’s a superb musician. We used to spend all our time at Riverside Records’ studios, rehearsing. As I say, he gave me a great deal, and I will never forget it or be able to replay him for it.”

Edited by Mark Stryker

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Very interesting thread.  I don't recall seeing it before.  Thanks, Mark, for reviving it.

 

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I've had a Zawinul Spotify thing going for about a month now, and it's almost all post-WR/Columbia stuff.

Without fail, I find the music to be deliriously joyous and just ALL kinds of crazy wackgood.

 

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46 minutes ago, JSngry said:

I've had a Zawinul Spotify thing going for about a month now, and it's almost all post-WR/Columbia stuff.

Without fail, I find the music to be deliriously joyous and just ALL kinds of crazy wackgood.

 

After reading Elegant People, I've been meaning to investigate that stuff.  Only dipped my toe in the pool, so far.

 

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It's dense, multilayered, and perhaps superficially redundant.But only superficially. And the singings are just totally delightful!

Truly, he created a musical language all his own.

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I only saw Zawinul live once at the Caravan of Dreams in 1989.  He had Gerald Veasley on bass and Robben Ford on guitar. I thought he was awesome, better than any electric keyboardist/synth player I have ever heard except Sun Ra. 

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That's part of the appeal of him for me, that shit was not contrived or otherwise adopted, he HEARD those sounds, that was part of his palate. And a large palate it was, too!

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