Work on the new Zawinul album, Faces and Places, is just about complete. I am told that it is scheduled to be mastered in April and will be released this fall. According to the ESC Records web site, guest musicians include Paco Sery, Maria Joao, Etienne M’Bappe, Sabine Kabongo, Victor Bailey, Richard Bona, Richard Page and Alex Acuna.
The Zawinul Syndicate, with the incomparable Paco Sery back in the drum chair, will tour Europe this spring and summer, as well as this fall, in what is being billed as the “70th Birthday Tour.” (Zawinul will celebrate his 70th birthday on July 7.) Plans are pretty solid for May, as I have reported on the Tour Dates page. The Syndicate starts off with 12 straight one-nighters in Holland, Germany, France and Switzerland, followed by an encore performance at the St. Louis Jazz Festival in Senegal, Africa, where the Syndicate performed in 1997. Then it’s back to Europe for more gigs in France and Norway. The Syndicate will return to the US at the end of May and will hold forth at the Blue Note in New York, June 11-16. I’ll post more tour dates as I get them.
I understand that a big birthday celebration will be held in Vienna this summer, and in November there will be another big gala in Germany featuring the Zawinul Syndicate and a repeat of the IAJE/EJFO tribute to Zawinul with the WDR German Radio Big Band, plus lots of special guests sitting in.
Meanwhile, Victor Bailey is taking his own band to Europe this summer, with Jim Beard, Bennie Maupin, David Gilmore and Poogie Bell.
Finally, I saw the Pat Metheny Group in concert a couple of weeks ago. As reported here earlier, former Syndicate bassplayer Richard Bona joined the group some months back, recording their new album Speaking Of Now. With Pat Metheny, Bona is singing and playing a variety of instruments including percussion and guitar. Metheny already has Steve Rodby on acoustic and electric bass, so Bona has only a couple of chances to play the electric bass. One of the tunes on the set list is a trio number with Metheny, drummer Antonio Sanchez (who is very impressive!) and Bona on electric bass. Bona also has a solo spot near the end of the show in which he scats and plays electric bass in unison. All in all, I think the exposure that Bona is getting with the Pat Metheny Group will be very helpful in boosting his career. Most of the folks in the audience have no idea who he is, but are blown away when they hear him sing and play.