Zawinul Syndicate in Berlin

Zawinul fan Rolf Langhans sent this report of the Syndicate’s May 2 performance.

The Zawinul Syndicate was in Berlin at the Club Quasimodo. It’s really a nice club, seating maybe 200 to 250 people. The band and the music was incredible—so much energy. (It was pretty loud, too.) At 70 years old, Zawinul’s playing is so fresh, I can’t believe it. Manolo Badrena still looks like his Weather Report photos of 27 years ago. Paco Sery was great , although he messed up the fast swing tune "Two Lines." It was too fast for him. [I find that hard to believe! —Curt] But everyone in the band took it with a smile. The guitar player was a little boring—blues-pentatonic licks and scale runs.

The new bass man, Etienne M’Bappe, is a killer. He has a more percussive sound than Victor Bailey, and he also has a penchant for slapping. It was my fifth Syndicate concert (I am too young to have seen Weather Report), and the musicians usually look at Zawinul like children all the time. Etienne M’Bappe was the first I saw who didn’t seem to be so intimidated by Zawinul, often played with his back to Zawinul.

Being in Germany, Zawinul spoke in his mother tongue. I like his Vienna dialect. And he really has a sense of humor. One tune featured an African marimba player whose name I don’t know, but he played his ass off! So all in all, it was a really great concert. They played new songs and some old ones, but no Weather Report tunes. Although Berlin is a huge city with a lot of music, concerts of this caliber and quality are pretty rare!

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