Last week the Zawinul Syndicate played its first gig in the states in quite some time, with a Thursday night performance at the Korg 40th Anniversary Party, in conjunction with the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) tradeshow in Anaheim. Making his Syndicate debut on drums was Roger Biwandu, a drummer out of France who over the past few years has played in the band Chic Hot with Syndicate bassplayer Etienne M’Bappe. Tonight Zawinul told his Blue Note audience that Paco Sery had visa problems, among other things, and was unable to make the dates here in the states. Biwandu’s first rehearsal with the band was at the soundcheck before the Korg party! In any event, reports from the Catalina’s gigs over the weekend indicate that Biwandu was settling in quite rapidly. Whether this means Biwandu will stay with the Syndicate during its upcoming spring and summer tour of Europe remains to be seen.
Earlier last week Zawinul was inducted into Guitar Center’s Hollywood Rockwalk, along with Herbie Hancock and Korg founder and chairman Tsutomu Katoh.
Tonight’s Zawinul Syndicate performance at the Blue Note in New York will be broadcast on the web live, starting at 8:00 p.m. EST.
Blue Note New York Web Site
The BBC Radio 3 web site has a complete Zawinul Syndicate concert available for listening. The concert was recorded at Ronnie Scott’s on October 17, and while I have yet to hear it, those that attended the concert say the band was on fire. [The concert is no longer available on the BBC Radio 3 site.]
Josef Woodard wrote an article about Zawinul that appeared in last Sunday’s Los Angeles Times Calendar section. I don’t know how long it will be available on the Times web site, but it’s there now. [The article is no available without a fee.]
Last week the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences unveiled the 45th annual GRAMMY Awards nominations, and Joe Zawinul’s album Faces & Places was nominated in the Best Contemporary Jazz Album category. The other nominees in the category are Deep Into It, Larry Carlton; Speaking Of Now, Pat Metheny Group; Überjam, The John Scofield Band; and Mint Jam by the Yellowjackets. The awards will be announced on February 23.
Faces & Places continues to garner critical acclaim. Down Beat reviewer Ed Enright gave the album a 4-1/2 star review (out of five) in the January issue of the magazine, saying, “A critic’s notes could go on forever in reviewing this material, with its deep, ever-developing grooves and richly layered production. The level of talent is virtually unsurpassed; the musicians and vocalists make even the most complex (and high-speed) syncopated lines sound as easy and natural as riffin’ on the blues. The world rhythm never fails, even in its most frantic percussive moments. And the abundant unison and tutti sections are so tight, you’ll be raising your ears trying to distinguish the individual instruments and voices that merge to create a transparent timbre and multiplied presence.” Zawinul also topped the Electric Keyboard/Synthesizer category for the umpteenth time in the 67th Annual Down Beat Readers Poll, announced in the December issue. Zawinul has virtually owned that category since its inception in the early 1970s.
Meanwhile, JazzTimes magazine named Faces & Places the fourth best jazz album of 2002, commenting, “Ambition isn’t a dirty word to Zawinul, and his latest project touches on everything from jazz to vocalese to world music. Grand statements don’t come down the pike often enough in jazz, but Faces & Places is just that. ” The selection was based on a poll of 37 critics and writers. Several of them rated Faces & Places among the top three albums of 2002, including Owen Cordle, Jim Miller, Stuart Nicholson, Paul Tingen, and Josef Woodard. Weather Report Live & Unreleased also rate on several lists, and Weather Report cofounder Wayne Shorter topped the list with his album Footprints–Live!. Zawinul also won the Electric Keyboards category in the JazzTimes readers poll, while Shorter was named Artist of the Year and topped the Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone and New Release categories. Congratulations to Zawinul and Shorter!