A “20 Years” Sneak Peak

This past weekend I had the privilege of hearing some of the mixes for the “20 Years of the Zawinul Syndicate” project. This is the project that I alluded to in an earlier news item, which will celebrate 20 years of the Zawinul Syndicate. It’s going to be killer. Three CDs of music culled from Syndicate concerts over the past 20 years. In fact, I think Joe and his son Ivan are going to have a hard time fitting everything they want to include onto three CDs.

Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’ve been fortunate to hear the band many times over the years, and listening to these recordings was a trip down the Zawinul Syndicate memory lane. Among the gems are a handful of tunes from the Mike Baker-Gerald Veasley band of the early nineties. What a formidable band that was. Hearing some of the tunes–“Medicine Man” or “Victims of the Groove,” for instance–caused me to conjure up mental pictures of the band on stage at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz. Gerald Veasley had such great stage presence. He seemed to have such fun on the bandstand, and it was felt by the audience. And boy could he groove!

One of the special treats that Ivan is working on is a sound montage containing various audio nuggets culled from Weather Report’s and Zawinul’s albums over the year. Long-time Zawinul fans will surely get a kick of out it. I believe this will segue into a grooving rap with Gerald Veasley that is very cool. I won’t say more as I don’t want to spoil it for you. There are also a number of duets between Zawinul and artists such as Bolot–the throat singer who performed on My People–and Arto Tuncboyaciyan.

It was also interesting hearing Mark Ledford with the band. The trumpet player and multi-instumentalist, who passed away last year, did a couple of European tours with the band in the nineties, and I believe he is the only horn player that Zawinul has had since Weather Report.

Ivan is intent on capturing the feel of a live Syndicate show. Dynamics are a key element of the band’s sound, which can go from a whisper to blasting out of the sound system, and Ivan wants to retain those dynamics on the CD.

All in all, this is going to be a significant summation of the Zawinul Syndicate to date. And I can’t wait to get it.

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