Author Archives: Curt Bianchi

Joe Zawinul’s New Orleans Connection

I have written a new article exploring Joe’s relationship with Willie Tee and other musicians from the Crescent City. If you ever wondered about the Willie Tee who wrote the song “Can It Be Done?” on Domino Theory, or who some of the seemingly unknown musicians on Joe’s 1970 album Zawinul were, then this article will help to answer those questions.

Weather Report: The Annotated Discography

After years of procrastination, I am happy to unveil the new, improved Weather Report Annotated Discography. It’s been in need of a facelift for quite a while. The font has gotten smaller and smaller as display resolution improved, and worse, it no longer formatted correctly in modern browser.

In addition to the improved appearance, there have been some content updates sprinkled throughout. Head on over and have a look.

The Syndicate Keeps Joe’s Music Alive

Since Joe’s passing in 2007, The Syndicate has been at the forefront of keeping his music alive. It is essentially a continuation of Joe’s last band, The Zawinul Syndicate, which at the time was fielding arguably its strongest lineup in its 20-year history. Four members of that group decided to carry on: Drummer Paco Sery, percussionist/vocalist Aziz Sahmaoui, percussionist Jorge Bezerra, and guitarist Alegre Corrêa, who has since been replaced by Munir Hossn. They were joined by Aloune Wade on bass, Emile Parisien on sax, and Thierry Eliez on keyboards. Sabine Kabongo, vocalist in The Zawinul Syndicate, frequently performs with the band as well.

They originally retained the name The Zawinul Syndicate, reflecting their intent to continue playing the music they performed with Joe, but the Zawinul estate asked them to drop “Zawinul” from their name; hence, The Syndicate. (The estate put together The Zawinul Legacy Band, featuring Weather Report alumni Alphonso Johnson, Chester Thompson, and Bobby Thomas, as well as Scott Kinsey and Bobby Malach. The Legacy Band performed a couple of concerts in Europe this past summer.)

Among the highlights this past year, The Syndicate performed at Joe Zawinul Day in Vienna, a grand celebration of Joe’s music; and at the Blue Note in Tokyo on the occasion of Joe’s 80th birthday. In May, The Syndicate released its first album, File Under Zawinul, which consists of all Zawinul compositions. For those of us in the states, it can be ordered from Pierre Tassone’s Music By Mail. Remarkably, it hit number one on the Hungarian pop chart. Those Hungarians have good taste!

The band has three performances coming next month in Munich, Vienna and Klagenfurt (Austria.) They’re also booked in France and Zurich in May, with more to come.

I don’t know who is the driving force behind keeping The Syndicate together, but I suspect that a large share of the credit goes to Risa Zincke, Joe’s long-time manager. Regardless, we’re lucky to have them. The Syndicate’s official website is Basitours is the European booking agent, and a good place to look for upcoming concerts.

File Under Zawinul Video:

At the Blue Note Tokyo:

At Joe Zawinul Day in Vienna, Austria:

Anil Prasad’s Innerviews, The Book

If you’re not familiar with Anil Prasad’s website, Innerviews, you should be. Anil created it in 1994 as a home for his in-depth interviews of musicians who span an amazingly diverse range of styles. He says it is the web’s “first and longest-running music magazine,” which I don’t doubt. After all, 1994 was the year that Netscape Navigator–the first popular Internet browser–was introduced to the public. Very few websites of any kind go back as far as Innerviews.

Anil’s interview style lends itself to revealing portraits of his subjects. It starts with superb preparation and research; Anil is incredibly informed about his subjects, and I’m sure this goes a long way toward establishing a basis of mutual respect between interviewer and interviewee. But that’s just a starting point. Anil asks probing, open-ended questions that give his subjects plenty of room to express themselves in intimate and candid ways. The website format frees him from the word count constraints typical of print publications, making for expansive conversations. And because Anil’s interviews are not driven by the marketing needs of record companies, the conversations get to the heart of what is important to the musicians themselves.

I’ve read and collected a tremendous number of Zawinul interviews and articles over the years, and when I read Anil’s 1998 interview with Joe, it immediately stood out as one of the best, if not the best. That interview and 23 others are now collected in the book Innerviews, Music Without Borders. In addition to Joe, artists featured in the book include Jon Anderson, Björk, Bill Bruford, Martin Carthy, Stanley Clarke, Chuck D, Ani DiFranco, Béla Fleck, Michael Hedges, Jonas Hellborg, Zakir Hussain, Leo Kottke, Bill Laswell, John McLaughlin, Noa, David Sylvian, Tangerine Dream, David Torn, Ralph Towner, McCoy Tyner, Eberhard Weber, Chris Whitley, and Victor Wooten.

Some of the evocative topics explored include:

• Björk on the chaos of her creative process
• Stanley Clarke on saying no to Miles Davis
• Béla Fleck on journeying to Africa to discover the roots of the banjo
• Bill Laswell on the drama of producing difficult artists
• John McLaughlin on turning the tables on the jazz police
• McCoy Tyner on the deification of John Coltrane
• Tangerine Dream on electronica transcending technology
• Zawinul on the creation of the hip-hop beat.

A few of these interviews originally appeared on the website, but most are new for the book. It is not an overstatement to say that Anil’s book is a significant contribution to music journalism. I highly recommend it.

Weather Report Live In Berlin 1975

According to recent press releases, producer Joachim Becker–known to Zawinul fans as the producer of most of Joe’s post-Columbia Records output–has teamed up with the MiG Music to form “Art of Groove,” a new addition to the MiG family.

Among its first releases will be a Weather Report DVD/CD combo, Live In Berlin 1975. The press release describes it as, “the first part of the long-awaited Weather Report live-trilogy will be published as a DVD with bonus CD at the same time. The 40th anniversary of the founding of Weather Report is in 2011. In commemoration, the Zawinul estate and ‘Art of Groove’ are pleased to publish the original tape-recording of the super-band’s performance at the Berliner Jazztage 1975 for the first time.”

I don’t know what the rest of the “long-awaited Weather Report live-trilogy” is, although before his passing Joe did tell me that he had acquired the rights to the 1984 concert video “Domino Theory,” which was originally published in Japan.

Meanwhile, Live In Berlin 1975 is listed on various European sites such as Amazon UK.

Rudy Regalado, RIP

Percussionist Rudy Regalado passed away last Thursday. He was 67 years old. Born and raised in East Los Angeles, he is best known as a member of the 1970s rock band El Chicano.

Of note to Zawinul fans, Regalado performed on Joe’s 1988 album The Immigrants, earning co-composer credit for the tune “Criollo,” on which Regalado sang a chant based on the life of the nineteenth century revolutionary Simon Bolivar. “I put on a chord structure and made a hymn out of it,” Joe said in a 1988 interview, “because of the significance of the song. I played a real hip bass line on it. I think it’s going to scare most bass players.” (Nearly 20 years later you could still find a bass player or two trying to figure that line out.) Regalado also performed on 1996’s My People — with another writing credit for “My Gente” — as well as 2002’s Faces and Places.

A biography can be viewed here.

Quote For The Day

Richard Bona describes Zawinul as the greatest collaborator he has ever worked with:

“You learn from everyone you ever play with. If you open your heart and open your eyes, you learn from everyone. I’ve worked with Pat Metheny and George Benson, they all had different interpretations, but if I have to name one person then that is Joe Zawinul from Weather Report.”