The Syndicate Spring Concerts

Photo: Celigge

The Syndicate, the band formed by several members of the Zawinul Syndicate in order to carry on Joe’s legacy, has several concerts scheduled for this spring. The Syndicate features four members of the final edition of the Zawinul Syndicate: Drummer Paco Sery, percussionist/vocalist Aziz Sahmaoui, percussionist Jorge Bezerra, and guitarist Alegre Corrêa. Additional members are Aloune Wade on bass, Emile Parisien on sax, and Thierry Eliez on keyboards.

The following concerts are scheduled for next week: Mar. 16, Moods, Zurich, Switzerland; Mar. 17, Blue Note, Milano, Italy; Mar. 18, Porgy & Bess, Vienna, Austria; Mar. 20, Jazzhouse, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Additional concerts on the books for this year are: May 1, Budapest; May 19-22, Festival Abidjan, Ivory Coast; Jul. 24, Parc Floral, Paris; Aug. 27, Güssing, Austria; and Nov. 26, Prague, Czechoslovakia.

I haven’t heard this band, but my guess is that this is as close to the Zawinul Syndicate as you’re going to get without Joe. If anyone reading this does attend one of their concerts, drop me a note and let me know what it was like.

Money In The Pocket Reissued by Atlantic

Warner Jazz has reissued a remastered edition of Money In The Pocket, Joe’s first album recorded in the United States under his own name. Originally issued in 1965 by Atlantic Records, this was the first of three albums Joe recorded for Atlantic Records and producer Joel Dorn, the others being Rise And Fall of The Third Stream, and 1970’s Zawinul. So far as I know, it is only available in the UK, but stateside fans can purchase it via Amazon UK.

75 Wins a Grammy Award

The Recording Academy announced today that Joe’s album, 75, won the Grammy award in the category Best Contemporary Jazz Album. Other nominees in that category were Urbanus, Stefon Harris & Blackout; Sounding Point, Julian Lage; At World’s Edge, Philippe Saisse; and Big Neighborhood, Mike Stern.

It was Joe’s first Grammy win for an album under his own name. Several of his post-Weather Report albums were nominated, as was the Zawinul-produced Salif Keita album, Amen. Congratulations to Joe and the Zawinul estate.

75 Nominated for a Grammy Award

Nominations for the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards were announced last night by The Recording Academy, and Joe’s album, 75, was nominated in the category Best Contemporary Jazz Album. Other nominees in that category are Urbanus, Stefon Harris & Blackout; Sounding Point, Julian Lage; At World’s Edge, Philippe Saisse; and Big Neighborhood, Mike Stern.

Joe’s post-Weather Report albums have been nominated several times, but have never won. Weather Report did win a Grammy for 8:30, and Cannonball Adderley won for the album Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.

In case you’re wondering, here’s the Grammy nomination process, courtesy Wikipedia:

Record companies and individuals may submit recordings to be nominated. The entries are entered online and then a physical copy of the product must be sent to the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Once a work is entered, reviewing sessions are held by over 150 experts from the recording industry. This is done only to determine whether or not a work is eligible or entered into the proper category for official nomination. They may vote to nominate in the general field (Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year and Best New Artist) and in no more than nine out of 30 other fields on their ballots. Only 5 acts can be nominated for each category. Following this process the votes are tabulated. The 5 recordings that earn the most votes become the nominees. There may be more than five nominees if there is a tie in the nomination process. After the nominations are announced final voting ballots are sent to Recording Academy members. They may then vote in the general field and in no more than eight of the 30 fields. Ballots are tabulated secretly by the major independent accounting firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu. Following the tabulation of votes the winners are announced at the Grammy Awards. The recording with the most votes in a category wins and it is possible to have a tie. Winners are presented with the Grammy Award and those who don’t win are given a medal for their nomination. Academy members in the nomination process and final voting process are to vote based upon quality alone. They are not supposed to be influenced by sales, chart performance, personal friendships, regional preferences or company loyalty. The acceptance of gifts is prohibited. Members are urged to vote in a manner that preserves the integrity of the academy. The nomination and final voting processes requires that members vote only in their fields of expertise. The eligibility period for the 2010 Grammy awards is October 1, 2008 to August 31, 2009.

Absolute Zawinul Released in Europe, Interview with Kristjan Järvi

Absolute Zawinul, a collaboration between Joe and Kristjan Järvi’s Absolute Ensemble, has been released in Europe. Recorded in the winter of 2006-2007, Absolute Zawinul is the last formal studio recording that Joe made. The project was initiated by Järvi, who approached Joe with the idea of the ensemble performing some of Joe’s music. They combined for some live performances in the summer of 2006, and later went into the recording studio in New York to record the album.

There is a good description of the project on the Schott Music web site, where you can purchase the album. It is also available from Amazon Germany. Included is an eleven-minute video documentary about the making of the album. Obviously this is a must-have for Zawinul fans. No word on when it will be released in the states, but presumably there will be a licensing deal at some point.

In November 2007, I interviewed Kristjan Järvi with the idea of posting it to coincide with the release of Absolute Zawinul. Now that it is available in Europe, you can read my interview here.

Steve Wilson’s Zawinul Project Dec. 17-20 in NYC

Steve Wilson

Photo: John Abbott

This December, acclaimed saxophonist Steve Wilson will reprise and expand a program of Joe’s 1960s compositions that Wilson performed last year as part of an Austrian jazz/arts festival. The Zawinul Tribute concerts will take place December 17-20 at The Jazz Standard in New York City, and offer a rare chance to hear this music performed live by a top notch group of musicians.

The project is an outgrowth of a concert Steve staged last year. “Laura Hartmann, my manager, was the producer of an Austrian jazz/arts festival in NYC last year,” Steve recently told me, “so of course Joe’s music was an immediate consideration. I proposed doing some of his music that was lesser known but definitive of his evolution as a player and composer. With that in mind, the three Zawinul recordings that are the centerpiece are Soulmates (with Ben Webster), Money In The Pocket and Rise and Fall of the Third Stream.

“For this time around we will branch out to include ‘In A Silent Way,’ ‘A Remark You Made,’ and perhaps more of his material from Cannonball Adderley, Weather Report, and The Zawinul Syndicate. We will do ’74 Miles Away,’ and ‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy’ as a set closer.

“What’s appealing in performing this music is that it hasn’t been performed and recorded that extensively by other artists, so it’s still fresh and there’s a lot of room for interpretation. And our chosen program is just an example of the wide range of Joe’s musical vision.

“Ironically I met Paco Sery in French Guiana about 3 weeks ago, and we talked at length about Joe. I never got to meet him, but I did see the Zyndicate some years ago while on tour, and I saw him with Cannonball in 1970 (when I was 9 years old) where they were doing much of the Country Preacher material.”

The performances will feature The Steve Wilson Ensemble with a line-up including Jeremy Pelt, Danny Grissett, Ugonna Okegwo, and Lewis Nash.

For more info, visit or The Jazz Standard website.

“History, Man”

Today is the second anniversary of Joe’s passing. To honor Joe on this day, I chose a clip from an interview I did with him, in which he describes the making of “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.” (Apologies for the sound quality, but it was recorded on a cheap digital audio recorder.) The transcription is below the YouTube clip. Joe lives on through his music.

“I played ‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy’ on the acoustic piano all the time. I used to play the Wurlitzer when I toured in Europe in the early fifties, in the US camps. They had a lot of those instruments at the camps, for the soldiers. Little Wurlitzers. I loved to play them. And I played them on those shows often times, for G.I.’s and all that, you know? I always loved that sound. And then when I worked with Dinah, we toured a lot with Ray Charles, and Ray Charles had one. And he did a couple of the songs, you know, ‘What’d I Say,’ with a Wurlitzer. And sometimes when the pianos were not in good shape–in the South it happened quite often– Dinah asked Ray to let me play on it. And I always liked that sound from way back, and I really know how to play it.

“So, when I came up with the tune ‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy’ I played it on acoustic piano. But then when we came to record it here in Los Angeles at the Capital building on Vine and Sunset, I said to Cannon on the way to the studio, I said, Cannon, if I find this instrument I’m looking for, I will play that tune on this instrument. I guarantee we have a smash hit. And I go to Studio A and I look around, and in one corner, man, I see it. And I opened it up, man, and it was in great, great tune. I had ‘em take it out on the bandstand, and we rehearsed it one time through, and I knew it was all over. It was a live recording. We always recorded live, with an audience in the studio. We had about 80 or 90 people out there, you know, catering, a lot of friends. History, man.”

75 DVD Nominated for an Amadeus Award

75, the DVD, has been nominated for an Amadeus Award in Austria in the category Best Music DVD. You can vote for it by visiting the Austrian Music Awards web site. When you get there, click the Nächste button twice to get the to music DVD category, choose the Joe Zawinul DVD, then click the Voting Absenden button that appears at the bottom of the list. You will have to provide an email address, after which you will get an email in which you must click the link in order to confirm your vote. You can vote online until August 26.