In A Silent Way, Second Edition, Published

The second edition of Brian Glasser’s Zawinul biography, In A Silent Way, has just been published in softcover format. It can be purchased at Amazon UK. For a limited time, Brian will be signing all copies.

The hardback version was originally published in February 2001. My review can be found here. The softcover picks up where the hardcover left off, taking the story through to Joe’s death in 2007 and a little beyond. It includes material from 18 new interviews, including luminaries such as Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Vince Mendoza. The photo section has updated, and there is a new forward written by Wayne Shorter.

The first edition was essential reading for Zawinul and Weather Report fans. At the time, I described it as “the most revealing look yet at Zawinul’s musical career, as well as Weather Report’s inner workings.” The second edition makes it even more so. A must read.

Joe Zawinul Park Dedicated in Vienna

Earlier this month, the City of Vienna dedicated a new park in Joe’s honor. It is located in the Landstraße district, where Joe grew up.

A monument for Joe was placed in the park. A piano keyboard is chiseled into the stone along the top, and it includes a short tribute to Zawinul’s achievements. Vienna Mayor Michael Häupl was on hand for the dedication, along with Joe’s eldest son, Tony.

Meanwhile, Joe Zawinul’s Birdland closed last fall due to financial difficulties. At the park dedication, Tony indicated that he hopes to reopen Birdland in 2010 at a different location, with a different character from the original club that was set in the basement of the Vienna Hilton.

More information can be found at

[Hat tip to Arnie Spilman and Gehaurd Hauer]

UPDATE: Visitor Romain Labaye points out that it is Erich Zawinul, not Tony, in the photograph. The articles about the park refer to Tony, but it appears they were mistaken.

In Praise of Scott Henderson

Last month the Scott Kinsey Group made a pair of rare San Francisco Bay Area appearances at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center and the Bach Dynamite and Dancing Society. Along with Kinsey were Scott Henderson on guitar, Kirk Covington on drums, and Rufus Philpot on bass.

I’ve written about Kinsey before, so I won’t repeat myself, other than to say if you get the opportunity to see his band live, it is well worth it. Instead, I want to say a few words about Henderson. He was the first guitarist in the Zawinul Syndicate, and I recall seeing him with Joe at Kuumbwa around 1992. So it had been 15-plus years since I last heard him live, and I must say, the man can play the guitar. It is obvious that he takes great care with his tone, but more importantly, his solos were consistently interesting, inventive and musical. Henderson fronts his own blues band, and on both night’s Kinsey’s band performed a blues tune that he tore up. I think Henderson is in very select company on his instrument. In short, he makes the guitar sing, which is about the highest praise I can think of for a guitar player. It was really a joy to listen to him.

For a healthy helping of Henderson, give his blues album Live! a try. Plus, Tore Down House, an earlier blues outing, is worth having for the song “I Hate You” alone — a classic lyric in the blues genre. :-)

Henderson was with Zawinul for about four years. A few months after Joe’s death, in response to a visitor’s question, Scott recalled some fun stories on his discussion forum:

Playing with Joe was one of the highlights of my career. Just listening to him play every night was awesome. I don’t know if those stories about Mozart were true like in the movie, but I can definitely tell you that Zawinul did it. Everything he “composed” was an improvisation right on the spot. He was a musical genius to say the least. Plus he was an extremely funny guy with more confidence than anyone I’d ever met before.

One time I was overdubbing in the studio for him and I played something I didn’t like – I told him I didn’t like it and asked to do it over. Joe said “if you didn’t like it, what the fuck did you play it for?” I don’t think he could even conceive of playing something and not totally digging it, because everything he played was a motherfucker.

My favorite story about Joe is that he was always trying to get me to smoke pot and drink with him before the shows, and I told him, man, I can’t play on that shit. But after getting sick of him bothering me for months about it, I smoked a joint with him and got really wasted before a concert in Austria. I was having a great time until we hit the stage, and I fucked up every melody and couldn’t play shit on my solos. It was a disaster. Then after the gig, Joe comes up to me and yells “Henderson! How many fuckin’ times have I told you not to do that shit before a gig?” I have a million stories about my experiences working with Joe, most of them funny, and enough to fill a book.

“If you didn’t like it, what the fuck did you play it for?!” Ya gotta love it.

Vince Mendoza and the Metropole Orchestra

Metropole Orchestra

I was browsing YouTube the other day and came across the Metropole Orchestra’s performance of “Peace,” part of a program entitled “A Tribute to Joe Zawinul,” recorded on January 26, 2008 at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, under the direction of Vince Mendoza. I was bowled over by its beauty. “Peace” was the closing tune on Zawinul’s 1986 synthesizer tour-de-force, Dialects. In an interview at the time, he said he was inspired by hearing the flutist James Galway perform on television. The sound that Joe heard led him to the flute-like timbre that he used to improvise what became “Peace.” In the Mendoza and the Metropole Orchestra’s retelling of song, the lead is played by a violinist. It was a brilliant choice. The result is gorgeous, and it is well worth a listen.

In fact, you will find on YouTube several of Zawinul’s compositions orchestrated by Mendoza and performed by the Metropole Orchestra. I never thought I would hear anyone perform “Jungle Book” live, let alone an orchestra. But not only does it work, it is simply outstanding. This performance reveals Joe’s genius — remember, this was an improvisation he built up piece-by-piece at his home and in the studio — as well as Mendoza’s gifts as an arranger and orchestrator, and the sympathetic ear that he has with respect to Joe’s music. It’s hard to imagine anyone else pulling this off.

Then there’s “Nubian Sundance,” another composition I thought I’d never hear anyone other than Weather Report perform. But here it is, played by a 60-piece orchestra. For the original recording on Mysterious Traveller, Joe used two drummers and a percussionist. Here the percussion is shared by Weather Report alumni Peter Erskine and Alex Acuña. Acuña’s tamborine work here is astonishing. (The rest of the rhythm section consists of Victor Bailey, Amit Chatterjee and Jim Beard.) You’ll also find “Dream Clock,” “Elegant People,” “In A Silent Way,” “Fast City,” and others.

These YouTube performances come from an NPS television broadcast of the Concertgebouw performance, which was recorded in HD. There is also a documentary about Joe’s career that takes you behind the scenes. The narration is in Dutch, but the musicians who are interviewed — Erskine, Bailey, Acuña, Chatterjee and Beard — speak in English. So if you are patient and wade through the Dutch parts, you’ll be rewarded with some interesting commentary, not to mention a short clip of Joe playing accordion.

Mendoza and the Metropole Orchestra repeated the program at the 2008 North Sea Jazz Festival, which from all accounts was a special performance. Although it wasn’t videotaped, it was professionally recorded, which begs the question of whether a CD is in the offing. No word on that, but we can hope.

One additional note on Vince Mendoza: There is a lengthy interview with Vince at All About Jazz, in which he talks at some length about his association with Joe. Recommended.

More Shameless Self Promotion

Back in 2004 I wrote a 9,300-word article about Joe’s pioneering use of electronic keyboards that appeared in issue No. 9 of the magazine Wax Poetics. It covered Joe’s development as an electronic keyboardist from 1966–-when his playing on the Wurlitzer electric piano helped transform “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” to a national hit–-to his use of the Fender-Rhodes and analog synthesizers with Weather Report. The article included material from my interviews with Joe as well as interviews with Roger Powell, Brian Risner and Jim Swanson. My friend Andy Forward, the most avid Zawinul collector that I know, called it “the best (as in well written and well researched) thing I have read about Joe.”

I am pleased to report that the article is included in Wax Poetics Anthology Volume 2, a compilation of the best from issues issues 6 through 10 in a collectible, hardbound edition. In addition to my article about Joe, there are in-depth retrospectives on Eumir Deodato and Sun Ra, and much more. The Zawinul article also has different photographs from the original magazine issue. Whereas the magazine featured a number of contemporary photos of Joe at his home in Malibu, the anthology includes several vintage shots of Joe working at his rig at his house in Pasadena in the 1970s.

If you’re interested, you can purchase a copy of Anthology Vol. 2 at the Wax Poetics online store. The original issue No. 9 is also available here.

Tale Spinnin’

I recently saw a CD of Weather Report’s Tale Spinnin’ up for auction on ebay for the bargain basement price of–get this–only $90.50. (Wonder how they determined to thrown in that fifty cents on the minimum bid.) Granted, it was the 2002 Sony Legacy Recordings reissue with improved sound and all, but alas, there were no bidders.

That version of Tale Spinnin’ was part of a Sony reissue program under the direction of Bob Belden which also included Mysterious Traveller and Black Market. All three were remastered and included new liner notes by jazz historian Hal Miller.

I’m not sure how many copies of Tale Spinnin’ Legacy made, but by 2008 it was out of print. So I am happy to report that Sony licensed a new reissue to Iconoclassic Records. It hit store shelves last month, and has the same great sound as the 2002 Sony reissue, but with new 1,300-word liner notes by yours truly, based on interviews with Wayne Shorter, Ndugu Chancler and Alphonso Johnson.

Now, if you already own a copy of Tale Spinnin’, then you probably don’t need to buy this one, too, unless you yearn to read the new, never-before-published comments by Wayne, Ndugu and Alphonso about the making of the album. But if you don’t already own it, you can go straight to the Iconoclassics web site and pick it up for a lot less than $90.50. :-) Iconoclassic did a very nice job on the packaging. And those new liner notes are pretty cool, too.

75 Finally Hits US Store Shelves

Zawinul fans on the other size of the Atlantic may be amused to learn that 75 has finally made its appearance in record stores here in the US. I don’t know what the rationale is for delaying the US release for so long. Perhaps it has to do with licensing issues, as the US release is through Heads Up International And I wonder when it became available in Japan. But it’s good to see it stocked in record stores here.

I assume most Zawinul fans either already own 75 or intend to purchase it. Aside from documenting Joe’s last live tour with Sabine Kabongo, Linley Marthe, Aziz Sahmaoui, Alegre Corréa, Jorge Bezerra, Jr. and Paco Sery, 75 is a must simply for the inclusion of Zawinul’s duet with Wayne Shorter, recorded during Joe’s next-to-last concert.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Wayne, and I asked him how he would describe the musical communication he shared with Joe when they played duets. Wayne said, “The duet process that we had was just something very… It’s like what you wished. And we were actually wishing on the same level, the same intensity, what your wishes are musically, just for that moment. But not every wish. The same thing happens with Herbie [Hancock]. And those are two guys that I can do duets with. And now also there’s Danilo Perez. So there’s three people. We just do a duet, no discussion, and when it’s done we don’t talk about it. We don’t say I should of, I could of. Just let it be.”

One Year Later

It’s been a year since I woke up to the news that Joe Zawinul passed away. I want to thank everyone who contributed to the Memorial page. A while back I received an email from Sabine Kabongo, who said, “Thank you for the tribute page you made. It was a helping process to read all those messages of cares and shares.” You all made a difference.

I recently wrote a story about my face-to-face visits with Joe. I wanted to put it into words before the memories faded too much. You can read it here.

Boy, do I miss those concerts!

Joe Zawinul & The Zawinul Syndicate–75

75, a double CD of the Zawinul Syndicate’s July 7, 2007 performance at the Lugano Jazz Festival, will be released on October 17. This was the Syndicate’s last multitrack recording. An added bonus is the inclusion of Joe and Wayne Shorter’s duet performed on August 2, 2007 at Veszprem, Hungary, which was the next to last performance of Joe’s life.

Another release, Absolute Z with the Absolute Ensemble, is in the works, but has been postponed to 2009.

And finally, look for a relaunch of the official Joe Zawinul web site later this year.

Zawinul lives.