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Absolute Ensemble featuring Joe Zawinul: Absolute Zawinul

Mark F. Turner By

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The musical legacy of Austrian-born composer/keyboardist Joe Zawinul extends further than his illustrious tenure with Cannonball Adderley and Miles Davis (1960s-1970s) or as co-leader of the fusion super-group Weather Report (1970s-1980s) with fellow icon musicians Wayne Shorter and Jaco Pastorius. In his later days, although with less notoriety, he continued to gain momentum by recording and performing with his newfound ensembles Weather Update and Zawinul Syndicate, which produced an eclectic and vibrant body of music.

The posthumous Absolute Zawinul is Zawinul's last studio recording before his passing on September 11, 2007. In collaboration with Estonian-born conductor/composer Kristjan Järvi and the large group powerhouse Absolute Ensemble, that has been described as "musical omnivores" whose previous projects have covered music from John Sebastian Bach to Frank Zappa. This heartfelt project embodies the essence of Zawinul's brilliance as a composer, musician, and as a global citizen who embraced people around the world.

Conceived in 2004, the meticulous and painstaking project emphatically focuses on Zawinul's post-Weather Report music. From the exotic tribalism in "Bimoya" first recorded on My People (Escapade Music, 1996) to the energetic live performance of "Ice Pick Willy" with elements of soul jazz and fire-baptized gospel (inspired by a one time gangster friend who had an affinity for ice picks), the recording is a microcosm of life.

Järvi conducts his Absolute Ensemble through inspired performances with verdant strings, ethnic voices, woodwinds, brass, and percussion. Zawinul, a true master keyboardist, was equally impressive whether providing an ethereal solo intro on the touching "Ballad For Two Musicians" or showing his signature vocoder skills on "Sultan" a thrilling tribute to the late Ottoman Empire and "Great Empire" dedicated to Japan.

Insightful liner notes, written by Järvi reveal poignant insights into the project. A video is also included with live coverage and behind the scenes footage. In the words of his son Erich, "Joseph Eric Zawinul was born in Earth time 7 July 1932 and was born in Eternity time 11 September 2007." His music will live on as well.

Track Listing: Bimoya; Sultan; Great Empire; Peace; Good Day; The Peasant; Ballad For Two Musicians; Ice Pick Willy.

Personnel: Joe Zawinul: composer, keyboards and vocoder; Kristjan Järvi: music director, conductor; Gene Pritsker: arranger; Vesselin Gellev: violin; Neela de Fonseka: violin; Eddie Venegas: violin; Gregor Huebner: violin; Edmundo Ramirez: viola; Michael Block: cello; Mat Fieldes: acoustic, electric bass; Jay Elfenbein: acoustic, electric bass; Hayley Melitta Reid: flute, piccolo; Keve Wilson: oboe, English Horn; Michiyo Suzuki: clarinet, saxophone; Marianne Gythfeldt: clarinet; Martin Kuuskmann: bassoon; Damian Primis: contrabassoon; Charles Porter: trumpet; Ann Ellsworth: horn; Michael Seltzer: trombone; Damien Bassman: drums, percussion; Pablo Rieppi: percussion; John Ostrowski: percussion; Matt Herskowitz: piano, keyboard; Gene Pritsker: electric guitar; Sabine Kabongo: vocals; Allegre Correa: guitar, vocals; Aziz Sahmaoui: percussion, vocals, gumbri; Jorge Bezerra: percussion; Paco Sery: drums, percussion, kalimba; Linley Marthe: electric bass.

Title: Absolute Zawinul | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records

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