Joe Zawinul wants us to know a secret, if you take the portrait in the liner notes at face value: fusion never died. Zawinul made his reputation at the keyboards with Miles Davis and soared to stardom as the guiding light of Weather Report, a pinnacle of jazz-rock fusion which the genre has rarely surpassed. Lately he's been delving into fusion of another sort, one that might be called "world music" without any of the ethnocentrism this term usually implies. Faces & Places marks a distinctive high-water point for Zawinul, a sentinel of its possibilities and depth.
For Faces & Places, Zawinul has assembled musicians from five continents, including (most notably) Zakir Hussain on tablas, Maria Joao on vocals, and Alex Acuna on percussion. These fourteen tracks span an unpredictable range of styles from the percussion-rich Arabian soul of "Good Day," to the Indian/African fluxus of "Tower of Silence," to the spare call-and-response dance of "Cafe Andalusia." For the most part, it's radio-friendly material (read: no avant excursions here). The depth of percussion on almost every track lends these tunes a full-bodied pulse, and that unyielding foundation helps unite the record. Perhaps that's Zawinul's statement about drums being the center of music, though to be honest he rarely strays from all-too-familiar 4/4 rhythms. No big lossview it as an artistic choice if you will. Another constant on Faces & Places is the human voice, which appears on all but two of these tunes. Sometimes it's Zawinul on his vocoder, but mostly these voices use unfamiliar languages (or none at all) that convey meaning more through cadence and spirit than literal meaning.
Each track on this record offers promise and intrigue, except for the dismal "Familiar to Me," sandwiched right in the middle. (Nice lyrics, but it's more trite than the lamest of slow jams. Fast forward.) With that said, this record is beautifully lyrical and often surprising. Listeners familiar with Zawinul's Weather Report fusion days will find it a refreshing new angle; and those who've kept up with his more recent multicultural outings will find Faces & Places a fine addition.
Track Listing: The Search; All About Simon; Introduction to Tower of Silence; Tower of Silence; The Spirit of Julian "C" Adderley; Familiar to Me; Cafe Andalusia-A Day in Tunisia; Good Day; Barefoot Beauty; Rooftops of Vienna; Borges Buenos Aires Part 1; Borges Buenos Aires Part 2; Siseya; East 12th Street Band.
Personnel: Joe Zawinul: keyboards, acoustic piano, spoken word, vocoder, chicken neck and keyboard bass; Paco Sery: drums, percussion, kalimba, guitar; Etienne Mbappe: bass, vocals; Amit Chatterjee: guitar, vocals; Bobby Malach: woodwinds, tenor sax; Alex Acuna: shakers; Dean Brown: guitar; Richard Bona: bass, vocals; Victor Bailey: bass; Zakir Hussain: tablas; Nathaniel Townsley; Manolo Badrena: percussion; Rudy Regalado: percussion; Lester Benedict: trombone; Harry Kim: trumpet, flugelhorn; Maria Joao: vocals; Sabine Kabongo: vocals; Richard Page: vocals; Perry Sisters: vocals; Kitty Winter: vocals.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.