For better or worse, composer and keyboard expert Joe Zawinul will always be remembered for the ground-breaking fusion work that he pioneered with the group Weather Report during the '70s. A further look into his diverse past will however divulge a multifaceted musician with many interests and influences. For just one example, consider that as a pianist, Zawinul worked with tenor giants Jimmy Forest and Ben Webster during the early '60s. Certainly, his Austrian heritage could be cited for his love of European classical music, which brings us to the topic at hand. One of three records that Zawinul would record for Atlantic and its Vortex subsidiary during the late '60s, The Rise and Fall of the Third Stream has to be considered one of his most gutsy and radical experiments.
For those not sure as to what this "third stream" stuff is really all about, let's just say that it amounts to the combination of jazz and classical elements for what was hoped to be a unified whole. Most attempts in this genre usually met with little success, however Zawinul's project is still considered today to be a critical success. Not to take away anything from Zawinul, but composer and arranger William Fischer really deserves a lot of credit for making this whole thing work. His original pieces and scoring cover a lot of ground and provide for a tasteful and musical blending of Zawinul's jazz quintet with a string quartet.
This striking combination really reaches a pinnacle with the gospel-inflected "Lord, Lord, Lord." That's right, roots music meets the symphony! Of course, now it all sounds perfectly logical to 21st-century ears, but just imagine the reactions when this one came out in 1968! That's not to say that this is an easy record to digest in one sitting because it's not. It demands your attention and repeated plays will certainly reveal additional nuances, brought to even better light by an excellent remastering job. In the whole history of jazz there are relatively few "jazz with strings" projects that have stood the test of time. Fortunately, this is one of them.
Track Listing: Baptismal; The Soul of a Village-Parts 1 & 2; The Fifth Canto, From Vienna, With Love; Lord, Lord, Lord; A Concerto-Retitled
Personnel: Joe Zawinul, piano or electric piano; William Fischer, composer/arranger & tenor sax; Jimmy Owens, trumpet; Kermit Moore, cello; Selwart Clarke, Alfred Brown and Theodore Israel, violas; Richard Davis, bass; Warren Smith, percussion; Freddie Waits or Roy McCurdy, drums