Recorded at Birdland in Vienna, Austria last May and September for his own label, Joe Zawinul's powerhouse unit gives this live audience quite a thrill. Keyboards, percussion, provocative bass lines, and evocative vocals fill the room with unique sounds.
Zawinul affects a vocoder air in conversation with Arto Tuncboyaciyan on "Do You Want Some Tea, Grandpa?" with impressive results. The slow, sensitive ballad reveals one side of the Zawinul Syndicate. Driving tirades and muscular fits of passion reveal the other side.
Allowing vocals to merge with fast-flying instrumental power throughout the two-CD set, Zawinul captures the spirit of progressive music. He's never been one to sit back and let the world pass him by. The bandleader invites unique people into his ensemble and gives them plenty of room to stretch out creatively. A blazing-fast "Rooftops of Vienna" features fiery guitarist Scott Henderson in a white-hot affair. Drums, vocals, bass, and keyboards pound it out at a frenetic pace. Just listening to them becomes exhausting. It doesn't get much hotter than this.
Zawinul stirs the melting pot of cultural influences from all over the world; his contemporary music inspires folks from all over. Vocal chants, impressions of native dances, and crazy, mixed up conversations (both vocal and instrumental) appeal to our intellect. The Zawinul Syndicate's uplifting performance provides the adrenaline that keeps us on top of our game. "Boogie Woogie Waltz" begins with a riveting machine gun fusillade and continues with heart-pumping anxiety. And you thought those new amusement park rides were thrilling? Zawinul throws a lot more at you than any old roller coaster could.
Duke Ellington's "Come Sunday" is interpreted calmly and serenely with spiritual vocals by Sabine Kabongo. Featuring the leader's exquisite piano solo, "Borges Buenos Aires" flows with a mesmerizing tango groove. "Badia" drives with frenetic energy. Following from his early experiences with Cannonball Adderley and Weather Report, Zawinul extends the horizon on his new adventure. His live appearances create quite a stir: not for the faint of heart.
I love jazz because it is both challenging and exhilarating, and the endeavor of improvisation is the highest form of art.
I met so many great musicians--including my two earliest heroes, Maynard Ferguson and Dizzy Gillespie--by attending concerts
and being willing to treat them with the respect they deserve.
The best show I ever attended was the Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman Song X concert at Cornell University.
The first jazz record I bought was an RCA compilation by Dizzy Gillespie.
My advice to new listeners is to not be afraid to listen to something because you're not familiar with the artists or the band or
the genre or anything - this is music that is best experienced through discovery.