Joe Zawinul + the Zawinul Syndicate

World Tour

Zebra ZD 44010

Joe Zawinul, keyboards, vocoder, keyboard bass, acoustic piano, Victor Baily, bass; Gary Poulson, guitar; Manolo Poulson, percussion, vocals, nolopipe; Paco Sery, drums, kalimba, vocals; Richard Bona, bass, vocals; Frank Hoffmann, spoken words; Pape Abdou Seck, vocals

This correspondent visited Africa in his distant youth, and for the first time heard Congolese drumming. The shock was instant. "That's it," I murmured, "forget New Orleans, this is the source." A lad from Vienna, now celebrating his 70th birthday, must have copped a similar feeling somewhere along the line. Joe Zawinul said that rhythm is his life, when we spoke at a pretty lakeside village in Austria. Friedrich Gulda, the Mozart specialist and sometime Jazz pianist, had just died. "He was my mentor," Joe said, "Gulda was all class, I was just a kid off the streets." Zawinul has subsequently walked a great many streets in his career. This 1997 World Tour covered around 100 dates (they must have felt right at home in Senegal). Rhythm, here, is paramount, and is a rare example of rhythm not being just a monotony of sound. The flow is compulsive, with the accents, interludes and solos are meshed ingeniously into the whole. And you don't need to know the languages used in the vocals - the all-encompassing flow makes academic knowledge irrelevant. Everyone on these two CDs are what have been called "groove merchants." It must have been wonderful to have been at the concerts. "When There Was Royalty" (track 4 on CD 2) is Joe Zawinul ruminating on a delightful improvisatory excursion recalling the acoustic days of yesteryear. The piano sound has been purposely made unfamiliar, and gives the impression of Joe playing under water, or a tape running at the wrong (too slow) speed. Then off they go again, transporting the fans to a rhythmic heaven. All in all a must for fusion fans and jazz fans who like to move when they listen. If this is not already on your racks, go get it!

by Lawrence Brazier

Editor: This CD is available in Jazz Now Direct mail order catalog.

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