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Music Review: Joe Zawinul And The Zawinul Syndicate – 75

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It was one hot night in Switzerland when Joe Zawinul and The Zawinul Syndicate recorded this show. The night in question was actually his 75th birthday, July 7, 2007, hence the title, 75. Joe Zawinul succumbed to cancer just two months after this show. But you would never know of the battle he was fighting by listening to the music they recorded that night.

An early highlight comes on “Zanza II.” While Zawinul’s synthesizer weaves in and around the beat, drummer Paco Sero comes in with a remarkable kalimba solo. It receives the first of many ovations by the crowd. “Zanza II” segues into “Café Andalusia,” which becomes a showcase for the otherworldly vocals of Sabine Kabongo. Kabongo is a Belgian singer, best known for her work with Zap Mama, and she really shines here.

On the second half of this two disc set the band really catches fire. “Fast City”/ “Two Lines” features the unbelievably fast bass soloing of Linley Marth. You have heard of thrash metal, this is thrash bass. Zawinul then pulls out two classic Weather Report tracks, “Badia” and “Boogie Woogie Waltz,” which sound as good as ever. The audience is obviously pleased by their inclusion in the set as well.

“In A Silent Way” was the cut I was most anticipating. Although the song has been permanently linked to Miles Davis, as the title track of his landmark 1969 album, Zawinul actually wrote it. Joe’s former Weather Report partner, and fellow Davis sideman Wayne Shorter is featured here as well. The song was recorded at a later show, August 2, 2007, but is included as a bonus.

I just have to thank the folks at Heads Up International for including it, because this recording of “In A Silent Way” is a thing of beauty. The saxophone-synthesizer duet is just magical. Sadly, it was last time the two were to play together.

The set ends with the solemn “Hymn,” featuring a solo Zawinul on organ. 75 is certainly a stellar set of music, but it is also a fitting epitaph to a monumental talent. He will be missed.

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