Yesterday, Joe Zawinul passed away at his home in Vienna, Austria. Joe Zawinul played keys/organ and shares composition credits with the great Miles Davis on two of my all-time favorite (and groundbreaking) jazz-fusion albums, In a Silent Way (iTunes) and Bitches Brew (iTunes). These two albums are incredible to experience and are worthy of a dark and otherwise silent room, a fantastic stereo system and one’s undivided attention.
What blows me away about these two albums are some of the players who appear on them, though this is true of all the musicians Miles Davis was able to attract throughout his career. Joe Zawinul, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea (that’s just the keyboardists so far!), Wayne Shorter, Dave Holland, Tony Williams and one of my favorite guitar players, the virtuosic John McLaughlin.
Prior to his session dates with Miles Davis, Zawinul played in Maynard Ferguson’s band, for Dinah Washington and then with Cannonball Adderly for nine years. Zawinul went on to co-found the seminal 70′s fusion band Weather Report (remember the song Birdland?) with fellow Miles alum and saxophonist Wayne Shorter. Not a bad run, to say the least. Farewell, Mr. Zawinul, and thanks for the music.