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Thu, 07.07.1932

Joe Zawinul, Jazz Musician and Composer born

Joe Zawinul

*Joe Zawinul was born on this date in 1932.  He was a white-Austrian musician and composer active in contemporary African American jazz music’s intersectionality with the world.  

Josef Erich Zawinul was born in Vienna, Austria.  Classically trained at the Vienna Conservatoire, Zawinul played in broadcast and studio bands in Europe.   Zawinul stood at the bridge of so many cultural exchanges:  He was influenced by African American music and black musicians who traveled to Europe to express themselves better; Zawinul, on the other hand, came to the States in part to say "Thanks." 

He emigrated to the U.S. in 1959, where he played with Maynard Ferguson and Dinah Washington before joining the Cannonball Adderley Quintet in 1961.  During his nine years on keyboards with Adderley, Zawinul wrote "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," "Walk Tall," and "Country Preacher," the latter a tribute to American Civil Rights Movement representative Rev. Jesse Jackson. In this title cut to the quintet's 1969 album, Zawinul established a mature and intimate comprehension of the American black concept of cool, motion, and interval. When "Country Preacher" debuted at a live recording session in Chicago at Jackson's Operation Breadbasket, it brought out enthusiastic cheers of respect from the mostly African American audience.  

In the late 60s, Zawinul recorded with Miles Davis's studio band and added to the sound of the new Jazz fusion.  He played on the Davis album and composed the title track to In a Silent Way and played on the album Bitches Brewtwenty-minute track "Pharaoh's Dance."  He played live with Davis once in 1991.  Zawinul, Chick Corea, and Herbie Hancock were among the first to integrate electric pianos and early synthesizers like the ARP 2600.  He was among the first to use a Fender-Rhodes with a Phasing effect and a Wah-Wah pedal. His creativity and attention were his trademarks, and he played the kalimba.   In 1970, Zawinul founded the band Weather Report and produced a series of albums, including "Heavy Weather," "Black Market," and "I Sing the Body Electric." After that band's breakup, he founded the Zawinul Syndicate in 1987.  

In the spring of 2007, he toured Europe to mark the 20th anniversary of the Zawinul Syndicate. He sought medical attention when the tour ended.  Many Jazz lovers revel in the irony of his use of an African instrument, the violin, adopted by Europeans.  Joe Zawinul died on September 10, 2007. He was 75.   Austrian President Heinz Fischer said Zawinul's death meant the loss of a "music ambassador" known and cherished worldwide. "As a person and through his music, Joe Zawinul will remain unforgettable for us all,"   

Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer praised Zawinul's "unpretentious way of dealing with listeners" and said he wasn't "blinded by superficialities."  Zawinul's son, Erich, said his father would not be forgotten, “He lives on.” Vienna Mayor Michael Haeupl told reporters he would be given an honorary grave in the capital.  

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