Jazz pioneer Joe Zawinul died today at age 75. On the day we commemorate the horror that 19 savages unleashed upon our nation it may not seem so great a loss - but it is. And on this day we remember the misery man might visit upon his fellow man, Joe's musical legacy serves as a reminder of the joy man is also capable of sharing.
The innovative keyboardist cut his teeth accompanying jazz greats with names like Maynard Ferguson, Cannonball Adderley and Miles Davis. But it was his collaboration with saxophonist Wayne Shorter as cofounders of the breakout jazz-fusion group Weather Report in 1970 that most of us will remember and forever thank him for.
One can argue whether or not Zawinul was the father of jazz-rock, the cross-over sound that introduced millions of rock fans to the improvisational beauty of jazz. But one thing transcends argument - his introduction of high-technology keyboards and synthesizers to jazz changed the musical landscape forever.
Weather Report weaved musical tapestries of dynamic counterpoint melodies on looms of African, Caribbean, and American jazz rhythms, and the finished product never fell short of glorious (Video - please check out others on YouTube too).
Zawinul had an uncanny talent for finding talent rivaled only by Frank Zappa, and the evolution of Weather Report year after year bore melodious testimony to that ability.
As a young aspiring musician myself in the 70's, the announcement of a new Weather Report album was a moment of pure delight. The promise of a tour landing anywhere within 3 states would elicit sheer ecstasy, and was always well worth the trip.
I'm sure anyone fortunate enough to have attended a Weather Report concert understands my gushy nostalgia, as well as my sadness.
For, now, the lights have dimmed on Josef Erich Zawinul's final encore.
Thanks for the memories, Joe -- you will be greatly missed.