I have been genuinely saddened to hear the news that another music great has slipped this mortal coil or as an unofficial Italian fan site has put it ‘Joe Zawinul has flown away’.
Jazz fusion pioneer Joe Zawinul has died of skin cancer at the age of 75. Born in Vienna, Austria who emigrated to the United States died in his country of birth. He was instrumental in the formation of jazz fusion in the late 60’s and worked with Miles Davis and along with Herbie Hancock pioneered the introduction of electric pianos though Hancock became enamoured with the mini moog synthesizer for live work Zawinul developed phaser effects on the Fender-Rhodes.
In the 70’s he was co founder of influential jazz fusion legends Weather Report who pioneered a Jazz and Rock instrumental sound that had no one leader or soloist. Weather Report managed to cross over to the mainstream with their 1977 hit Birdland bringing the fusion sound to an audience that may never have heard the genre otherwise.
He was one of the first people I saw who played an electronic keyboard slung over his neck for stage portability and performance. He was electronic music without the cold mechanistic tones of sequencers and with enough musicality and free creativity to reach out beyond any narrow muso only elitest genre. I speak personally when I say I’ll miss your continuing musical presence but will continue to enjoy the body of work you’ve left us.