Joe Zawinul, 1932-2007

I was saddened to see in today’s news that the great Joe Zawinul has died, of cancer, at the age of 75.

Zawinul was a truly extraordinary musician; the word “genius” would not be much of a stretch. It is fair to say that he invented the genre we now call “world music” with his groundbreaking ensemble Weather Report; he also was among the musicians featured on Miles Davis’s revolutionary album Bitches Brew, to which he contributed the piece Pharaoh’s Dance.

I didn’t know Joe well, though I did work with him a few times. In particular I remember how thrilled I was to work, as a young assistant engineer, on the eponymous album Weather Report, in Power Station’s Studio A, way back in 1981. I had been a huge fan of the band since their inception in the early 1970’s, and to find myself in the studio with Joe, Wayne Shorter, Jaco Pastorius, Peter Erskine, and Robert Thomas was a dream come true.

My good friend Steve Khan spent a lot of time with Joe, and he has told me a lot of colorful stories (which I won’t repeat here). Steve has written a personal remembrance of his own; do have a look.

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