As much as anyone, Joe Zawinul, who died today at 75, shaped the sound of jazz as we listen to it today. The Austrian-born keyboardist helped invent jazz fusion 40 years ago through his history-making collaborations with Miles Davis on the epic albums In a Silent Way, for which Zawinul composed the title track, and Bitches Brew. Along with fellow Davis alum Wayne Shorter, Zawinul founded Weather Report, which served as fusion’s flagship band throughout the ’70s and created such standards as “Birdland,” a song that won Grammys in three different decades. After that, he continued to create boundary-defying music as the leader of the Zawinul Syndicate for the last 20 years (you can watch him performing with the group in this concert clip recorded just a couple months ago). He popularized the use of the electric piano and the synthesizer as jazz instruments. And throughout his five-decade career, he composed such standards as “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” (from his early-’60s tenure with the Cannonball Adderley sextet) that you can still hear in any jazz club in the world any night of the week in arrangements like this one.
addCredit(“Joe Zawinul: Ralf Collaris/Retna”)