Legendary keyboard player Joe Zawinul was best known as leader of two of the best fusion bands of last four decades, Weather Report and The Zawinul Syndicate. 'Absolute Zawinul', the last studio recording he made before he passed away in 2007, is a superb collaboration with conductor Kristjan Jarvi's Absolute Ensemble and features startling new arrangements of Weather Report and Syndicate compositions.
Any concerns on the listeners part that this might be a typical "jazz-meets-classical" outing will soon be dispelled by the uplifting groove of the opening "Bimoya" originally on The Syndicate's 'Faces & Places'. In selecting the music for the CD Zawinul deliberately aimed to keep the music fresh and not include obvious Weather Report numbers, resulting in two memorable and quite different compositions from the bands final years being performed - "The Peasant" and "Ice-Pick Willy". Also, three tracks originally recorded on solo keyboards by Zawinul on his groundbreaking 'Dialects' album are given more expansive treatment here - "Sultan", "Great Empire" and "Peace".
Joining the co-leader on keyboards are the horns, strings and percussion of the 22 strong Absolute Ensemble plus vocalist Sabine Kabongo, bassist Linley Marthe and drummer Paco Sery from later editions of The Zawinul Syndicate.
This recording is an excellent example of how Joe Zawinul and a large group could blend together seemingly disparate music and is dedicated to his memory.
(4 stars) A shining success...a glowing conclusion to a great career...elaborates Zawinul's music without sacrificing its energy and colour. -- The Scotsman, (Kenny Mathieson), March 21, 2010
(4 stars) A wholly absorbing project...Zawinul always thought orchestrally, and his keyboard lines work well transcribed for orchestra. -- Jazzwise, (Stuart Nicholson), February 2010
(4 stars) It's a fitting enrichment of Zawinul's magic, by players who clearly appreciate it. -- The Guardian, (John Fordham), February 26, 2010
(4 stars) It's been worth the wait...a treat for jazz and classical fans alike...what a send-off this makes. -- BBC Music Magazine, (Neil McKim), March 2010
(4 stars) Sparkling celebration of the maverick composer Joe Zawinul...the results seem so true to his footloose spirit. -- The Sunday Times, (Clive Davis), February 28, 2010
(4 stars) Textures and colours are added, but none of the tumbling energy has been sacrificed...a stirring epitaph. -- The Times, (John Bungey), March 20, 2010