For sheer unbridled exuberance in music and matchless energy, here’s the late, great Joe Zawinul’s ‘Zawinul Syndicate’ performing Patriots live in 1997.
After an all too brief but dizzying bass solo from the great Richard Bona, the unstoppable rhythmic drive of the piece kicks in: it’s hard not to be carried away by its infectious joie de vivre and sheer pleasure in playing. Once the groove has begun, propelled by some astonishing percussion work, it never lets up: the piece just cooks nicely and with such ease, you can forget that it’s leading at such a frenetic pace.
Zawinul led the great fusion band Weather Report in the 1970s and 80s, a legendary ensemble including ex-Miles Davis sideman, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, bassist Jaco Pastorius (listen to Teen Town to get an idea of Jaco’s astonishing virtuosity and raising of the bass to a melodic instrument; Bach would have loved it), and drummer Peter Erskine. The group’s dazzling blending of jazz, rock and world music saw the creation of great albums such as Black Market, Heavy Weather, 8.30 and Sportin’ Life.
Zawinul himself played with Miles Davis for a brief period, and wrote the lyrical In A Silent Way from Davis’ album of the same name, and also played on Davis’ Bitches Brew, the fastest-selling jazz album of all time.
Zawinul’s own Zawinul Syndicate saw the same driving and energetic performances typified in Patriots right up until Zawinul’s death in September, 2007.
That’s the secret to music-making, and to great performances: passion, commitment and joy in performing.
(And to the members of the University Chamber Choir 2008-09, for whom I wrote a choral arrangement of Patriots: remember this ?! Happy days.)