Joe Zawinul

World Tour

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This version of the Zawinul Syndicate could swing harder than any Zawinul-led unit since the heyday of Weather Report, as this two-CD set -- taken from three concerts in Berlin and Trier, Germany -- triumphantly illustrates. Small wonder, for the lineup of the Syndicate looks almost like a Weather Report alumni gathering, with Zawinul, the brilliant percussionist Manolo Badrena from the 1977 Heavy Weather band, and bassist Victor Bailey, from the great '80s global-funk edition forming a quorum, with Paco Sery on drums and Gary Poulson on guitar filling out the ranks. Zawinul remains a marvel at 65, always in touch with the idea and feel of the groove, weaving spare, enigmatic electronic comments and spangled layers of synthesizers into the mix, creating a touching dialogue in "Zansa II" with Sery's kalimba. Some of the material stems from the early years of the Syndicate, and "Indiscretions" and "Two Lines" date all the way back to Weather Report. Among the greatest groovathons -- at last presented in full glorious concert length on CD -- are "Indiscretions," which gets the voodoo going in an insinuating manner, and "N'awlins," which manages to evoke the Crescent City R&B feeling in a swingingly original way. The set's two anomalies are "When There Was Royalty," a curious intermezzo consisting of Zawinul's polystylistic solo piano musings poorly recorded in his home studio on a Walkman, and "Success," a spoken poem by Erich Fried set against the stunning blend of Berlin church bells and electronics. For a souvenir of the state of Zawinul's art in the 1990s, this is the album to get.

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