Pianist, keyboard player and composer Joseph Eric "Joe" Zawinul was born on 7th July 1932 in Vienna. His childhood was spent in a small village called Kirchbach, situated in the forests surrounding the capital of Austria. The first instrument picked up by the young Zawinul was an accordion - at that time Zawinul was called "Pepe" (the Austrian short form of Joseph). Remembering those days Zawinul says that he made his first experiments in sound on that instrument: "I took a piece of green baize and glued it to the keyboard and got a wonderful sound. After 25 years I used the same sound on my piece ‘Black Market’. He was given an accordion for his sixth birthday. He tried to play folk melodies from memory and then began his musical education at the Vienna Conservatory, although he did not have a piano at home. He first had the chance to practice daily on the piano in 1944 - when he was evacuated, together with other students, from Vienna to the Czech Republic (at that time Vienna was heavily bombed). There was a grand piano in the village house where they were billeted.

Joe Zawinul

Returning to Vienna after the war, Zawinul became interested in jazz, after watching the film ‘Stormy Weather’ (by his own account, he has watched the film 20 times). When he was 20 years old, Zawinul performed with the best saxophonist in Austria, Hans Koller, playing piano and bass guitar. He went on to work with nearly all jazz musicians in Austria.

Joe Zawinul

Aged 27 years, Zawinul triumphed in a competition at the legendary Berklee Music School in Boston and won a scholarship; thus he emigrated to the USA. Luckily, after only a week’s practice with Maynard Ferguson’s orchestra, he attracted the attention of Miles Davis. From 1959-61 he worked in Dinah Washington’s backing group then, in 1961 his career took a great step forward when he joined the famous alto saxophonist Julian Adderley’s band; he was to stay there for nine years. He was no ordinary member of the group; the band played many of the pieces he had written. In 1967 he had a hit with his composition ‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy’. In the same year Adderley produced an album of the same name which took a Grammy award. Zawinul says, “No day goes by without thinking about the times I worked with Cannonball; we had such a strong and dedicated group. We were playing great music, but Cannonball himself blew the audience’s minds. We were so strong as a unit, like a family, and this was clear on the stage.

Joe Zawinul

After parting company with Adderley, Joe Zawinul played on the legendary Miles Davis album ‘Bitches Brew’. It has gone down in history as a jazz-rock album, but in fact it has more of a jazz feel than rock. Zawinul also played on Davis’ albums ‘In a Silent Way’ (Zawinul wrote the title track) ‘Live Evil’ and ‘Big Fun’. In 1971, together with Wayne Shorter, he formed one of the most famous jazz-rock ensembles, ‘Weather Report’.

Joe Zawinul

Zawinul combined the energy of jazz-rock with gentle lyricism and free jazz with electronic effects. Over the years, besides Zawinul and Shorter, the group featured musicians such as


Joe Zawinul

Faces and places /ESC /2002

Mauthausen /ESC/2000

Stories of the Danube /Polygram/1996

My people /Escapade Music/1992

Dialects /Columbia/1986

Zawinul /Atlantic/1970

Concerto retitled /Atlantic/1970

Money in the pocket /Atco/1966

The rise & fall of the tird stream / Vortex/1965

Joe Zawinul and the Austrian all stars 1954-1957/RST/1957

“The Joe Zawinul Syndicate”

World tour /Zebra/1998

Lost tribes /Columbia/1992

The black water/Columbia/1989

Joe Zawinul

Miroslav Vitous, Alphonso Johnson, Jaco Pastorius, Victor Bailey, Alphonse Mouzon, Eric Gravatt, Alex Acuna, Omar Hakim and others. Every one of its 15 years’ existence saw the group named as group of the year by the ‘Downbeat’ magazine, and Joe Zawinul was named best keyboard player 21 years out of 22 by a poll of critics and ‘Downbeat’ readers. The group’s albums sold in huge numbers for instrumental works. Critics regarded him as the only recognised master of the synthesiser, with his own, distinctive sound; individuality not being easily achieved on this instrument.
By the way, Zawinul called his self-built wind synthesiser, ‘Pepe’. Nothing, however, lasts forever and Weather Report’s time came to an end. The musical differences between Shorter and Zawinul finally forced them apart and the group split up in 1985; Shorter decided to form his own group. Continuing without Shorter, Zawinul added keyboards and electronics and changed the name to ‘Weather Update’. Then he established a new group, ‘The Joe Zawinul Syndicate’. This project is distinct for its base in ethnic music from different parts of the world, ‘world music’.

Joe Zawinul

But it seems that the splitting of ‘Weather Report’ was an important period in Zawinul’s life. Remembering his own conservatoire experience, he works hard on academic music. In 1987 he started a very different project: this time he worked as an academic composer and wrote a symphony, ‘Stories of the Danube’. In this work Zawinul proved himself to be a master of the classical form; it was recorded in 1995 by the Czech State Symphonic Orchestra under leader Caspar Richter. It lasts 63 minutes, and Zawinul himself plays keyboards in his own style. The symphony, in seven parts, has been performed in Europe, America and Japan.
Meanwhile, there have also been changes in ‘The Joe Zawinul Syndicate Group’, it has changed its recording studio. The ‘Weather Report’ albums, "The Immigrants", "Blackwater" and "Lost Tribes" were recorded on the CBS label, but the "My People" album was recorded on the independent Escapade music label. Invited musicians from all over the world played on this album alongside the group’s members. Pieces change in style according to the cultures represented by the musicians playing on each track. Together with traditional elements of Latin American and West African, Caribbean, Turkish and Central African influences can be heard. Joe Zawinul says, "This is my music. I have travelled all over the world and everywhere met good people, that’s why I am not a listener, I am an observer. I am inspired by what I see."
Every year the group play 90 concerts throughout the world. Zawinul often also takes part in jazz festivals.

Joe Zawinul

Joe Zawinul belongs to a category of creative people who, after reaching a peak of popularity, refuse to stand still and lose the interest of a new generation. Musicians who are able to capture the spirit of the time, pay little attention to commercial trends, but remain popular. Their music becomes deeper, more sophisticated and more modern in approach. It can never be said of Joe Zawinul and his kind that they are not modern.

"Weather Report"

This is this /Columbia/1985

Sportin’ life /Columbia/1984

Domino theory /Columbia/1983

Procession /Columbia/1983

Weather Report /Columbia/1982

Night passage /Columbia/1980

8:30 /Columbia/1979

Mr.Gone /Columbia/1978

Heavy weather /Columbia/1977

Black market /Columbia/1976

Tale spinnin /Columbia/1975

Mysterious traveller /Columbia/1974

Sweetnighter /Columbia/1973

Live in Tokyo /Columbia/1972

I sing the body electric /Columbia/1971

Weather Report /Columbia/1971