JOE ZAWINUL: Midnight Jam
A double CD with Zawinul live – no risk for disappointments if you like Mr Z and his music. An almost unbelievable synthesis of total flow and perfection. This band is actually given more justice on a live recording, where Zawinul’s perfectionism is balanced by the timing and pulse which these musicians are charged with. There is an enormous drive through the whole record, there are definitely no speed limits but it never gets so fast that it stops swinging and feels rushed. The wreckless interplay between Etienne Mbappé and Paco Sery during the bass solo in the middle of “Two Lines” is an enjoyable example of this. The general sound is dominated by drums/percussion, bass and voices. No thick carpets of sound are spread out over everything. Zawinul delivers his well chosen statements, and between these the music is clear and spacy, it never gets too thick in spite of the tempo and intensity.
No horns are included in the band (except on the tracks where the WDR Big Band is featured, among others the Z classic In A Silent Way) but instead, the voices have quite a strong position. Besides vocalists Sabine Kabongo (from Zap Mama) and Maria João, Mbappé and guitarist Amit Chatterjee contribute with some lead vocals. The singers’ and synthesizer’s voices are blended into imaginative sounds from different parts of the world (both from earth and from Mr Z’s own mystical universes...)
Miscellaneous old friends from Weather Report such as Victor Bailey, Alex Acuña and Peter Erskine make some appearances along with the WDR Big Band, for example on Badia, the classic from Weather Report album Tale Spinning.
The Swedish Radio recently broadcast a fresh live recording from Zawinul’s club Birdland in Salzburg, which will appear on Z’s new record label BirdJam. One reason not to buy Midnight Jam yet would be that you would wait for the new one – if you can’t afford both.