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In A Silent Way: A Portrait of Joe Zawinul by Brian Glasser

Don’t you hate it when a book reviewer rambles on and on about the subject or endlessly points out errors but never tells you what they really think about the book? Fuggedaboutit: I loved this book. The author, a longtime contributor to British music magazines like Q and Mojo, calls it a portrait rather than a biography, a fine point which escapes me. And what a perfect subject for a biography-I mean portrait. Born and raised in war-torn Europe, Josef Zawinul had an unlikely upbringing (hardscrabble really doesn’t do it justice) for a jazz musician who later became associated with some of the greatest figures in the music: Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis and of course Wayne Shorter, his longtime collaborator.

Zawinul’s mercurial and colorful personality spices up an already fascinating narrative. The title itself is doubly ironic, since Zawinul rarely did anything silently and Miles also claimed credit for that song. The book was initially intended to be an autobiography and therefore has the advantage of first-person reportage combined with plenty of primary sources, not only from the Weather Report days but also going back to Zawinul’s sideman days with Adderley and Dinah Washington.

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