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Joe Zawinul (7.7.32 – 9.11.07)

Joe Zawinul was a pretty good bebop piano player. Playing bop, however, was not his calling. Instead, Zawinul was called to be great at something else. Bebop piano playing would have been like wearing a borrowed suit-not necessarily ill-fitting, but not his own. Some people look dapper in their jackets and ties, while for others, dressy clothing looks stodgy and confining. Joe was most comfortable in a peasant’s patchwork jacket of his own making. To each his own.

Zawinul was first called to jazz music as a child prodigy watching black musicians in the 1943 film Stormy Weather. Becoming a jazz musician was as unlikely a goal as you could imagine for a kid growing up in World War II-era Austria. Despite the odds, however, Zawinul made it. A jazz life was his calling and heeding it resulted in a solid sideman career working with the likes of Dinah Washington, Cannonball Adderley and Miles Davis.

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