If every picture tells a story, two of the framed photographs that hang prominently in Joe Zawinul’s seaside Southern California home speak volumes about this legendary jazz keyboardist, composer and bandleader. They also provide some insight into the Austrian native’s audacious new recording, Brown Street. The live double-album finds him revisiting his epic work with Weather Report in a rousing, take-no-prisoners big-band setting some two decades after that pioneering group’s demise.
The first photo, taken at a mid-1991 concert in France, shows him performing with Wayne Shorter and Miles Davis less than two months before the iconic trumpeter’s death. It was, of course, in Davis’ band of the late 1960s that Zawinul and saxophonist Shorter laid the foundation for Weather Report. Their budding supergroup would soon achieve near-Beatles-like popularity in, and sometimes beyond, the jazz world with its pioneering fusion of earthy and exotic styles from near and far.