I have just learned of the passing of the World's Funkiest Austrian, the keyboardist, composer, and band-leader extraordinaire, Joe Zawinul.
He got that title from his first noted American employer, Julian "Cannonball" Adderley, the jazz saxophonist, who made famous Joe's Gospel-based tune, "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy."
I got to meet him once, outside of Yoshi's in Oakland, the night that Princess Diana died. Her death was just recently marked, and I thought to myself that for my interests and cares, how much more Joe meant to me. I greeted him after the gig, briefly, and said in German that people often ask me why I went to Austria instead of Germany, and I said, "Daß is wo der Joe ist!"
"That's where Joe is!" He smiled, politely.
Mr. Zawinul went on to work for his most famous band leader, Miles Davis, and there met the man he'd collaborate with for a large section of the rest of his life, Wayne Shorter. The two giants formed there group "Weather Report," which some of would argue remains as the most influential group of serious musicians from the late 20th Century. And they're funkier than shit.
Joe wouldn't mind me using such vulgar language.
Throughout the rest of his life, he continued to help fuse together musics to make something better, always tracking down monster musicians from all over the globe, particularly Africa. On that night ten years ago, I learned that that thumb piano was an instrument instead of a toy, because Joe hired one of its masters to play it.
I miss him already. Go hear what you've been missing, and hear what how a boy from Vienna went on to change the world of music.
To his friends & family: I'm so sorry for your loss.