Sunday, April 19, 2009


SYNTHESISERS. COUNTLESS MUSICIANS USE 'em, but relatively few have managed to establish their own unique, instantly-identifiable voice on them.

One musician who long ago managed to do just that is Joe Zawinul, co-founder with saxophonist Wayne Shorter of perhaps the greatest fusion group of all time, Weather Report.

"The music is a soundtrack for your imagination and head", Zawinul was quoted as saying in the sleeve notes to the very first Weather Report album (back in 1971), yet if the group's music was ever cerebral it was never wholly that.

What has always made Weather Report's music special, and given it its lasting impact, has been its ability to communicate on a deeply emotional level - to touch not only the mind but also the body, heart and soul of the listener.

Where so much fusion is about cleverness and surface gloss, leaving you with the feeling that the music's only purpose is to demonstrate the technical prowess of the musicians playing it, in Weather Report's music technical prowess has always been subservient to a deeper meaning - the conveyor of the message rather than the message itself.

Zawinul's evocative synth textures were at the heart of Weather Report's music in more ways than one, providing both its musical and its emotional mainstay.

In truth, any instrument is no more than what you make of it.

Emotion and authenticity can only come from the musician to be transmitted through the instrument to the listener; in the right hands, a synthesiser is no less effective a conduit than any other instrument. No-one has proved this more effectively than Joe Zawinul.

Music Magazine 1992

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