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Brian Glasser
"In A Silent Way"
The first Joe Zawinul biography 


In A Silent Way - A portrait of Joe Zawinul

"In A Silent Way", by Brian Glasser, is the first complete (and official) biography of Joe Zawinul. The release of this book, planned for the February 23 of 2001, is an important event for all the Zawinul and Weather Report supporters.
Finally, we have an organic collection of informations about our musical hero!
Brian Glasser, who had the opportunity to interview Joe Zawinul extensively over the years and to explore directly his personality, based his work principally on personal declarations of the musicians who have been involved in the Zawinul's career, from the Austrian childhood to the Zawinul Syndicate period, by passing through his first jazz experiences with the Austrian All Stars, his moving to the United States and his collaborations with jazz stars like Dinah Washington, Ben Webster and finally his long staying in the Cannonball Adderley quintet.
And, of course, the Weather Report period, that is the more documented one. And it can be a lovely surprise for many of long-time Weather Report fans to discover a lot of intriguing and unedited particulars about the band and its music.
If you like Joe Zawinul's music, you MUST have this book!!

We want to thank Mr. Chris Bradford of Sanctuary Publishing, who has sent us a promotional copy of "In A Silent Way" and permitted us to publish some extracts of the book. We publish the parts that are focused principally on the Weather Report era:


The genesis of Weather Report

Joe Zawinul:
"We decided that we were going to need some fantastic management, because the quality of the music was very high, so we got Sid Bernstein, who brought The Beatles to America. Then I immediately went to Clive Davis [president of CBS] and got a super contract. Not a big one, but good for that time." Apparently, Davis didn't even listen to the demo tape.
Given that Zawinul's last three solo albums had been recorded at Atlantic with Joel Dorn, that label might have seemed a more obvious choice, but Dorn has surprisingly few regrets about the switch, and certainly no complaints: "While we were working on Zawinul, Joe told me about Weather Report and going to Columbia. It was and it wasn't a disappointment for Atlantic. To be honest, we knew Joe was a great jazz artist, and that Zawinul was an important record, but you don't always know where someone's heading, so while I would have liked to have continued making records with Joe, he was headed someplace else, and that's the way it goes. Atlantic were never in the bidding to sign Weather Report - I think Joe wanted to go to Columbia probably because they'd had Miles. And around that time, there were certain artists that I signed that I was very close to, personally - Rahsaan, Yusef, Les McCann, Fathead, Hank Crawford - and Joe and I didn't have as much of a personal relationship. I knew he was a supremely talented musician, and I wanted to work with him, but it wasn't as if we were blood brothers or anything. We had a nice relationship. We made three albums together, and he was headed where he wanted to".

The next step was to find a name for the new entity. "We thought The Wayne Shorter-Joe Zawinul Quintet sounded ridiculous, so we were in my apartment in New York - Miroslav, Wayne and I - trying to find a name which would say something, especially what people had in their minds all the time. So we were thinking about Daily News, but that didn't sound good. Thousands of names - Audience, Triumvirate, all kinds. Suddenly, Wayne popped out Weather Report, and we all said, 'That's it!' That's the fun thing".

Comments about the Tale Spinnin' album

Zawinul's approach to the recording model that he'd learned from Miles on Bitches Brew came closer on this record than on any other. Conceived and produced in the absence of a settled, working live band, it's unsurprising that Tale Spinnin' was the most studio-orientated of the group's albums to date. Some sections were recorded at the studio of synth wizards Bob Margouleff and Malcolm Cecil, who had masterminded Stevie Wonder's technology on his ground-breaking hit albums of the early '70s. As Zawinul himself said about this period, "I'm a constructor; too. If you make a record, you make a record. If you go out on tour, that's another thing."
The art was in building something sizeable and complex without sacrificing spontaneity. As Ndugu describes it, "There wasn't a lot of dialogue about what they were trying to do musically. We would go in and just start playing, and they would roll the tape, or they would give me a sketch of a tune, which would be eight bars or something. They reminded me a lot of playing with Miles and Herbie and Alice Coltrane, because in those situations there was not a lot of dialogue, either. In comparison, Santana was much more tightly controlled. There were only a couple of spots in Santana's show where we could do spontaneous composition - a couple of spots in two hours! With Weather Report, you just kind of played off of each other, and that was the whole thing about that record."
Johnson supports this description: "There was a lot of freedom in how it was put together. That was part of what made the music so special. Ir was very reminiscent of how I imagine Miles used to record. They would just start rolling tape and the song would start immediately from the first note. Then later Joe and Wayne would go back and splice the tape. So what may have been the middle of what we did would all of a sudden become the introduction, so it would start at a high point.
"Whatever themes they wrote would become edited as well. Joe might have thought, 'This might be great in this part,' and then later he would decide, 'No, I think I want it over here.' That's the way they worked. It's a great way to work, actually! I talked to Billy [Cobham] a lot about how [The Mahavishnu Orchestrai recorded, and I think it was kind of unique to Weather Report. They went in, rolled tape and allowed things to happen. They didn't try to force anything."
Not that there weren't distinctions within Weather Report itself.

Joe Zawinul remembers his first meeting with Jaco...

"We played in Miami - not a good concert, there was the situation. I wrote pieces that took two drummers, like 'Nubian Sundance'. The beat was so difficult. One drummer couldn't stand that because we played long, ten to twelve minutes, in very fast tempo for the drummer. The piece itself wasn't fast, but the rhythm was in double time and needed two drummers, so I was looking for a drummer who could possibly do that. Slide Hampton told me ahout a drummer who has played with him, I won't say his name, and I - you have to imagine, we were in Miami - flew him in from Europe to Miami just for auditioning, and that was this night when we played in this theatre in Miami, sold out.
"But I was very angry because, although the drummer was an African, I discovered when he already was in the plane that he had been living in Switzerland for already 15 years. When I realised that an African was living in Switzerland for 15 years, I knew that he wouldn't be able to play our music. That's nothing against Switzerland, but there are certain elements in life; when someone adapts himself to them, that's the way you become. He came, and at the first rehearsal, when he heard us playing, he was so nervous. He was so trembling that the drumsticks dropped out of his hands. We spent a lot of money to fly him in, and of course we paid him. After the concert, I went out and helped out. We had a big truck for the instruments, and there was kind of alleyway, kind of backstage way, and I helped our truck to drive out.
"So I stood there with two ladies - one was a writer for The Miami Herald and the other woman made the promotion. I stood there, angry about the situation, not having a drummer, not having two drummers for the next show, and suddenly there came this strange-looking guy, stooped, totally strange, and said to me, 'Mr Zawinul, I really like your music and my father was a great fan of Cannonball, and I'm a great fan of Cannonball.' And I was not in the mood. I replied, 'Really? What else?' 'Oh yes, by the way, my name Is John Francis Pastorius III, and I'm the greatest bass player in the world.' And I don't want to say this thing, but I said, 'Get the fuck out of here!' You know, I was really mad, and I didn't want to hear any idiot coming to me and telling me all these things, you know? Normally, when I say this to somebody, he would just leave, but he stayed there and looked at me, and I had to laugh because he was looking with such sad eyes, you know. And the newspaper lady elbowed me and said, 'Listen, he is a little nuts but he's a genius bass player.' I said, 'Listen, come to the hotel tomorrow and we'll talk. Bring a tape or whatever.'
"And so next day he stopped by, wearing glasses, totally nice and very well mannered, together with his brother, Gregory, who Is a great artist too, and he played for me what he brought with him, and somehow it impressed me. But we had a super bassist, Alphonso Johnson, so there was no reason for me to make changes. However, every week he sent a letter to me, written as if It was printed - this person had a handwriting which was phenomenal.

Alex Acuna talks about "Heavy Weather"

When Weather Report made that album, the tunes we had were sometimes complete, sometimes incomplete, so we'd find the other pieces of the puzzle to put it together; to make the song work, to make it joyful, contemporary, without being ashamed of it being contemporary, also.
"We rehearsed before going into the studio, and every time we'd rehearse we'd try something different. Sometimes we'd play one tune for about an hour, non-stop, and in that hour I'd play maybe ten different beats. You're always looking for the one that really feels real good, so that the music is flowing comfortably. It might come from any of the musicians, but on 'Birdland' those are my beats. And actually - I'm gonna be very honest - for me, 'Birdland's the worst tune on the album! For me, personally, of course, because I'm not into rock; I'm not into backbeats. For me, that's always been simple music. I think my favourite is 'Havona'. That, for me, is how I always want to play, that kind of a conversation. When I hear that tune, I still get the chills. Everything was improvised in that moment - it's almost no overdubs. And it's just a quartet - Manolo was in the studio, but he didn't play on that song. That's the best kind of music I could hope to play. So i love 'Birdland' - it's an incredible symphony, and I know a lot of great musicians like to feel the backbeat - but for me, because I'm a rhythm player, it was really boring. Makes repetitive hi-hat sound. That's boring. But it became one of the greatest songs of those times!"
Zawinul himself tacitly sympathises: "I wanted to play 'Birdland' in a shuffle, but it was not in there, it didn't happen. So we did it this way. What can you say about it? It was one of the biggest hits in history."

Omar Hakim remembers his first conversation with Joe Zawinul

"I knew he was going to call because the first time he rang my mother got the message for me and she didn't know who he was. That was the funniest thing. The message from her was something like, 'You got a call from Los Angeles, from a guy with a really strange name that starts with a Z, and he said something about a weather report…'. I immediately knew, and i called him back. We had a chat, and he was telling me what was happening with Peter, and i was aware, of course, because i was a fan of the band before i joined. And we talked about plans, his intentions. That was about six weeks before anything happened. The idea was to record an album and do a tour. Would i be interested in coming out and joining the band? I said, 'Sure, i'd love to'."

Omar Hakim about Sportin' Life

Regardless of the musical merits or otherwise of Sportin' Life, Weather Report were no longer receiving the level of attention that they had been in the Jaco years. Hakim, for one, was disappointed, and attributed it to the changing culture of the music business in the 80's: "I would say that Sportin' Life was probably the best musically packaged album that was done while i was there. Had the climate been different, it could have been another Heavy Weather in terms of the commercial appeal, because it did have some funky grooves and some singable melodies. I think the only thing that affected that was the music climate then. I don't think it was a question of the public, more the record companies, as to what was selling and what they were playing attention at the time. I think that in the '80s we were looking at a massive growth of sales of pop music. They were fusing lifestyle, fashion and music into a very nice and neat and sellable commodity for the public. The attention wasn't onto the musicianship any more; musicianship and sense of artistry just wasn't a big thing any more. In the '70s, even the pop artists were very good musicians. We still had some of that going in the '80s, but record companies were wanting to move these slabs of vinyl and photos on cardboard covers. The idea was, 'Let's move what's selling.' And, of course, the Weather Report audience that had been following and maturing, maybe their attention shifted; maybe that experimental time period between the albums 8:30 and Procession threw them off, because really, Heavy Weather was on of those records that was the perfect sum of everything they had been working on up to that point. You could see with Black Market it was really starting to gel. And then, boom! Here comes Heavy Weather: melody, groove, sing-along tunes, memorable ideas. It was an incredible moment for the band. 8:30 kind of kept that going a little bit, but then we're back into experimental mode again, we're back into exploring again, and all of the people they had picked up during Black Market, Heavy Weather and 8:30 were starting to drift off. So by the time i get there, in America the attention had totally shifted, but for some reason there was a big interest in Europe, in the UK and in Japan. I noticed that the touring and the majority of what we were doing was really based there. There was interest in America, and there were diehard fans that knew about me and Victor and were interested in the fact that 'Wow! Omar is in the Weather Report. What's going on?'. But it was no longer mass appeal. And by the time Sportin' Life came along, when the transition is nearly over, we're finding it now, but by then it was too late. The interest had gone."

More info about the book

Brian Glasser

Pub date: February 2001
ISBN: 1 86074 246 7
UK Price: £15
US Price: $22

Format: Hardback, Royal
Photos: 16 pg b/w photo section Dimensions: 210 x 148mm/8.2" x 5.9"
Extent: 350pp
Rights: World, all language
AI last updated: 22/8/00

For more info please contact:
Chris Bradford
Sales & Marketing
Sanctuary Publishing
Tel: +44 (0) 20 8749 9171

Thanks to:
Chris Bradford (
Sanctuary Publishing)



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