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Crate Digging With Christian McBride: Joe Zawinul And 50 Years Of Weather Report

Frans Schellekens/Redferns

Like some fellow Austrians before him, Mozart, Haydn and Mahler, keyboardist Joe Zawinul deserves a place in the upper echelon of composers. Exhibit A for his inclusion would be the soul ballad "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," a piece Zawinul wrote in 1966 for Cannonball Adderley. But that was only the beginning.

Harnessing the power of synthesizers and global grooves, Zawinul led jazz through successive waves of fusion: with Miles Davis on the groundbreaking 1969 album In a Silent Way; in Weather Report, the group he co-led with saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter in the '70s and '80s; and in his international band, The Zawinul Syndicate, until his passing in 2007.

This Crate Digging episode of Jazz Night in America finds our host, Christian McBride, selecting a must-hear 2006 concert from The Zawinul Syndicate, with Zawinul leading the way through a career-spanning setlist. We'll also look back on 50 years of Weather Report with some esteemed alumni of the band joining McBride in conversation.

"We had a good time. We had an adventure," Shorter says of his time collaborating with Zawinul. "We liked going for it — whatever 'it' is..."

Joe Zawinul, keyboards; Alegre Correa, guitar; Linley Marthe, bass; Roger Biwandu, drums; Aziz Sahmaoui, percussion, vocals; Jorge Bezerra Jr., percussion.

Set List
• "Orient Express" (Joe Zawinul)
• "Scarlet Woman" (Alphonso Johnson, Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul)
• "Madagascar" (Joe Zawinul)
• "Borges Buenos Aires, Part 1" (Joe Zawinul)
• "Patriots" (Joe Zawinul)

Writer and Producer: Trevor Smith; Contributing Producer: Alex Ariff; Host: Christian McBride; Music Engineers: Rob Macomber and Jeff Rothman; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Technical Director: David Tallacksen; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Executive Producers: Anya Grundmann and Gabrielle Armand; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey.

Special thanks to Seth Applebaum, Steve Rathe, Carolina Shorter and Tony Zawinul.

Trevor has been listening to WBGO for nearly half of his life. The station has remained near and dear from the first time he tuned in via a portable radio on a bus from his home city of Hartford to New York.