"Zawinul is extending the thoughts that we´ve both had for years. And probably the thoughts that most so-called now musicians have not yet been able to express. - MILES DAVIS
P.S. Dig the two drummers and Herbie with the echoplex - and the clear funky black soprano sound - and the set that Woody has to play in. All these musicians are set up. Joe sets up the musicians so that they have to play like they do, in order to fit the music like they do. In order to fit this music you have to be 'Cliche-free'. In order to write this type of music you have to be free inside of yourself and be Josef Zawinul with two beige kids, a black wife, two pianos, from Vienna, a Cancer and 'Cliche-free'."
Few people had as profound an effect on the sonic landscape of jazz in the late sixties and early seventies as Zawinul. While he was hardly the first person to incorporate electric keyboards into jazz his use of Wurlitzers, Fender-Rhodes and other electric pianos to create large tapestries of sound was completely unique and eventually helped lay the groundwork for fusion (for better and for worse).
Miles Davis' "In a Silent Way", for which Zawinul composed the title cut, is one of my all time favorite albums. Zawinul was picked to participate on it the night before the recording session and was asked to "bring music". The composition he brought was pared down by Miles (who thought there were "too many chords") and then was ultimately re-arranged by producer Teo Marceo who artfully cut and pasted various sections of the recording into its final state. Zawinul's drone organs were the glue that held it all together... The out takes that appear on the complete Silent Way box set are well worth tracking down (random unrelated side note: Davis' On the Corner -on which Zawinul did not appear- gets a similar box set treatment later this month).
Above illustration is by Brad Howe for Wax Poetics