Brown Street shows the genius of Joe Zawinul against the brightly colored backdrop of a big band, in this case the German WDR Big Band of Cologne. The collection showcases Zawinul compositions from his time at the helm of Weather Report. Notably absent (perhaps by design) from the collection is WR’s most popular piece, “Birdland.” This is fortuitous as several other WP classics receive a big band treatment they richly deserve.
Zawinul’s original orchestrations are recast by arranger Vince Mendoza, who does a yeoman’s job of drawing Zawinul’s orchestrations into tighter perspective using the wares provided by the WDR Big Band to splash this repertoire onto a big canvas. Within the big band is the working unit of Zawinul, former WR members bassist Victor Bailey and percussionist Alex Acuna and Nathaniel Townsley who is the Zawinul Syndicate’s current drummer.
This lineup summons that certain magic that made recordings like Sweetnighter (Columbia, 1973), Black Market (Columbia, 1976), and Heavy Weather (Columbia, 1977). But Zawinul and Mendoza do not restrict themselves only to Weather Report material. Certainly a densely orchestrated “Black Market,” a rocking medley of “Badia/Boogie Woogie Waltz” and a balladic “A Remark You Made” are appropriate from the WR book. Zawinul and Mendoza attend to several para-WR pieces including an extrapolated “Carnavalito” and likely a definitive “In a Silent Way” where Zawinul perhaps finally wrestles the piece away from the late Miles Davis. Brown Street is a superb release from this fusion master
Disc: 1: Brown Street; In a Silent Way; Fast City; Badia/Boogie Woogie Waltz; Black Market. Disc: 2: March of the Lost Children; Remark You Made; Night Passage; Procession; Carnavalito.
Joe Zawinul: keyboards, vocoder; Victor Bailey: bass guitar; Nathaniel Townsley: drums; Alex Acuna: percussion. Additional personnel: WDR Big Band.
This review was first published in Blogcritics.org
© Copyright, C. Michael Bailey, 2007