Faces & Places (Esc Records)

Joe Zawinul

Released September 4, 2002

Grammy Nominee Best Contemporary Jazz Album 2003






Surging with pulse-quickening grooves, drenched in Third World exotica, charged with improvisational abandon and teeming with typical machismo, Faces & Places is quintessential Joe Zawinul. Now in his 70th year, the maestro shows no signs of slowing down artistically as he pushes the envelope on this exhilarating ride. Indeed, the ever-prolific, relestlessly creative synth wizard and bandleader seems to bring his keyboard virtuosity, expansive pan-global vision, and Austrian soul to a laser-like focus on this extraordinary outing. Once again, he is accompanied by an international cast including Cameroonian bassists Richard Bona and Etienne MBappe, the incomparable Ivory Coast drummer Paco Sery, north Indians Amit Chatterjee on guitar and vocals and Zakir Hussain on tablas, Belgian-African singer Sabine Kabongo, Peruvian percussionist Alex Acuna, Venezuelan percussionist Rudy Regalado, Puerto Rican percussionist Manolo Badrena, Portuguese singer Maria Joao and Americans Dean Brown on guitar, Victor Bailey on bass, and Bobby Malach on tenor saxophone.

Special guest vocalists, the Perry sisters, bring their sanctified energy and rich harmonies to bear on Joe’s heartfelt homage to his musical mentor, “Spirit of Julian C. Adderley”, as well as on his vibrant gospel-flavored anthem “Good Day”. Richard Page, from the British pop group Mr. Mister, lends his lush vocals to the wistful ballad “Familiar To Me”, a tune that Zawinul penned 30 years ago and never previously recorded.

Conceptually, Faces & Places is a rich summing up of Zawinul’s fabulous career, which began some 50 years ago in a Viennese dance band. Over the past four decades — going back to “Orange Lady” from Miles Davis’ 1969 landmark Bitches Brew and continuing with pieces like “Jungle Book” from Weather Report’s 1974 recording Mysterious Traveller, “The Man In The Green Shirt” from 1975’s Tale Spinnin’, or “Madagascar” from 1980’s Night Passage – Zawinul has attempted to write music that captures a sense of place or expresses the spirit of people. His efforts in this direction became increasingly pronounced in his 1986 solo synth tour-de-fource Dialects, his 1988 Zawinul Syndicate offering The Immigrants, 1996’s My People, and the whirlwind World Tour from 1998. As he stated in his liner notes for Dialects : “The compositions on this album are my impressions of the many peoples and places I have visited; their moods, songs, laughter, dances; the sights and sounds of the daily lives I have glimpsed or imagined as I’ve toured around the world.”

Faces & Places is the logical next step in this ongoing musical quest. “I wanted to do actually a Dialects kind of record”, says Zawinul, “because in the last few years I have had opportunities to travel to places that I’ve never been before, like in New Caldonia, Tunisia, Georgia in Russia. My motives are more or less about traveling and seeing the world and then trying to put my impressions into the music.”

Or as Zawinul himself states over the album’s opening theme, “The Search”: We travel the world over and over in search of what we need. And we return home to find it. “That’s the theme of the whole album”, says Joe. “And that’s really the way it is. You go out in the world as a young man to learn about life, and I’m still out there to learn about life. It’s the greatest subject and it’s been a wonderful journey.”

Not only does this powerfully evocative offering contain the kinetic forward momentum and grand pan-global sweep of his vintage Weather Report work, it carries with it a little touch of old Vienna as well in Joe’s nostalgic ode to his hometown, “Rooftops of Vienna”, which features the voice of his own father in the introductory section along with a brief snippet of Zawinul’s accordion playing at a casual family gathering back home.

The rousing hi-life party groove of “All About Simon”, a piece dedicated to Joe’s grandson, is as buoyantly optimistic and infectious as such other hard-grooving Zawinul anthems of the past as “Volcano For Hire” from 1982’s Weather Report or “Carnavalito” from his 1986 solo recording Dialects (later reprised on 1998’s World Tour ). Amit Chatterjee provides emotive karnatak-styled vocals on the stirring “Introduction To Tower Of Silence” before a full ensemble enters, weaving a hypnotic sonic tapestry on this compelling ode to a monument that still stands today in Bombay.

“The Spirit of Julian C. Adderley” is a grooving tribute to Zawinul’s one-time mentor that is powered by the interlocking rhythms of bassist Etienne MBappe and drummer Paco Sery, who prove to be an unbeatable rhythm tandem throughout this spirited project. The Perry sisters (who previously sang new lyrics for a re-reading of Zawinul’s Cannonball-era instrumental hit “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” on the 1988 Zawinul Syndicate release, The Immigrants ) add some vocal gusto on the chorus on this upbeat number. The four sisters also provide backing vocals on the moving ballad “Familiar To Me”, a vocal feature for Richard Page, who previously sang “Shadows And Light” on the Zawinul Syndicate’s The Immigrants.

Joe himself shares vocal duties (through his voice-altering Vocoder) with the striking singer Sabine Kabongo (formerly of Zap Mama) and Richard Bona on the evocative “Cafe Andalusia”, named for a favorite Tunisian emporium of water pipes and mint tea. The Perry sisters return to ooze boundless soul on the triumphant “Good Day”, which also features some strong tenor sax contributions from Bobby Malach. And vocalist Maria Joao casts an alluring vibe on the exotic “Barefoot Beauty”.

Following the nostalgic intro, “Rooftops Of Vienna” kicks into another infectious groove that is underscored by Paco Sery’s inimitable drumming, Alex Acuna’s percussion work and Zawinul’s deep-toned and highly syncopated keyboard basslines. Lori Perry of the Perry sisters overdubs a joyous choir on this uplifting anthem.

Zawinul pays tribute to the great Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges on his two part opus “Borges Buenos Aires”. Part 1 features some fat grooves courtesy of bassist MBappe and drummer Sery, the rhythm section on Salif Keita’s 1991 recording Amen , which Joe produced. “That’s where I met Etienne”, says Zawinul of the Cameroonian bassist who recently joined his touring band. “We worked in Paris on that Salif album and I just jammed there with those two guys. And at that time I told myself, ‘Those guys are going to be in my band one day.’ The way we played together that day was magical. We had such a tight thing together rhythmically that you just didn’t have to say anything, it was all understood”. (Sery would join the Zawinul Syndicate a few years later, appearing on 1996’s My People and 1998’s World Tour ). MBappe, who also plays on Part 2 of that paean to Borges (recorded live in Paris with drummer Nathaniel Townsley, guitarist Chatterjee and percussionist Manolo Badrena, a key member of the mid ‘70s edition of Weather Report) is also prominently featured in a vocal role on a dramatic and moving duet with Zawinul on “Siseya”.

The album closes on a note of surging forward momentum and sheer burn with “East 12th Street Band”, an ode to Joe’s former New York City home that features some extended trademark blowing by the keyboard virtuoso over a killer groove laid down by Bona, Sery and Acuna.

A powerful, passionate work, Faces & Places stands as one of Zawinul’s most exhilarating and gratifying works to date. “There was a lot of synchronicity involved in this project”, says Joe. “People like Richard Bona, Zakir Hussain and Sabine Kabongo just happened to be available right at the time we were recording, one right after the other, like clockwork. And of course, I can’t say enough about my regular band. These guys are all great, enthusiastic musicians. It was a joy to work with them and we’re going to have a lot of fun taking this new music out on the road.”

Zawinul had these other comments on some of the individual tracks from Faces & Places:

“Tower Of Silence” — It’s about a sect in India called the Sudras. These people are in the caste system, one step above the untouchables. But they are allowed to be teachers. And what is happening when one of them dies is they call all of the relatives together, they put the body in a garment and place it up in the top of the Tower Of Silence. Then the bells ring and the vultures from all around dive down to pick the bodies clean. Then they put flowers on the remains, burn them and throw the ashes on the Ganges River. The most magnificent and significant thing of this is that they believe that nothing should be wasted. We come from nothing, we go to nothing. And by doing this ritual in the Tower Of Silence, they are in effect fertilizing the earth. It’s kind of a recycling process and I kind of sympathize with this theory that nothing should be wasted. And interestingly enough, after we recorded the tune with Zakir Hussain on tablas, I told him the story behind the title and he said, “You know, Joe, this is so ridiculously funny. I open my windows in the morning and that’s what I see, the Tower of Silence.” He lives right across from it there in Bombay. So everything kind of fit perfectly with this tune.

“The Spirit of Julian C. Adderely” — He was one of my favorite people and musicians of all time. For me, Julian Adderley, was a dear friend. He was my best man when I got married. We played for nine and a half years, traveling all over on the road together. That was a great part of my life. For me, he will always be a giant, a phenomenal person. He was a street cat but at the same time very educated. And he really believed in Jesse Jackson and this old program he used to have in Chicago called Operation Breadbasket. Cannon also came from church music and therefore I had the Perry sisters singing on this. And when Cannon wrote music and played music, it was always on that thin line between being intellectual and that street thing. And I wanted to combine that quality in a way on this tune. And it came out nice. It’s something Cannon would’ve liked.

“Familiar to Me” — This is related to this concept of coming home. I wanted to play it first as an instrumental and then I decided to get in touch with Richard Page. He wrote the lyrics to “Shadows and Light” on the first Zawinul Syndicate album (1988’s The Immigrants). I like the way he writes and I like his voice. The tune is not related specifically to me but to people in general. A man and a woman fall in love, they get married, they have a family and then it seems like, “Is that all there is to it?” And they drift away from each other only to realize that it still was the best thing, what they had, and how all the old places they knew together…it’s all familiar to me. Again, it’s related to you going out in the world because you have a need to learn and to see what’s happening, only to return home to find it. I wrote this tune 30 years ago and never recorded it. I have a lot of this kind of material. And this, I’m very happy with it.

“Cafe Andalulsia” — This is the name of a place in Tunisia that we visited. When we arrived in Tunis at the airport it was incredibly hot and kind of desolate. After checking into the hotel we asked where to get the best water pipe for smoking and they told us about this place Cafe Andalusia. We went there and smoked this funny wet tobacco in the water pipes and drank this incredible almond tea with honey and mint. That place had such a vibe, man. And I tried to convey a sense of how that day went in this piece.

“Good Day” — That was one of the first tunes I actually improvised for this album. It was a very difficult melody. Last year when we went on the road I tried to play it with the band and immediately when we started playing it I just turned it off because it just didn’t feel right. But then I started working on it again while my new studio was being built. I started fooling around with another melody and I called Bobby Malach, who came into the studio and did a wonderful job on it. And I felt that the instrument alone was not strong enough so I brought in the Perry sisters to punch it up a little. And… BAM! They did it! You couldn’t take a group of studio singers and get a result like that. These Perry sisters have been singing together since they were little kids and so the blend that they get together is magnificent. So the tune has a gospel feel and I wanted to go totally away from that whole spirit in my solo, so I have this funny sample that I solo with. That way I can take it out and then come back home to it. My son (and co-producer) Ivan also did a very good job of arranging my keyboards on this track.

“Barefoot Beauty” — Maria Joao is a really good singer and when she works with us, which is quite often, she is always barefoot. And our great cover designer, Joachim Oster, came up with a photograph of a circus performer that he found. It’s this young barefoot girl who looks like a young Maria. She is sleeping on top of an elephant who is on the ground lying on his side. It’s a very striking, very interesting photo. The elephant is awake…you see the elephant’s eyes open but it doesn’t want to move and wake up the girl. And in the arrangement to this song, when I did realize that Oster was going to use this particular picture, I started to kind of indicate through musical notes that kind of tonality that an elephant makes, though it’s hard to notice. I also had Paco stretch out on this piece. He plays so incredibly throughout the whole record and I really wanted to feature his great talent here.

“Rooftops of Vienna” — This is where my father is speaking at the beginning. It’s from a conversation we had back home in the village where I was with my family. We had celebrated a birthday with all the relatives and I played a little accordion and was singing. That’s some of what you hear on the intro. I have four generations represented there — my father, myself, my son Ivan and his little boy Simon. This tune is about the place where I stay when I’m in Vienna. For the past 12 years now I’ve been at the Hilton Hotel on the 18th floor. It’s an incredible penthouse with a terrace going all the way around. And from that terrace I can look down on the rooftops in my neighborhood. Three years ago I went there with my wife on vacation and I had my little laptop with me and I just improvised this song, just as is. I guess you could say it’s kind of typical of an Austrian, especially Viennese, music mentality. I just wanted to create a little dance feeling with it.

“Borges Buenos Aires” — Borges is the greatest Argentine writer. I read that book he wrote, “Labyrinth”, for three years, man, and still didn’t know what he was talking about. But he knew what he was talking about. I like Buenos Aires. It’s one of my favorite places in the world. It has a pulse, it has a very sophisticated side and the food is amazing. And everybody thinks he is somebody there. I like that. They’re poor, man, but they’re still proud. That’s what I like. I don’t like negativity. Be positive with me and have a little something to say, then I like you. Otherwise, I ain’t got much time for you. Anyway, I like tango a lot. I grew up with this kind of stuff. When I was a very young musician, not even 20, I played in this wonderful orchestra. We played dance music…Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, even Dizzy Gillespie things. And in the afternoons we used to do concerts where we played original arrangements of Argentine tango. And I found that I loved that music. So on this tune I wanted to do something out of my respect and friendship to this country and its people.

“Siseya” — This is something that I’ve been playing for a long time as an introduction. And then when Etienne came into the band and told me he could sing I said, “Well goddamn, let’s do it!” And he really sings his ass off. The chords are nice and he does a beautiful job on it.

“East 12th Street Band” — This tune is about the end of my second New York living time. It’s just a nice little improve done live. And then the band plays so great. It’s wild but not careless. Carefree rather than careless.

Track Listing:

1. The Search (Joe Zawinul) 2:03

2. All About Simon (Etienne Mbappé / Joe Zawinul) 4:57

3. Introduction to Tower of Silence (Amit Chatterjee / Joe Zawinul) 1:29

4. Tower of Silence (Joe Zawinul) 6:09

5. The Spirit of Julian “C” Adderley (Joe Zawinul) 5:31

6. Familiar to Me (John Lang / Richard Page / Joe Zawinul) 4:39

7. Café Andalusia (A Day in Tunisia) (Joe Zawinul) 7:12

8. Good Day (Joe Zawinul) 5:11

9. Barefoot Beauty (Joe Zawinul) 6:15

10. Rooftops of Vienna (Joe Zawinul) 6:01

11. Borges Buenos Aires, Pt. 1 (Joe Zawinul) 4:38

12. Borges Buenos Aires, Pt. 2 (Joe Zawinul) 2:51

13. Siseya (Etienne Mbappé / Joe Zawinul) 2:35

14. East 12th Street Band (Joe Zawinul) 6:16


Joe Zawinul: spoken vocals, keyboards, synthesizer

Paco Sery: drums, timbales, kalimba, guitar

Etienne Mbappe: bass, vocals

Amit Chatterjee: vocals, guitar

Bobby Malach: tenor saxophone, winds

Dean Brown: guitar

Richard Bona: bass, vocals

Zakir Hussain: tablas

Manolo Badrena: percussion

Alex Acuña: shakers, percussion

Nathaniel Townsley: drums

Rudy Regalado: percussion

Victor Bailey: bass

Lester Benedict: trombone

Harry Kim: trumpet, flugelhorn

Richard Page: vocals

Sabine Kabongo: vocals

Maria João: vocals

Kitty Winter: vocals

Lori Perry: vocals

Darlene Perry: vocals

Sharon Perry: vocals

Carol Perry: vocals

Recorded 2000 – 2002, at The Music Room, Malibu, CA

Siseya & Borges Buenos Aires Part 2 recorded live in Paris, summer 2001 by Ivan Zawinul;
Introduction To Tower Of Silence recorded live in Sydney, fall 2000 by Ivan Zawinul;

Producer: Joe Zawinul

Co-Producer: Ivan Zawinul

Executive Producer: Joachim Becker

Engineered by: Ivan Zawinul and Klaus Genuit (October 2001 – March 2002)

Mixed by Ivan Zawinul;

Mastered by Ted Jensen

Photography: Holger Keifel

Cover concept/design: Joachim Oster


At 70, Joe Zawinul can look back with a great deal of pride at his productive career. From Cannonball Adderley to Miles Davis, Weather Report, Zawinul Syndicate, and beyond, the Austrian-born artist has espoused many different aspects of the jazz form: always contemporary, and with a heavy emphasis on creative growth. Electronics play a major role on Faces & Places. So do languages and embedded cultural sounds from around the world. 
The start of Zawinul’s career was steeped in the blues. Along the way from there to here, he’s moved away from those roots. Today’s emphasis lies with pop themes, exotic excerpts from the world-beat scene, and continued exploration into new electronic ideas. Spoken word and multi-tracking combine to provide contemporary scenes. “Café Andalusia,” for example, dies in midstream with a long, drawn-out spate of vocal acrobatics. Zawinul’s tribute to Julian Adderley relies on spoken word, accordion and a foreign tongue. Where is the natural soul that Cannonball Adderley espoused on his instrument as few others could?  “Good Day” has a lot in common with “Birdland.” To the song’s natural essence, Zawinul has added unusual wordless vocals and a hip-hop rhythm. Throughout most of the album, Zawinul’s keyboards control the atmosphere. His array of vocal shots provides something new and interesting. However, pop melodies and light rock rhythms have now taken over what the artist’s soulful roots started decades ago.

Jim Santella (AllAboutJazz)