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The Zawinul Syndicate: The Immigrants

Album Notes

Although Zawinul tried touring alone in the immediate wake of the breakup of Weather Report, he soon returned to a group format, first with Weather Update in 1986 and a couple of years later with the raffishly named Zawinul Syndicate. The multi-national Syndicate basically expands the Weather Report format into a sextet, with a rock guitar (Scott Henderson) replacing the sax, an extra percussionist on board to join WR's Alex Acuna, and more vocal support then ever -- and if a Wayne Shorter-like melody line was needed, Zawinul would play it himself on his new Korg Pepe wind synthesizer. If anything, The Immigrants burrows even further into the world-music bloodstream than WR ever did, with vocals in Spanish and wordless syllables on top of Zawinul's one-chord Third World grooves. There is also a heavier pop emphasis (again nothing new for Zawinul), including a recomposition of "Mercy Mercy Mercy" called "No Mercy for Me," now an assertive paean to self-reliance that is soulfully sung by the Perri sisters. Some of the tunes and grooves fall short of Zawinul's irresistible best, but "King Hip" swaggers at a high level and "From Venice to Vienna" -- another of Zawinul's nostalgic memoirs of Europe -- lingers hauntingly at the album's close. ~ Richard S. Ginell


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