Joe Zawinul, a legendary jazz pioneer credited with bringing the electric piano and synthesizer into the jazz mainstream and who performed and recorded with Miles Davis, died early on Sept. 11 in Vienna, Austria, at age 75. Zawinul had been hospitalized since last month and had Merkel cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer.
As a keyboardist, Zawinul performed on Davis’ "Bitches Brew" CD, among others, that helped usher in the era of electric jazz, along with Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea. In 1970, he founded the band Weather Report, and in 1987 founded the Zawinul Syndicate. Zawinul is perhaps best-known worldwide for two songs he composed: “Birdland” and “Mercy Mercy Mercy.” The latter song is a favorite of smooth jazz performers. Those who have recorded it include Ramsey Lewis, Jeff Golub, Kenny G, BWB, Eric Marienthal and Kim Waters. Two new versions were unveiled this year – on Brian Bromberg’s “Downright Upright” and Paul Brown’s “White Sand.”Posted by Brian Soergel at September 11, 2007 5:47 PM