Faces & Places

COMPOSERS: Joe Zawinul
LABELS: ESC/EFA
ALBUM TITLE: Joe Zawinul
PERFORMER: Joe Zawinul (ky, vocoder), Harry Kim (t), Lester Benedict (tb), Bobby Malach (ww, ts), Dean Brown (g), etc
CATALOGUE NO: 03679-2 (distr. MacTwo)

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In the booklet notes to Joe Zawinul’s solo synthesizer album Dialects, he summed up its music thus: ‘The compositions on this album are my impression of the many people 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.’

A similar claim could be made for Faces & Places: Zawinul’s trademark multi-textured keyboard and vocoder mix is buoyed up by an extraordinary variety of rhythms and sounds from all over the planet on this exuberant, celebratory, irresistibly ebullient album. Tumbling African beats jostle with keening Indian vocals propelled by chattering tablas; spine-tingling harmonised vocals are interspersed with soft-voiced, soulful earnestness; slinky, percussive funk rubs shoulders with ethereal keyboard washes.

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The participants in this carnival of (true) world music hail from Cameroon, India, Ivory Coast, Portugal and the USA, and their instruments range from thumb pianos and tablas to trumpets and tenor saxophones, but Zawinul’s approach is not founded on the cultural magpie-borrowing currently fashionable in the pop world; rather it flows naturally from his profound conviction that the only categories that truly matter in music are simply good/bad or stimulating/banal, and compared with these, arbitrary and artificial geopolitical boundaries are entirely insignificant. If NASA were to have to choose a single musical artefact to represent contemporary Earth to alien civilisations, it could do a lot worse than place Faces & Places in its next exploratory space probe. Chris Parker