Jazz keyboardist Joe Zawinul, famed for his tenure in Weather Report and work with Miles Davis on such classic albums as In a Silent Way, Heavy Weather, and Bitches Brew, has died in Vienna. He was 75.
Zawinul is credited as a highly important figure in modern jazz. His work in the 70s, along with Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock, served to introduce the electric piano and the synthesizer to jazz's instrumental pallette, and move jazz into more electronic territory. He was also one of the key players at the start of fusion, with Weather Report becoming one of the most respected and important names in the genre.
Zawinul's big break in jazz came with his work with the Cannonball Adderley Quintet, a group he was a member of from 1961 to 1970. The exposure he recieved from his work with Adderley led to an invitation to work with Miles Davis - during his time with Davis, he composed "In A Silent Way" and "Pharoahe's Dance", both cornerstones of their respective albums. He then left Davis to form his own group, Weather Report, with Wayne Shorter; a group that both allowed Zawinul his greatest commercial success with his composition "Birdland", and saw him help introduce the then-unproven bass virtuoso Jaco Pastorious into the upper echelons of jazz. Later, he formed The Joe Zawinul Syndicate. His last act as a musician was a 20th anniversary tour of this band.
Details of his death are not yet known; however, the Wilhelmina Clinic have released a statement indicating that Zawinul died peacefully, having been in hospital fighting an as-yet-identified illness since last month.
'Classic' isn't a matter of personal preference. I also hate Sgt. Peppers, Nevermind, White Light/White Heat, and everything by Mozart, but that doesn't stop them being hugely important, well-loved, eternally enduring works.