Tag Archives: world music

Artist Profiles: Joe Zawinul

Joe Zawinul

Few keyboardists in jazz history matched the creativity and eclecticism of Joe Zawinul. He was a true innovator in the world of jazz and one of the originators of today’s world fusion sounds.

Joe Zawinul was born on July 7, 1932, in Kirchbach, a small village near Vienna. His first instrument was the accordion. At the age of 12, he started to learn the piano, which became his main instrument. After World War II, Zawinul continued his musical education at the prestigious Vienna Conservatory. He moved to the United States in 1959 on a scholarship to the Berklee School of Music in Boston.

In the United States, he inevitably became involved in jazz, playing as a sideman to artists such as Slide Hampton, Dinah Washington, and Cannonball Adderley. He met and collaborated with Miles Davis while the latter was moving into his electric era and was essential in the outcome of Bitches Brew (1970), Davis’ first electric project.

After releasing his debut solo album on Atlantic in 1970, Zawinul and saxophonist Wayne Shorter put together one of the most important jazz groups of the 1970s, Weather Report. Drawing on the power and theatricality of rock and R&B, while maintaining allegiance to jazz and the pure spirit of improvisation, they were pioneers of the fusion movement of that decade while carving out their own unique niche.

Even though band members came and went, Weather Report’s spirit prevailed over the course of 17 albums, including the groundbreaking Black Market and the enormously popular Heavy Weather, which included Zawinul’s infectious song “Birdland.” That song, in versions by Weather Report, Manhattan Transfer and Quincy Jones, won separate Grammy awards in three successive decades. Weather Report itself won a Grammy for its live album, 8:30.

In 1985, after he and Shorter finally agreed to go in separate musical directions, Zawinul continued to create adventurous new grooves in the group known as Weather Update and then the Zawinul Syndicate, whose albums included My People in 1996 and the two-CD, World Tour in 1998.

Other special projects included an adventurous solo electronic album, Dialects (1986), and work as producer and arranger on Salif Keita’s landmark album, Amen (1991). Meanwhile, as another side project of his creative life, Zawinul also pursued classical composition, writing his ambitious Stories Of The Danube in 1993 and working with renowned classical pianist Friedrich Gulda. His special solo project “Mauthausen,” released in Europe in 2000, is a memorial for the victims of the Holocaust, and was performed on the site of the Austrian concentration camp after which it is named.

Zawinul had honorary doctorates from Berklee School of Music, and is the official Austrian goodwill ambassador to 17 African nations. In January 2002, Zawinul received the first International Jazz Award, co-presented by the International Jazz Festival Organization and the International Association of Jazz Educators. In 2002, he released the CD Faces & Places.

The live album Vienna Nights came out in 2005.

Zawinul was a pioneer in the use of electronic keyboards, ranging from synthesizers to samplers. He incorporated global sounds into his keyboards, developing cutting edge world fusion.

Joe Zawinul died in Vienna on 7 August 7, 2007.


To You with Love (Strand, 1959)
Money in the Pocket (Atlantic, 1966)
Rise & Fall of Third Stream (Vortex, 1968)
Zawinul (Atlantic, 1971)
Dialects (Columbia, 1986)
The Immigrants (Columbia, 1988)
Black Water (Columbia, 1989)
Lost Tribes (Columbia, 1992)
My People (ESC, 1996)
Stories of the Danube (Polygram, 1996)
World Tour (ESC, 1997)
Mauthausen – Vom großen Sterben hören (ESC, 2000)
Faces & Places (ESC, 2002)
Joe Zawinul & The Zawinul Syndicate – Vienna Nights – Live at Joe Zawinul’s Birdland (Heads Up, 2005)
Brown Street (Heads Up, 2006)
75 (Heads Up, 2008)

Interview with Finnish Keyboardist and Composer Juha Kujanpää

Finnish musician and composer Juha Kujanpää recently released an album titled Niin Kauas Kuin Siivet Kantaa (To Where My Wings Will Take Me), where he continues his brilliant combinations of progressive rock with jazz, classical and folk music.

Juha Kujanpää talks about his music with Progressive Rock Central’s Angel Romero.

On your latest album, Niin Kauas Kuin Siivet Kantaa, you collaborate with members of Frigg and other Finnish folk musicians. How did you come in contact with these artists?

Juha Kujanpää: The Finnish folk music scene is relatively small, everybody knows each other. The violinists in my ensemble, Esko Järvelä, Alina Järvelä and Tommi Asplund are playing with Frigg, but also with many other ensembles.

I’m playing piano in trio Karuna with Esko Järvelä and accordionist Teija Niku (who also plays on all of my three albums). With Karuna, we released our second album “Whirlwind” last year, and it also contains several compositions of mine.

I’ve been also touring as a guest musician with Esko and Tommi with another great Finnish ethno band, Tsuumi Sound System.


Juha Kujanpää – Niin Kauas Kuin Siivet Kantaa – To Where My Wings Will Take Me, album cover by Teemu Raudaskoski.


Tell us about the recording process in terms of location, rehearsing, and other details.

Many of the musicians were rather busy with other bands and projects – sometimes it was little bit tricky to get to whole ensemble to rehearse together at the same time. But we did some practicing with the rock band, and then with the violin section alone.

The recording sessions took place in two separate studios in Helsinki, plus I did some overdubbing myself at my own studio space. Most of the tunes were recorded in two parts, drums-bass-guitar-keys first, violins afterwards.

How did this experience affect you?

The sound engineer and the musicians were the same as in two previous albums of mine, so I pretty much knew what to expect, everything went rather smoothly.

There are some tricky things to consider when combining rock and Nordic folk music – the way of groove, in these genres is a little bit different, and it takes some adjusting to get everybody to think about the rhythm in the same way. But I’m very lucky to work with top-level musicians, which are able to adjust their playing easily as needed.


Juha Kujanpää Ensemble – Photo by Kujanpää


Will you be doing more collaborations with folk musicians from Finland and other musical traditions?

Personally, I’m not actually thinking of doing collaborations. I believe that the folk music influences on the new album are simply part of my musical language. When I’m composing, I don’t necessary have any specific musical genre in my mind. Then again, I’m sure I’ll be working with folk musicians, jazz musicians and classical musicians in the coming years.

Nowadays, the borders of these genres are more often blurred, and I believe that’s also where new and original music is often born. The younger generation of folk musicians is more familiar with playing music between different genres such as jazz and classical.



What do you consider as the essential elements of your music?

Melody. A friend of mine had a theory that the reason I became interested in folk music is the importance of melody. If you think of Nordic folk music, the melody is pretty much everything: you have to be able to play a tune with a single violin.

Who can you cite as your main musical influences?

I began listening to music relatively late, when I was about 13-14 years old. The first albums that opened my ears were progressive rock: Keith Emerson, Mike Oldfield, Pekka Pohjola, Gentle Giant. I also used to listen to jazz a lot, Keith Jarrett has always been one of the greatest for me. There are many innovative jazz musicians I appreciate: Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman, Bill Frisell, Ahmad Jamal, Charlie Haden, Carla Bley, Chick Corea.

I “found” Nordic folk music later, first groups like JPP, Väsen, Forsmark Tre, musicians like Timo Alakotila and Maria Kalaniemi. Later I’ve been happy to get to know some of these musicians, also work with some of them. Nowadays I’ve been intrigued by some minimalist or classical composers, like Arvo Pärt, Philip Glass, Nico Muhly. But back to the question: it seems impossible to pick one or two!

Tell us about your first recordings and your musical evolution.

As a teenager I used to compose music on computer, Commodore Amiga. Tracker-style sequencer, 8-bit samples. Only much later I’ve realized how important the experience was for me, in many ways: I learned about making tunes, got some feedback from friends who listened to my music, made friends who were also making music on the same platform.

At the same time I was taking piano lessons and also played in some bands. Rock, pop and jazz music. At some point I was practicing jazz piano quite a lot and I thought my goal was to become a jazz musician. Later things changed, I started to work more with folk musicians, got more interested in that direction. Nowadays it’s hard for me to decide how to categorize myself as a musician, I’m somewhere in-between the genres.


Juha Kujanpää – Photo by Kujanpää

What keyboards and other instruments do you use?

My main instrument is the piano, and I usually prefer acoustic instruments over digital or sampled pianos. But there are situations where it’s more practical to use electric keyboards.

For live playing I’ve been very happy with Nord keyboards by Clavia for the last years. I’m using Nord Stage and Nord Electro. I do have a pile of old analog keyboards, but I use them mainly in studio.

Playing some old quirky instruments can be also a source of inspiration and some unexpected musical ideas! I also play reed organ, an acoustic instrument used in Finnish folk music.


Juha Kujanpää


If you could gather any musicians or musical groups to collaborate with, whom would that be?

I’d love to collaborate with any new musicians to get and share some fresh ideas. That’s one of the things in music I love – to be in the process of creating something new – something you are not sure which direction it’s going to take.

Here’s a wise quote from a John Zorn interview I recently read: “You can ask someone to do something that maybe they can’t do. Or, they’ll do it differently than how you would have done it, but you’ve got to learn to accept their spin. That’s the secret of a Duke Ellington concept, where you give something to someone and they transform it through their personal filter. And when you find someone whose filter interacts with yours in a very creative, helpful way, then you’ve got a member of the group.”

What music are you currently listening to?

Currently, it might be Arvo Pärt, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Nico Muhly. But ask me next week, and it might be something very different. Basically, I’m always trying to listen to some new music to open my ears, something I haven’t heard before.

What new projects are you working on?

I’m in the middle of composing new material, but it’s too early to say anything about it yet – I’m often a little bit reluctant to tell about things that haven’t been finished. I’m also composing tunes for a children music album I’ll be also playing on. This autumn I’ve been performing quite a lot live with different groups, bands and an improvisation theater ensemble.






Tales and Travels – Kivenpyörittäjä (2013)
Goldwing – Kultasiipi (Eclipse Music, 2015)
Niin Kauas Kuin Siivet Kantaa – To Where My Wings Will Take Me (Eclipse Music, 2017)



Klaus Hoffmann-Hoock Dies at 66

Klaus Hoffmann-Hoock


German progressive rock and electronic music guitarist, keyboardist and composer Klaus Hoffmann-Hoock died October 14th, 2017 of kidney failure.

Klaus Hoffmann-Hoock was born January 30, 1951 in Duisburg, Germany. In 1971 he formed a psychedelic rock band called Impuls. During the 1970s, Klaus Hoffmann-Hoock experimented with electronic keyboards and built his own studio.

In the early 1980s, Hoffmann-Hoock co-founded the band Cosmic Hoffmann. In 1982, Hoffmann-Hoock traveled to India. His music started to incorporate Asian influences from India and Bali.



In 1986, Hoffmann-Hoock founded Mind Over Matter, an iconic band that mixed electronica with music of the Far East. Klaus Hoffmann-Hoock played electric guitar and keyboards, as well Indian sitar.

Mind Over Matter released 12 recordings with various lineups.


Spellbinding Logical Drift

Logical Drift – “Sands of Time” (NYC Music, 2017)

Logical Drift is the project of remarkable musician and composer John Matarazzo. His album “Sands of Time” is a fabulous mix of acoustic rhythms, samples, voices and cutting edge electronics.

Logical Drift takes you to distant lands. The artist’s creative arrangements add a progressive music element to “Sands of Time” that makes it deeply satisfying.

“Sands of Time” is a spellbinding musical voyage to a world of exotic vocals and musical instruments.

Buy the Sands of Time MP3s

Alluring Etheric Anomalies

Pepe Maina – Etheric Anomalies (Pepe Maina, 2016)

Italian multi-instrumentalist Pepe Maina has recorded a mesmerizing instrumental double album titled Etheric Anomalies. He defines his music as ambient prog and this a very accurate way of classifying his sound.

Pepe Maina develops marvelous soundscapes. While sometimes the music is ethereal, it’s not syrupy new age. He adds soaring and sometimes fiery electric guitars, symphonic and world music elements that make his music entrancing and appealing.

Together with the electronic atmospheres and looped instruments, you’ll hear pastoral sections that recall Anthony Phillips; ethnic sounds that take you into terrain similar to Jade Warrior; early Steve Hillage influences; and much more.

Pepe Maina develops his music at his own workspace called Nonsense Studio. Maina plays synthesizers, samplers, flutes, guitars and percussion.

Etheric Anomalies showcases a set of finely-crafted music pieces that cross the boundaries of progressive electronica and world music.



Buy Etheric Anomalies

Progressive World Music for Troubled Times

Steve Hackett – The Night Siren (InsideOut Music, 2017)

Thanks to his Genesis Revisited progressive rock recordings and tours, guitar virtuoso (and former Genesis guitarist) Steve Hackett is enjoying some of his most productive years. He has recorded albums where he explores various genres with total ease and skill. On The Night Siren he fuses his signature guitar style with a mix of classic rock, progressive rock, folk-rock, world music and various other influences, bringing attention to international turmoil.

Speaking about this recording, Steve Hackett has indicated that he’s always had an interest in multicultural diversity within music. Hackett’s curiosity about other cultures was evident in his early recordings, where he incorporated East Asian, Celtic, and other influences.

On The Night Siren Steve Hackett will take you on a constant unexpected musical ride. Songs that begin pastoral will conclude with knockout guitar solos. Heavy drums similar to Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir and Middle Eastern melodies transform into magnificent prog rock sections. There is also flamenco, Andean charango, fiery blues harmonica, Australian aboriginal didg, and more.



The album lineup includes Steve Hackett on electric and acoustic guitars, oud, charango, sitar guitar, harmonica, vocals; Mira Awad on vocals; Leslie-Miriam Bennett on keyboards; Gulli Briem on drums, cajon, percussion; Troy Donockley on Uilleann pipes; Kobi Farhi on vocals; Dick Driver on double bass; Benedict Fenner on keyboards and programming; Jo Hackett on vocals; John Hackett on flute; Roger King on keyboards and programming; Ferenc Kovács on trumpet; Sara Kovács on didgeridoo; Amanda Lehmann on vocals; Malik Mansurov on tar; Nad Sylvan on vocals; Gary O’Toole on drums; Christine Townsend on violin, viola; Rob Townsend on baritone and soprano sax, flute, flageolet, quena, duduk, bass clarinet; and Nick D’Virgilio on drums.


Buy The Night Siren

Guitar Maestro Steve Hackett Releases Video for ‘Behind The Smoke’

Renowned guitarist and composer Steve Hackett (formerly of Genesis) is set to release his latest album ‘The Night Siren’ on March 24th , 2017 through InsideOut Music (Sony). In the meantime, Hackett has released a brand new video for the album’s opening track ‘Behind The Smoke.’

I’m thrilled with this video for the track ‘Behind the Smoke’ from my new album The Night Siren,” says Steve Hackett. “Director Ivan and the I-Code team have created an extraordinary film here resembling an epic movie! It perfectly matches the song, which laments the predicament of refugees throughout the ages. More compassion is needed in this world for those escaping persecution and death.”

‘The Night Siren’ is a wake-up call… the warning of a siren sounding in this era of conflicts and disagreement.

The album lineup includes Steve Hackett on guitar & vocals; Roger King on keyboards & programming; Nad Sylvan on vocals on Inca Terra; Rob Townsend on all things wind; Amanda Lehmann on vocals; Gary O’Toole on drums; and Benedict Fenner on additional keyboards & programming).

Also featured are vocalists Kobi Farhi and Mira on Israeli and Palestinian; Nick D’Virgilio on drums, from the USA; Malik Mansurov on tar, from Azerbaijan; and Gulli Breim on drums and percussion, from Iceland.

Additional musicians who add to the rich flavor of the album are Christine Townsend on violin and viola; Dick Driver on double bass; Troy Donockley on uilleann pipes; and Leslie Bennett on keyboards on The Gift.

Order The Night Siren

Interview with Progressive Music Band iNFiNiEN

Philadelphia-based band iNFiNiEN has released Light at the Endless Tunnel, one of the most exciting progressive music albums in recent months. Their remarkable mix of progressive rock, fusion and world music attracted our attention so here is more about the band.


iNFiNiEN – Light at the Endless Tunnel

 How and when was iNFiNiEN formed?

In the fall of 2004, we were roommates and we jammed, which led to us writing songs. Our first gig was at a benefit concert at the World Café live in December 2004. We played our only two songs we had at the time.

What does the band name iNFiNiEN mean?

iNFiNiEN is a made up term from the book “An American Mystic” by Michael Gurian. The full-term was “Homo Infinien” which, in the context of the book, is representative the next evolutionary step of humans.

iNFiNiEN – Photo by Adam Hribar

 What do you consider as the essential elements of your music?

Polyrhythms, jazz harmony, progressive song structures, thoughtful and socially-conscious lyrics, driving bass grooves, exotic tonalities

Who can you cite as your main musical influences?

Farmers Market, Secret Chiefs 3, Mr. Bungle, John Zorn, John Coltrane, Meshuggah, Sun Ra, Ali Farka Toure, John McLaughlin, Veena Sahasrabuddhe, Jaco Pastorius, and many, many more (too many to name)

How long has the band been around?

12.5 years

Tell us about your first recordings and your musical evolution.

We discovered our own sound by jamming together. We recorded our jams and arranged our favorite parts into songs. As we went along, we were aiming to evoke visual impressions in the listeners. Our intention was to go beyond genre. There was also a psychedelic influence, without question. ; )

Your sound has elements of progressive rock, world music, jazz and beyond. How do audiences react to your music?

We’ve been very pleasantly surprised that the majority of our live audiences have viewed it as a breath of fresh air. People have given us a lot of positive support. Some find it “too complicated”, but for the most part, audiences really appreciate our approach.

iNFiNiEN – Photo by Adam Hribar


Despite all the media outlets available, most of the music that is played currently by mass media is pop or hip hop. How do you get your music out there?

When playing live, we try to associate with bands who are similar (sometimes hard to find). Online we try and reach out to the progressive and indie music communities or anyone who we think would appreciate it. Since it’s only the four of us trying to get PR for the band, our total reach is pretty limited.

What musical instruments do you use?

Our live set up is drums, bass, guitar, and keyboard. On recordings, we’ve used oud, saz, sitar, bulbul tarang, tabla, organ, exotic percussion sounds, and some Moog.

And what effects do you use?

Guitar: whammy, ambient delays, and reverb
Bass: volume swell, chorus pedal, octaver
Keyboard: sounds including clav, Wurlitzer, Rhodes, some pads, etc.



How’s the current progressive music scene in your area?

The Tri-state area’s progressive scene is pretty vital. And we’ve been lucky to play with such bands as Consider the Source, Kayodot, Reign of Kindo, Tea Club, Out of the Beard Space, and many others.

If you could gather any musicians or musical groups to collaborate with, whom would that be?

We don’t have a good answer for this question. On a related note our guitarist Matt Hollenberg has actually been playing music for John Zorn, one of his heroes and main influences, for the last two years in the organ trio Simulacrum with John Medeski and Kenny Grohowski.


iNFiNiEN – Photo by Adam Hribar


Do you have any upcoming projects to share with us?

We have some things in the works. Stay tuned.




How To Accept (2006)
iNFiNiEN (2009)
Light at the Endless Tunnel

Pete Oxley and Nicolas Meier’s Extraordinary Guitar Dialog

Pete Oxley and Nicolas Meier – The Colours of Time (MGP Records MGPCD019, 2016)

Two of Europe’s finest eclectic jazz guitarists continue their series of collaborations with a double album titled The Colours of Time. The set is divided into two separate formats. The first album is a series of solo original works composed by either Pete Oxley or Nicolas Meier.

The material on disc 1 showcases the virtuosity of the two musicians along with their talent as composers, delivering a set of exquisite guitar duets. The two guitarists use a wide range of guitars and guitar-playing techniques. In addition to the usual solo and rhythm guitar styles, there is an ongoing guitar interchange throughout the album as well as beautiful moments where the guitarists use a beautiful plucking method that makes the guitar sound like a mesmerizing harp.

Although jazz is the foundation on disc 1, Oxley and Meier inject many other influences such as Gypsy jazz on “Waltz for Dilek”, Turkish influences on “Princes’ Island”, Pat Metheny-style guitar synth on “In Restless Repose”, North African/Middle Eastern sounds on “Sahara” and more Pat Metheny influences on “First Day of Spring,” although this time with Oxley on electric guitar.

On Disc 2, the original compositions become more rhythmic and electric with the addition of bassist Raph Mizraki and drummer Paul Cavaciuti. Pat Metheny’s influence continues on the opening track, “The Followers.” There is also a delicious ballad that perfectly crosses over into smooth jazz territory.

Some of the best tracks on this disc are the ones with a Middle Eastern flavor, such as “Riversides” and “Fethiye Crossroad.” Lastly, I need to mention a fabulous piece titled “Tales” that has instant classic appeal, with memorable bluesy solos.



The lineup on The Colours of Time includes Pete Oxley on nylon string, steel, electric, synth, jazz, and electric 12 string guitars; Nicolas Meier on nylon string, steel, acoustic 12-string, fretless nylon, glissentar, and jazz guitars; Paul Cavaciuti on drums; and Raph Mizraki on acoustic and electric basses.

The Colours of Time introduces the listener to a remarkable guitar dialog between two extraordinary guitarists.

Buy The Colours of Time

Al Di Meola’s Elegant Gypsy 40th Anniversary Tour To Begin in February 2017

Al Di Meola

Jazz fusion innovator, composer and guitar maestro Al Di Meola will continue to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of his Elegant Gypsy Tour with new concerts in 2017 in support of his most recent solo album Elysium. The North American tour begins February 7 in Durham, North Carolina with dates in Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale, Austin, Dallas, Montreal, and more.

Al Di Meola – Elysium

Di Meola has been on tour for most of 2016, presenting new material from Elysium together with old favorites. DiMeola uses acoustic and electric guitars, including his nylon string Conde Hermanos acoustic prototype model and a 1971 Les Paul electric (his Return to Forever and Elegant Gypsy guitar).

The band includes Philippe Saisse on keyboards, marimba; Gumbi Ortiz on percussion; Elias Tona on bass; Luis Alicea on drums; and Evan Garr on violin.

2017 North America Tour:

2/7/17 Durham, NC Carolina Theatre
2/8/17 Charleston, SC Music Hall
2/9/17 Atlanta, GA Variety Playhouse
2/11/17 Orlando, FL The Plaza Live
2/12/17 Ft. Lauderdale, FL Parker Playhouse
2/13/17 Clearwater,FL Capitol Theater
2/14/17 Ponte Vedra,FL PV Concert Hall
2/17/17 Austin, TX One World
2/18/17 Dallas, TX Majestic
2/21/17 Royal Oak, MI Royal Oak Music
2/22/17 Kent, OH Kent Stage
2/24/17 Quebec City, Q Palais Montcalm
2/25/17 Montreal, QC Salle Pierre Mercure
2/26/17 Peekskill, NY Paramount