If one must indulge in categories, My People, featuring the Zawinul Syndicate and a United Nations coterie of guests, probably belongs on the vast world music shelf, the links to so-called jazz now so tenuous as to be nearly, but not quite, invisible. On the percolating "Slivovitz Trail," "Orient Express," "Many Churches," and the Caribbean-tinged cleverly titled "In an Island Way," the music does suggest earlier versions of the Syndicate, and Joe Zawinul's nostalgic evocations of Wayne Shorter on the Korg Pepe reach back even further. Otherwise, Zawinul is looking entirely toward ethnic cultures for musical sustenance. The musical structures are linear, the rhythms full of intricacies welded to Zawinul's love affair with the groove, the synthesizer textures usually sparer than ever.
The SYNDICATE, consisting of former members of the Zawinul Syndicate, some new guys and special guests vocalist Sabine Kabongo (Zawinul Syndicate, Zap Mama, Trilok Gurtu) and keyboarder Eric Mouquet ("Deep Forest") (both with a Grammy of their own) have a fresh look at some Zawinul composition not everyone might know. It's a blast. A lot is going on. You can hear the band enjoyed the recording. Zawinul might be dead, but his music keeps grooving (and still growing on me after all those years). After hearing this album a few dozen times I am still not tired of it. It might be the best low risk/high reward investment available out there.
A little-known anomaly in the Joe Zawinul discography, Mauthausen was a multimedia event in which the Austrian-born composer/keyboardist tried to come to terms with some of the darkest hours in his country's history. It is a troubling, at times eloquent electronic tone poem that depicts life within the concentration camp near the small Austrian town of Mauthausen, where approximately 120,000 people lost their lives between the years 1938 and 1945. Anticipating limited appeal for such a project, ESC released the album only in Austria and a handful of other Central European countries.