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.
Two of keyboardist Joe Zawinul's finest recordings as a leader were reissued on this single CD. The Money in the Pocket album from 1965 features Zawinul on acoustic piano in a sextet with trumpeter Blue Mitchell, tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson, and baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams playing superior hard bop, highlighted by the funky title cut, "If," and "My One and Only Love." The other session utilizes a string quartet, trumpeter Jimmy Owens, and the tenor and arrangements of William Fischer. Its diverse music hints at fusion (Zawinul doubles on electric piano) and has many colorful moments. This gem of a CD is highly recommended.
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.