Josef Erich Zawinul (July 7, 1932 – September 11, 2007) was a jazz keyboardist and composer.
First coming to prominence with saxophonist Cannonball Adderley, Zawinul went on to play with trumpeter Miles Davis, and to become one of the earliest musicians to play jazz fusion, which blended jazz with rock and roll. Later, Zawinul co-founded the groups Weather Report and the Zawinul Syndicate. Additionally, he made pioneering use of electric piano and synthesizers. Zawinul won 30 times the "Best Keyboardist" award from American jazz magazine Down Beat's critics' poll.
Several artists have honored Zawinul with songs, notably Brian Eno's instrumental "Zawinul/Lava", John McLaughlin's instrumental "Jozy", Warren Cuccurullo's "Hey Zawinul" and Biréli Lagrène's instrumental "Josef".
Zawinul was born and grew up on Landstraße,in Vienna, Austria, where he went to school with the late former Austrian Federal President Thomas Klestil. His grandmother was a Sinti ("Gypsy").
 Early career
Classically trained at the Vienna Conservatoire, Zawinul played in various broadcasting and studio bands before emigrating to the U.S. in 1959. He played with trumpeter Maynard Ferguson and singer Dinah Washington.
 With Cannonball Adderley
In 1961, Zawinul joined the Quintet led by saxophonist Cannonball Adderley. During his nine-year stint with Adderley, Zawinul wrote the hit song "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy." He also composed "Walk Tall" and "Country Preacher," the latter a tribute to U.S. Civil Rights Movement leader Rev. Jesse Jackson. In this title cut to the quintet's popular 1969 album release, Austrian-born Zawinul demonstrated a sophisticated and intimate understanding of the African/African-American concept of cool, of motion and interval. When "Country Preacher" debuted at a live recording session in Chicago at Jackson's Operation Breadbasket, it elicited enthusiastic cheers of immediate recognition from the mostly African-American audience.
The Zawinul Syndicate, live in Freiburg, 2007
 With Miles Davis
In the late 1960s, Zawinul recorded with Miles Davis's studio band and helped create the sound of the Jazz fusion. Among others, he played on the album In a Silent Way, the title track of which he composed, and the landmark album Bitches Brew, for which he contributed the twenty-minute track, "Pharaoh's Dance", which occupied the whole of side one.
Zawinul is known to have played live with Davis only once, on July 10, 1991, shortly before Davis' death.
Zawinul, along with other Davis sidemen Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock, was one of the first to use electric pianos and early synthesizers like the ARP 2600 in 1973's Sweetnighter. He was among the first to use a Fender-Rhodes with a Phasing effect and a Wah-Wah pedal. His creativity and attention to detail resulted in a very contemporary and modern sound. He also has played the kalimba on Weather Report's Mysterious Traveller and Mr. Gone. , 
 With Weather Report
In 1970, Zawinul cofounded Weather Report with saxophonist and Davis alumnus Wayne Shorter.Their biggest commercial success came from his composition "Birdland", a 6-minute opus featured on Weather Report's 1977 album Heavy Weather, which peaked at number 30 on the Billboard pop albums chart. "Birdland" is one of the most recognizable jazz pieces of the 1970s, covered by many prominent artists from The Manhattan Transfer to Maynard Ferguson and Jefferson Starship. Even Weather Report's version received significant mainstream radio airplay — unusual for them — and served to convert many new fans to music which they may never have heard otherwise.
Weather Report was active through the '80s, with Zawinul and Shorter remaining the sole constant members through multiple personnel shifts. Weather Report was also notable for bringing to prominence pioneering fretless bass guitarist Jaco Pastorius.
 Stories of the Danube
Zawinul also wrote a Symphony, called Stories of the Danube, which was commissioned by the Brucknerhaus, at Linz. It was first performed as part of the Linzer Donauklangwolke (a large-scale open-air broadcast event), for the opening of the 1993 Bruckner Festival. In its seven movements, the symphony traces the course of the Danube from Donaueschingen through various countries ending at the Black Sea. It was recorded in 1995 by the Czech State Philharmonic Orchestra, Brno, conducted by Caspar Richter.
Zawinul was hospitalized in his native Vienna on August 7, 2007, only one week after concluding a six-week European tour. He died from a rare form of skin cancer (Merkel Cell Carcinoma) on September 11, 2007.
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