David Helbock Austrian Syndicate
Austrian Syndicate...the phrase immediately brings to mind the best-known and most influential of all Austrians in jazz, Joe Zawinul. And yet David Helbock's project is much more than just a homage to his compatriot. It is a return to the roots of fusion jazz and how things developed from it, and also a new direction stylistically for Helbock, who has harnessed a panoply of inspiration with a refreshing openness to new sounds from far and wide. Very much in the spirit of Zawinul who pioneered the use of electronic keyboard instruments and was a giant of fusion jazz, David Helbock is heard here for the first time only on keyboards, leaving all the piano duties to Peter Madsen. A true piano hero, but one little known outside specialist circles, Madsen toured the world with Stan Getz from 1987 onwards, and has since played with many other greats of jazz: Joe Lovano and Don Cherry; and of funk too: Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker. Both Raphael Preuschl and Herbert Pirker are long-time musical associates of David Helbock and may well be the very best rhythm section in Austria. There are fabulous guests too. All are global stars, giving the album the colorful exoticism of world music: the great voice of Maria João from Portugal, Peruvian percussionist Alex Acuña (a one-time member of Weather Report), Tunisian singer and oud virtuoso Dhafer Youssef, funk mastermind and James Brown acolyte Fred Wesley and saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin, perhaps the brightest spark in the American jazz sky right now. It is hardly surprising, then, that this Austrian Syndicate seems to offer the most colorful, universal and multinational music of Helbock's career so far. While synthesizers and keyboard pads kick up thunderstorms, we also hear subtle jazz improvisation, irrepressible interplay, funk and Latin rhythms all the way to Afro-Caribbean flair. Helbock's Austrian Syndicate plays boundless, globe-trotting fusion jazz. It also has a quite irresistible groove.