The news sources available on the internet are and incredible resource. The speed and coverage breadth of the World Wide Web has all but eliminated delays in reporting news events happening just about anywhere on the planet. Everyone has access to stories they may never had heard about ten years ago. Of course, not all of it is news you really want to hear.
August 7th's home page for Google News displayed a headline that not only stopped my entire multi-tasking train of thought, it set an unusually contemplative tone for the whole day. It was a small piece, with no small significance. The headline read: "Joe Zawinul hospitalized in Vienna". The article itself offered little but ominous information. Hospital officials declined to confirm reports that Zawinul was seriously ill, saying the musician had requested that his rights as a patient and a private person be respected. This and every other related news piece referenced an 'undisclosed illness'. There's been no news since.
For many a jazz musician, even the most well known, news like this tends to stay local. More than a few of them have passed on, leaving most of us to say "I didn't even know he was sick". Zawinul, however, has spent 25+ years traveling the far corners of the world with Weather Report. He then retraced those steps, and added new ones, with the more world music based Zawinul Syndicate. This is an artist that is well known, everywhere. Still, we were lucky to get even this little bit of information.
Unfortunately, follow-up or ongoing reports are not likely to be forthcoming. There are tens of thousands of fans that are following the developments quite closely. Very few of them are reporters, and even fewer of them are close to the situation in Vienna. We now start the cycle of not hearing any news, good or bad, until something significant develops. The most likely are Joe is either back in the studio or back on tour, or the word that the greatest fusion keyboardist of all time has departed this earth. His next scheduled tour date is November 1st, at his Birdland club in Vienna. Let's pray the opening night is a great success.