‘Is this jazz, or what?’ demanded the ebullient bassist Gerald Veasley as the five piece Zawinul Syndicate closed its second set with a tightly arranged and choreographed revision of James Brown’s Sex Machine.
The waspish reply might be ‘probably not’, but then again, in a show which was 9/10ths improvised and seemed to thrive on spontaneous programming, it was easy to concede ‘why not?’.
We had heard jazz licks — and r’n’b licks — in abundance from Scott Henderson, whose compendious amalgam of guitar styles suggested everything from Jimmy Page to Holdsworth to Scofield; we had heard Little Rootie Tootie, albeit at a heavy metal gait; and we had heard guru Zawinul’s voluminous European sensibility filtered through the Afro-American tradition.
It was all close enough for jazz – this was 1990, after all – and rendered Veasley’s question entirely rhetorical. Certainly it must have seemed so to the crowd which came to dance.