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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 September 2007, 14:14 GMT 15:14 UK
Weather Report pianist dies at 75
Joe Zawinul
Zawinul was renowned as one of the founders of jazz fusion
Austrian jazz pianist Joe Zawinul, who founded influential 1970s jazz-rock group Weather Report, has died.

Zawinul, 75, passed away at his home in Vienna. Austrian media reports said he had been suffering from skin cancer.

The celebrated keyboardist enjoyed his biggest hit - the Grammy-winning Birdland - with Weather Report in 1977.

Austrian President Heinz Fischer said Zawinul's death meant the loss of a "music ambassador" who was known and cherished around the world.

"As a person and through his music, Joe Zawinul will remain unforgettable for us all," the president said in a statement.

Born in Vienna, where he attended the Vienna Conservatory, Zawinul is credited with bringing the electric piano, as well as African and Middle Eastern rhythms, to mainstream jazz.

The artist emigrated to the United States in 1959, where he played with jazz stars including Dinah Washington and saxophonist Cannonball Adderley.

Honorary grave

He went on to perform and record with the great Miles Davis on such chart-topping albums as In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew.

In the early 1970s, Zawinul founded Weather Report with saxophonist Wayne Shorter and bass player Miroslav Vitous.

Two years after the band split up, he launched the Zawinul Syndicate in 1987. A recent European tour celebrated the group's 20th anniversary.

Zawinul was due to play at La Villette jazz festival in Paris this month, but was forced to cancel due to ill health.

The jazz star was married with three children. Michael Haeupl, mayor of Vienna, said he would be given an honorary grave in the city.

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