Hearing Zawinul's great work at this age makes me think what an even greater loss we suffered with FZ's untimely death. We must be grateful for the vast body of work but there is always the thought of what else might have been (not least a quality complete concert DVD - considering the riches of audio available, the paucity of visual is always surprising to me).
Notable comparisons can be drawn between the two great band leaders of course. For me the most striking is the search for new and exciting timbres. Unquestionably this was sometimes to the detriment of both of their musical fanbases. People, unfortunately, are reluctant to hear new and unusual sounds. Another striking comparison is in their continuing search for wonderful musicians to bring something new to the music. Neither men were shy about letting their side-men express themselves either, a trait which is sadly not as common with many other band-leaders.
Finally, although you'd be unlikely to confuse the two's music there are notable similarities. A deep, deep understanding of the role of rhythm and counter-rhythm in the music. Rarely would either be heard without at least one drummer and one percussion player. Statistical density, neither man was afraid to challenge their band or their audience with thick complex chords and fast syncopated runs. Use of themes rather than set passages, both valued improvisation and could send their bands out on a journey into new territory with no fear - there was no strict requirement to adhere to the default layout of a piece of music. Finally the single thing that sets both out as master musicians - the ability to recognise the need for and create simple, beautiful melodies.
The results were very different and I'm not sure the two could ever have performed together (two monumentally strong personalities) but well... I dunno what my point even is, I just dig them both and wish they were still making music
What is strange is that "Boogie Woogie Waltz" from Weather Report's third album is remarkably Zappa-esque. There's this 3/4 metre, a la "Uncle Meat", then rather King Kong-ish Dorian mode based improvisation in e-flat minor thing and what is also very rare about this piece that Wayne Shorter plays electric sax on it! He uses the same kind of octave dividing effect immortalized by Bunk and Ian in MOI, reputedly the Maestro Woodwind effects unit. As a friend of mine said, Maestro Woodwind basically defined the MOI sound. So when Wayne Shorter uses one of its octave dividing facilities, he's bound to sound like Bunk Gardner soloing on "King Kong", except that Shorter just went down by single octave, as opposed to Bunk pitching down by two.
I'm a total sucker for the octave divided horn sound, so when I normally would rather hear Shorter on tenor, the electrified soprano on "BW Waltz" sounds quite rad. In the final analysis I suppose Shorter hasn't been as much of a technophile musician as synth-obsessed Zawinul or Miroslav Vitous who would arco on double bass through guitar effects.