JAZZ-ROCK FUSION

Jazz-Rock Fusion or Fusion is a style of music that emerged at the end of the 1960s. It is different from earlier jazz in a number of ways:
  • Jazz is characterised rhythmically by it's "swing," while fusion tends to be based more on even eighth or sixteenth note rhythms.
  • Jazz uses primarily acoustic instruments, which may be amplified (e.g. piano, double bass, horns), while fusion uses primarily electric and electronic instruments more commonly used in rock music (e.g. electric guitar, bass guitar, electric piano, synthesisers).
  • Fusion also sounds different from earlier jazz because of the rapid advances made in recording technology during the 1960s and early 1970s.

    Many of the musicians listed below worked with Miles Davis, who is considered an important figure in jazz. He began his career playing be-bop in Charlie Parkerís band in the 1940s, helped to define the cool school, the return to the hot and modal jazz in the 1950s and then subsequently seeded jazz-rock fusion with the albums In A Silent Way (1969) and Bitches Brew (1970). On In A Silent Way the three keyboard players used electric pianos and the personnel went on to become leaders of important jazz-rock fusion bands in the 1970s as follows:

  • Herbie Hancock
    Electric Piano
    Josef Zawinul *
    Electric Piano
    Wayne Shorter *
    Tenor Saxophone
    Chick Corea *
    Electric Piano
    John McLaughlin *
    Guitar
    Dave Holland *
    Bass
    Tony Williams
    Drums
    Sextet Weather Report Return To Forever Mahavishnu Orchestra Gateway Lifetime
    Bennie Maupin *
    Eddie Henderson
    Julian Preister
    Buster Williams
    Billy Hart
    Headhunters
    Benny Maupin
    Paul Jackson
    Harvey Mason
    Bill Summers
    Mike Clark

    Miroslav Vitous, Alphonse Mouzon,
    Airto Moreira, Barbara Button, Don Alias, Dom Um Romao, Eric Gravatt, Ralph Towner, Herschell Dwellingham, Andrew White III, Ishmail Wilburn, Alphonso Johnson, Alyrio Lima, Leon "Ndugu" Chancler, Chester Thompson, Jaco Pastorius, Alex Acuna, Narada Michael Walden, Manolo Badrena, Peter Erskine, Omar Hakim and others

    Joe Farrell
    Stanley Clarke
    Airto Moreira
    Flora Purim
    Lenny White *
    Bill Connors
    Al Di Meola
     
     
     
     

    Jerry Goodman
    Jan Hammer
    Rick Laird
    Billy Cobham
    Jean Luc Ponty
    Gail Moran
    Ralphe Armstrong
    Narada Michael Walden
     
     

    John Abercrombie
    Jack De Johnette *
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

    John McLaughlin
    Larry Young *
    Jack Bruce
    Ted Dunbar
    Ron Carter
    Juini Booth
    Allan Holdsworth
     
     
     
     

    * These musicians also appeared on Bitches Brew.
    Developments in Context: The 1960s
    Many of the musicians who appeared uncredited as backing musicians on Tamla-Motown pop hits from the early 1960s onwards were jazz musicians. They became known collectively as the Funk Brothers.

    During the 1960s there was a rapid development and expansion of multi track tape recording with the introduction of four, eight, sixteen and a little later 24 track tape recorders, which were to become industry standard by the mid 1970s. The availability of more tracks meant that each instrument could have its own track or tracks, that a musician could overdub additional parts once the basic tracking was done, and that more complex music could be created in the recording studio.

    Fusion sounds different to earlier jazz because it emerged at a time when the musicians were able to exploit these developments in recording technology. So while the possibility of overdubbing a solo may be at odds with the traditional jazz ethos which sees group dynamics and interplay as important when improvising a solo in real time, there is no reason why an overdubbed solo couldn't be equally compelling as any other kind of improvisation when played by a skilled jazz musician.

    While some of the important rock musicians from the 1960s onwards were equally skilled, a lot of the rock music of the 1960s was based on more straight forward music (blues, rhythm and blues or rock and roll), when compared to some of the developments in jazz in the same period (e.g. the music of John Coltrane, free jazz). Nevertheless, the same advances in recording technology described above were increasingly exploited in rock and popular music, leading to the emergence of progressive rock in the late 1960s, which is a genre more commonly associated with British bands like King Crimson, Yes and Genesis.

    Chicago and Blood Sweat and Tears were both formed in 1967 and both made jazz influenced rock or jazz-rock from that time.

    Developments in Context: The 1970s
    Herbie Hancock's Sextet (also known as the Mwandishi band) incorporated electric, electronic and acoustic instruments (three horns and a rhythm section). They made three albums Mwandishi (1971), Crossings (1972) and Sextant (1973). The new band consisting of Paul Jackson (bass), Harvey Mason (drums) and Bill Summers (percussion) which made Headhunters (1973), was more unashamedly funky. Harvey Mason was replaced by Mike Clark on Thrust (1974).

    Formed in 1971, Weather Report began as a more experimental jazz group but later became more commercially orientated. The lineup of the band changed from album to album, with only founders Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter remaining constant. On Bitches Brew  and on many of the subsequent Weather Report cuts Wayne Shorter played soprano saxophone.

    Chick Corea recorded Return to Forever  with Joe Farrell (flutes, soprano saxophone), Flora purim (vocal, percussion), Stanley Clarke (bass) and Airto Moreira (drums, percussion) for the ECM label in 1972 and subsequently adopted Return to Forever as the name of his band. The band became much more electric and rock orientated with the departure of Airto, Flora and Joe Farrell and the arrival of drummer Lenny White and guitarist Bill Connors in 1973 with only bass player Stanley Clarke remaining from the original lineup. Bill Connors was subsequently replaced by Al Di Meola.

    There were two main incarnations of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, first formed formed in 1971, although John McLaughlin also reformed the band in 1984.

    During the early 1970s Santana evolved from a latin flavoured rock band into a formidable fusion outfit with bass player Doug Rauch and keyboard player Tom Coster joining the band for Caravanserai (1972) and second keyboard player Richard Kermode added on Welcome (1973). Carlos Santana joined forces with Mahavishnu John McLaughlin for Love Devotion Surrender (1973) and the new Santana band (as it became known) also recorded the triple vinyl album Lotus (1974) in Japan.

    Steely Dan also made jazz influenced rock from 1972 onwards and as their career progressed, they increasingly recorded using top session musicians, many of whom were jazz musicians.

    Another influential musician identified with the fusion movement is guitarist Larry Coryell. English outfits Nucleus, Soft Machine and Brand X are also worthy of mention.

    Musicians already listed under the bands above who have also made albums as leaders include Bennie Maupin, Eddie Henderson, Julian Priester, Miroslav Vitous, Airto Moreira, Ralph Towner, Alphonso Johnson, Jaco Pastorius, Narada Michael Walden, Peter Erskine, Joe Farrell, Stanley Clarke, Flora Purim, Lenny White, Bill Connors, Al Di Meola, Jan Hammer, Billy Cobham, Jean Luc Ponty, John Abercrombie, Jack De Johnette, Dave Holland, Larry Young, Jack Bruce and Ron Carter.

    The ECM (Editions of Contemporary Music) record label was founded in Munich, Germany in 1969 by producer Manfred Eicher. Since then the label has recorded European musicians like Eberhard Weber, Jan Gabarek and Terje Rypdal, American musicians such as Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, Jack de Johnette and Pat Metheny, as well as combinations of musicians from different countries. Most of these recordings have been produced by Manfred Eicher and much of the label's output could be described as contemporary jazz with a classical or European flavour, although many, including artists on the label, may not like this description. It is known that musicians like Pat Metheny do not like the term fusion.

    Subsequent Developments
    With the rise of Disco music in the mid 1970s club owners went from hiring groups to just playing records, hindering some artists who had achieved a degree of commercial success in the early 1970s. With the arrival of punk rock around the same time both fusion and progressive rock were to become loathed and reviled. Skilled musicianship, complexity and (any) pomposity were eschewed in favour of raw energy and attitude - in fact it didn't matter that many punk musicians could hardly even play their instruments when they started out. The initial energy and enthusiasm which fueled the post-punk new wave was to bland out into "business as usual" as the '80's progressed and fusion would be replaced a more innocuous form of "jazz" that became known as smooth jazz.

    Distinguishing Genres
    The distinctions between progressive rock, jazz influenced rock, jazz-funk, jazz-rock, fusion, jazz-rock fusion and contemporary jazz are not always clear or obvious - after all these are only labels used to describe this music. Many of the musicians associated with progressive rock are or were British whereas the groups and most of the musicians associated with fusion are or were American, with some notable exceptions (e. g. John McLaughlin, Dave Holland and Jack Bruce are English, Airto Moreira and Flora Purim are Brazilian, Jean-Luc Ponty is French). Some progressive rock uses elements of jazz (e.g. improvisation) and conversely jazz musicians who have embraced the power and immediacy of rock have been able to reach a wider audience with their music. Whatever the case, the cross fertilisation of music genres has continued unabated since the heyday of this music and this continues even to this day in music that might now be called acid jazz or trip hop.

    References

    Bergerot, F. and Merlin, A. (1991). The story of jazz - bop and beyond. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd.

    Carr, I. (1982). Miles Davis - a critical biography. London: Quartet Books.

    Fordham, J. (1989). The sound of jazz. London: Octopus Publishing Group.

    Gayford, M. (1993). The best of jazz - the essential CD guide. London: Orion Books Ltd.

    Gioia, T. (2011). The history of jazz (second edition). New York: Oxford University Press.

    McRae, B. (1987). The jazz handbook. Harlow, Essex: Longman Group UK Limited.

    Russell, R. (1973). Bird lives. London: Quartet Books.

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