Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Jazz-Fusion 101: Miles and Beyond

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While fusion is much derided in rock cirlces it's an important genre to include in Rock Revival's look at different species of rock (see list under Genres); there's also some bloody good music which I will try to demonstrate.

The father of Jazz fusion is probably Miles Davis, the man who was a leader in the cool form of Jazz until his In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew albums in 69 and 70 respectively. Bitches Brew in particualr was seminal: a combination of avante garde jazz and Hendrix that had never been heard before.

The alumni of this album went on to define fusion in the early 70's: John McLaughlin in the Mahivishnu Orchestra, Chick Corea in Return to Forever, Herbie Hancock's Headhunters and also Wayne Shorter's Weather Report (Mahivishnu would in turn produce the great electric violinist Jean-Luc Ponty and Weather Report produce the important bassist, Jaco Pastorius).

By this time, the mid-70's jazz fusion didnt just mean jazz and rock, but jazz, soul, world music, ambient music, etc.

In the 80's came a massive commercialisation of fusion with some tragic consequences (Earl Klugh, Kenny G, David Sanborn), with the exception of one of the best jazz vocalists of all time, Al Jarreau.

Pat Metheny, John Scofield and Bill Frissel (all brilliant guitarists) have maintained a constant prescence to this day. Medeski, Martin and Wood and the great bassist Victor Wooten are also great examples of contemporary It's also still thriving in the form of jazz infused prog rock (check Mars Volta)

Here is Rock Revival's Top 10 Tracks (except Miles, too obvious)

1. Jeff Lorber Fusion- Wizard Island (the funkiest piece of jazz ever recorded ?)

2. George Benson- The Ghetto (the master of timing)

3. Jean-Luc Ponty- Aurora Pt 2 (he actually played with Zappa)

4. Mahivishnu Orchestra- Meeting of the Spirits (a solo to rival amy by Hendrix)

5. Pat Metheny- Phase Dance (ambient rock and roll)

6. Marcus Miller and Jaco Pastorius- Teen Town (the bass as the lead guitar !)

7. Chick Corea- Armando's Rhumba ( my favourite jazz musician)

8. Medeski, Martin and Wood- Hey Joe (live version) (a miraculous version of the Hendrix song)

9. Spyrogyra- Morning Dance (if this doesnt make you happy, see a therapist)

10. Herbie Hancock- Rain Dance (proves there's so much more to him than Rockit)

Image: Courtesy Atlantic

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