Forum Home Forum Home > Progressive Music Lounges > Prog Blogs
  New Posts New Posts RSS Feed - Jazz Fusion: ambiguity in the term's use?
  FAQ FAQ  Forum Search   Events   Register Register  Login Login

Topic ClosedJazz Fusion: ambiguity in the term's use?

 Post Reply Post Reply
Author
Message
Dick Heath View Drop Down
Special Collaborator
Special Collaborator
Avatar
Jazz-Rock Specialist

Joined: April 19 2004
Location: England
Status: Offline
Points: 12546
Direct Link To This Post Topic: Jazz Fusion: ambiguity in the term's use?
    Posted: July 12 2007 at 09:37

Jazz Fusion

 

One of the first uses of the term jazz fusion dates back to the early 60's. I think my own reference is from 1965/6 and the  Joe Harriott & John Mayer’s Double Quintet Indo-Jazz Fusion - the fusion here was of British post bop and raga, - which would certainly set the precedent for the likes of Hellborg/Lane's ‘Icons inclusion in this branch of jazz fusion: i.e. Indo-jazz fusion. Then there is the fusion in the same period of Larry Coryell et al’s Free Spirits employing free jazz and early rock (or considering the date, might even be called pop). It is worth noting that Joe Boyd in his excellent autobiography White Bicycles, suggested rock first appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1964 when Dylan walked on stage and performed his form of folk with members of Paul Butterfield's Blues Band. I don’t think one should neglect the fact that mainstream jazzers had long dabbled with pop and were quick to do so with rock e.g. Herbie Mann, (even) Ella Fitzgerald. (In passing, ever heard Ella’s version of Bruce/Brown’s Sunshine of Your Love”sung with a handful of incorrect lyrics printed in the USA sheet music?). There were too the young jazzers who were into elements of psychedelia e.g. Charles Lloyd, Count Rock’s Band. Then too, in the mid 60’s, there were other types of popular jazz fusion, e.g. Les Swingle Singers doing jazzed up classics acapella/scat style or Jacques Loussier’s Bach fused with cool jazz.

The jazz documentary Jazz Britannia (BBC TV 4), which played last year, attempted to extended time boundaries for the earliest forms of jazz rock, back to 1962 or ’63 in the UK – (which predate Boyd’s start date for straight rock….). The programme’s argument was associated with the presence of musicians such as Graham Bond (and note: his Organisation had Baker, Bruce Heckstall-Smith and McLaughlin in its line-up at various times), or Georgie Fame &  His Blue Flames. Their explanation was the suggestion that young jazz musicians in London’s jazz clubs pre-1965, weren’t allowed to touch acoustic instruments (“they were for the mature, established jazzmen”) and so forced to bring in their own equipment, hence a move to electric keyboards. Then too, check out the likes of Long John Baldry’s Steampacket, 1964 – 1967, which had Brian Auger, Julie Driscoll (now Tippetts), Rod Stewart, Elton Dean and even Elton John (then still Reg Dwight) in its line-up, playing jazz along with the blues fuelled pop. In addition, it was not unusual to have popified jazz hits in the UK charts from the early 60’s (e.g. Kenny Ball, Acker Bilk and of course Dave Brubeck’s Take 5), and so perhaps it is less of a surprise to have heard relatively jazzy breaks in the middle of pop hits – e.g. the ZombiesShe’s Not There, etc.

 
I believe as many others, Soft Machine helped bring things to the boil in the UK. Their Volume Two is the link between psychedelia (as driven in Machine by Wyatt at that time) and avant jazz rock (driven by Ratledge and Hopper). Indeed go back 3 years from this album and you can now discover Ratledge was laying down many of the rules of jazz rock keyboard playing, whilst Soft Machine shared residency with Pink Floyd at London’s Middle Earth Club. This was re-revealed in last year’s Soft Machine release (through Cuneiform Records) The Middle Earth Tapes. I remember (with belated amusement) of the British pop group Timebox disbanding in 1970, who claimed there was “no future in jazz rock”. This was only a few months before Colosseum announced their arrival. BTW from firsthand experience I know Timebox were jazzy live, helped by Ollie Halsall playing vibes more than his guitar, although the retrospective Deram CD collection of Timebox’s recordings does provide a considerable challenge to spot the jazz there. Keith Emerson’s Nice happily fused both classical and jazz sources in their new fangled progressive music for instance taking and adapting Brubeck’s Blue Rondo Ala Turk as a start point. And I believe it is fair to suggest that from the beginning (in 1969) King Crimson had a near perfection distillation of rock, folk, jazz and blues, that have most fans and critics saying In The Court of The Crimson King was/is the first fully formed progressive rock album.

I recently read a review with interest of the Led Zeppelin DVD, How The West…,  which specifically commented on a Jimmy Page solo, recorded at an early 70’s gig in London’s Royal Albert Hall. The relatively insightful critic suggested some of Page’s soloing was similar to what McLaughlin would be doing some 18 months later with Mahavishnu Orchestra. But then remember musicians in Cream or Grateful Dead jammed and jazzed already, inevitably others followed and/or freely experiment.

The first time I banged into jazz rock was hearing Tony Williams Lifetime’s Turn It Over soon after its UK release in 1970 – and for me, then a straight rock fan, musically it was initially difficult to grasp what was “rock” about this jazz music – but it sounded different and NEW. In those days there was so much choice as to what was NEW, that a fan could follow his/her fancy in many original directions. Too, “what is rock” is not easy to explain within the contents of  Bitches Brew – which  I would suggest, with hindsight is more jazz funk, (especially compared with ‘We Want Miles). But again that idea of this being NEW music’ greatly appealed.

Until some thought and precision were applied, the term jazz rock was bandied about without any exact definitions c 1969/70. I think initially the pundits were writing claims that jazz rock was played by those jazz groups that were using the rhythms of rock and the amplification of rock bands. However, the term rock jazz was also used briefly and maybe even before, and for those groups that had long solo jazz breaks in otherwise solid rock tunes – and this term would be applied quite often to early brass rock groups, e.g. BST, Chicago.

The first album that really smacked me in the face as clearly sounding as we imagine the new fangled  jazz rock should sound, was Frank Zappa’s Hot Rats, (and that was around Christmas 1970). Coincidentally my brother (who isn’t a jazz rock fan) said exactly the same thing on hearing the album: “now that’s what I call jazz rock!”

 
Miles Davis grasping the idea that amplified jazz with heavier rhythms would expand his popularity, took thethen underground music of jazz rock and made it mainstream, thereby exposing it to large audiences. Whether this was with Jack Johnson, Bitches Brew’ or earlier albums, continues to be discussed with vigour. But remember Tony Williams was influential in directing Davis this way. Davis gained and lost fans in equal measures when he went electric. However, he could charm diehard acoustic players (e.g. Keith Jarrett, Dave Holland) into playing electric instruments for their periods in the Davis band. And then of course, there were the direct spin-offs from Davis’s various 70’s line-ups- MO, RTF, WR, Headhunters. Then the spin-offs of the spin-offs: Stanley Clarke, Lenny White, Billy Cobham, Jan Hammer,Jerry Goodman, Jaco Pastorius, Al DiMeola, Airto – not forgetting George Duke.

 
In the meanwhile European bands were doing their own things, while it was less obvious these were originally jazz groups gone electric - in many cases rock groups who had gone jazz. Soft Machine has already been mentioned.With another example, Tasavallan Presidentti jazz rock tended to be structured differently from its American counterparts of the early 70’s – check out TP’s Lambertland, (which might been also called rock jazz). Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of albums recorded in the UK in 1970, and reminded that this was the year of vigorous experimentation by British/(Irish) musicians. Three albums recorded that year are recommended as examples to hear this wide ranging exploration: the self-titled Stud (the Taste spin-off group, the self-titled album by Patto (who of course had evolved out of Timebox), and Skid Row’s 34 Hours. Virtually every track on each of these albums, was an experiment, sometimes a fusion of electric folk, sometimes straight rock flavoured with blues but there is also a surprisingly amount of mixing rock & jazz (including free jazz). Skid Row’s Love Story Part 1 to 4, goes through a number of time signature changes: I willing to bet very few 21st Century rock bands would not dare try
such complexityin a tune

Later through the first half of the 70's, there were those bands who's members had moved from rock into jazz rock, i.e. Brand X and Isotope (out of Stomu Yasmash’ta, Genesis, Brian Auger, Quatermass), then Bruford – while Gong lost its dippy hippy ideals to become a jazz rock band under Pierre Mourlen. Soft Machine were undergoing endless personnel changes during the period. Colosseum 2 evolved out of the heavy rock played by jazzmen, i.e. Tempest.

In parallel,  jazz funk was developing rapidly out of Miles Davis's music and bands, eventually to gain greater popularity than jazz rock, e.g. through Herbie Hancock, Stanley Clarke.

The aforementioned Jazz Britannia TV documentary also stated baldly jazz rock was pre-1970, jazz fusion was post 1970 – which I find a far too simple demarcation as well as an abuse of the terminology. I would suggest a later change from the first and second generation jazz rock, to that time for instance Pat Metheny and Allan Holdsworth appeared as prime solo artists representing the 3rd generation. Some explanation. During the period of 1976 -78, when the established bands had been around a few years, and some tendency  to lessen the heaviness and de-emphasise of the rock rhythms, even moving away from jazz rock completely.
Such changes were often for bad reasons, e.g. Columbia Records had many of them tied up under contract and making more demands wrt the financial bottom line, while a number of musicians (especially the more funky  players), were deliberately trying to become cross-over singers – following the successes of Narada Michael Warden and George Benson as soul singers – even Stanley Clarke tried. Hence the written media pundits, not fully engaging their brains, dropped the rock from the terminology, leaving jazz fusion. [This didn't make much sense then and still doesn't? I see it as borrowing the sub-genre term (i.e. jazz/jazz fusion) and making it a sub-sub-genre descriptor (i.e. jazz/jazz fusion/jazz fusion), when other sub/sub-genre term remained established (e.g. jazz/jazz fusion/indo jazz fusion). That is my semantic argument against using the term jazz fusion as a term, when specifically referring to jazz rock  music). Another historical signpost: Al DiMeola's Scenario has been called the last jazz rock album - recorded  I think in 1978

 
I'm reminded of Brian Glasser’s words in his Joe Zawinul biography: 'jazz rock was the last great change in jazz', I accept wholeheartedly regardless of Ken Burns or Wynton Marsalis narrow and conservative viewpoint. Amongst my reference points for these (current) opinions, I cite specifically the following

1. First hand experience by listening to jazz rock and many other forms of jazz fusion music from 1966 and talking through ideas with many others. There have been endless debates in the last decade on web-based jazz rock forums, allowing me to bounce ideas off fans and professional musicians, so often refining a lot of my original ideas. hopefully with greater preciseness? For instance, I have discussed this with drummer Steve Smith through a long series of private correspondence, and he listed in his essential jazz rock ingredients: he included bebop and swing amongst the other, many more obvious elements. We agreed to differ as to King Crimson’s jazz credentials, but I think a subsequent release Live At Denver 1972, revealed Krimson’s ability to play jazz as well as jam, e.g. on Pharaoh Saunder’s God Has Revealed A Masterplan. I also readily quote Steve Smith’s take on Jan Gabarek’s free jazz sax with the plainchant of the Hilliard Ensemble: he called this monk jazz, (indeed another sub-genre to add to that in jazz fusion)

2. Reading many books on the subject, in particular Stuart Nicholson's Jazz Rock A History.

3. More recently reading Nicholson's follow-up: Is Jazz Dead Or Has It Moved To A New Address, the central thesis of which deals with the static-ness of mainstream USA jazz, whilst the rest of the jazz world is moving on. Nicholson rightly to my mind, examines here the newer jazz fusion sub-genres of nu.fusion (a sit down and listenable form of jazz dance, often called chill out jazz ; artists include Nils Petter Molvaer, Bugge Wesseltoft) and nu.jazz (jazz fused with the more recently developed elements found in modern pop, soul, reggae, hip hop etc. rhythms, e.g. EST, Acoustic Ladyland, Polar Bear, Soweto Kinch, The Bad Plus). It should be noted that American’s Jon Hassell (and his Bluescreen) and more commonly Miles Davis, are cited as the godfathers of nu.fusion. In the meanwhile heavy jazz rock, (which can be distinct for heavy prog fusion) has been around for at least 15 years.

 Admittedly there is lack of coherency in what I have written here, whilst I have attempted to throw facts into the ring wrt jazz fusion. However, semantically jazz fusion used alone, must refer to all (modern – at least the last 40 years?) musical hybrids with jazz. In some quarters, the term seems exclusively used to identify guitar lead jazz rock – dare anybody speak of keyboard or sax lead jazz rock in such places?! As a reminder of where I started from, the very first jazz fusion groups hybridised jazz and raga, with that term Indo-jazz fusion was conjured circa 1965.

 A final point before I shut up. I’m still fairly baffled by the sub-category of jam bands, (which is really my difficulty  to produce a clear definition of jam band music), since amongst those pushed into this pigeon-hole, are clearly jazz fusion bands but having little else in common, e.g. Garaj Mahal, Medeski Martin & Woods, perhaps even Bela Fleck.

 This “essay” can definitely be read as a case of ‘here we go again’. I have tried to be wide ranging in my thoughts, facts, etc, recognising a chance to open the debate at an intellectual level here. Unfortunately there is a need to periodically write and reiterate the semantics, minimising the ambiguities of this term jazz fusion – those with long memories will also note I’ve slightly modified my opinions. I believe jazz fusion should be a term used nowadays to covering a large number of sub-genres. Nevertheless, whilst having a strong opinion on the correct use of the terminology and its various meanings, I only see a need to use the correct terminology as a means of identifying a jazz fusion sub-genre to somebody who, say,  is not privy to hearing a related band’s music. Nevertheless, unless being used wrongly, I’ll try to avoid over-precise terms because much of the jazz fusion I play is most enjoyable is an artistic expression, and can still be a revelation as a listening and emotional experience. Besides taking relatively abstract concepts, one can never make such terminology too concrete.

 



Edited by Dick Heath - July 14 2007 at 15:48
The best eclectic music on the Web,8-11pm BST/GMT THURS.
CLICK ON: http://www.lborosu.org.uk/media/lcr/live.php
Host by PA's Dick Heath.

Back to Top
Easy Livin View Drop Down
Special Collaborator
Special Collaborator
Avatar
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

Joined: February 21 2004
Location: Scotland
Status: Offline
Points: 15565
Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 12 2007 at 12:35
Nice piece Dick, very interesting.
 
As its not one of my favoured genres, I don't know much about the music. I tend to think of jazz and fusion as being two separate but related genres though, which are combined on this site (and elsewhere) for convenience.
Back to Top
Padraic View Drop Down
Special Collaborator
Special Collaborator
Avatar
Honorary Collaborator

Joined: February 16 2006
Location: Pennsylvania
Status: Offline
Points: 31123
Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 12 2007 at 12:50
This was a great, informative, and interesting contribution Dick, and I thank you for it.
PROG ROCK SUCKS IT DIED A LONG TIME AGO AND WILL NEVER COME BACK. ALL OF YOU OLD ASS MOTHERf**kERS GET A LIFE
Back to Top
Dick Heath View Drop Down
Special Collaborator
Special Collaborator
Avatar
Jazz-Rock Specialist

Joined: April 19 2004
Location: England
Status: Offline
Points: 12546
Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 14 2007 at 12:51
I've had two goes at polishing my original "essay" - the second one is now pasted in at the start of  this thread. Hopefully the typos are now reduced to zero, whilst  you might find a few additional facts and comments included
The best eclectic music on the Web,8-11pm BST/GMT THURS.
CLICK ON: http://www.lborosu.org.uk/media/lcr/live.php
Host by PA's Dick Heath.

Back to Top
progismylife View Drop Down
Forum Senior Member
Forum Senior Member
Avatar

Joined: October 19 2006
Location: ibreathehelium
Status: Offline
Points: 15535
Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 14 2007 at 12:57
Very interesting. Good job Dick. Clap
Back to Top
glass house View Drop Down
Forum Senior Member
Forum Senior Member
Avatar

Joined: June 16 2005
Location: Netherlands
Status: Offline
Points: 4986
Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 14 2007 at 13:19

A very interesting and good read Mr. Heath. Clap

 
 
Back to Top
Sean Trane View Drop Down
Special Collaborator
Special Collaborator

Prog Folk

Joined: April 29 2004
Status: Offline
Points: 13041
Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 17 2007 at 08:36
Bravo Monsieur Richard Heath!!Clap
 
Although I must say I rarely hear the words jazz fusion, but rather fusion by itself
 
I fully agree about the time Jazz Rock stopped and fusion starts. I state that in a few reviews of mine. Thumbs%20UpClap But this remains blurry!! Although I think of Gong's late 70's albums as JR instead of JF (this is less the case for Brand X though). To me RTF is more JF, and WR's first albums are JR, but once Pastorius is in the group they become JF 
 
I missed the Jazz Britania series and no doubt I would've jumped at someone referring to jazz rock as early as 63. This was supposed to be Rhythm'n Blues groups, let alone pre-70 being JR and post-70 being JF.
 
 
 
As for Timebox, is this Deram Cd collection the small boxset called Legend of a mind, or is it something else? Cos I'd like to hear more of Timebox.
 
And if I agree about Bitches Brew being more of a jazz-funk than a jazz rock albvum, I must say that Nucleus' first two albums are the defining statement of jazz rock
 
As for Indo/jazz fusion starting out in 85, where does Oregon fit in with this theory?


Edited by Sean Trane - July 19 2007 at 09:26
Back to Top
Dick Heath View Drop Down
Special Collaborator
Special Collaborator
Avatar
Jazz-Rock Specialist

Joined: April 19 2004
Location: England
Status: Offline
Points: 12546
Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 19 2007 at 17:57
Originally posted by Sean Trane Sean Trane wrote:

Bravo Monsieur Richard Heath!!Clap
 
Although I must say I rarely hear the words jazz fusion, but rather fusion by itself

Agree ,up to the point you talk with jazz (rock) fusion fan, when jazz fusion is commonly used.

 
I fully agree about the time Jazz Rock stopped and fusion starts. I state that in a few reviews of mine. Thumbs%20UpClap But this remains blurry!! Although I think of Gong's late 70's albums as JR instead of JF (this is less the case for Brand X though). To me RTF is more JF, and WR's first albums are JR, but once Pastorius is in the group they become JF

IMHO RTF went  thru 4 phases: the latin, the jazz rock (Bill Connors and probably the first Al DiMeola) and jazzrock/prog rock hybrid  (Romantic Warrior) and the (over the top) big band variant (of the 4 LP set). To me WR wasn't as attractive a band  (as MO or RTF) until Miroslav Vitous left and Alphonso  Johnson came in and there was started to mix the jazz, funk and world.  I never got to see Weather Report, but friends came back from gigs telling me Jaco Pastorius spent two hours per show dancing.
 
I missed the Jazz Britania series and no doubt I would've jumped at someone referring to jazz rock as early as 63. This was supposed to be Rhythm'n Blues groups, let alone pre-70 being JR and post-70 being JF.
 
  As for Timebox, is this Deram Cd collection the small boxset called Legend of a mind, or is it something else? Cos I'd like to hear more of Timebox.

Legend Of A Mind was the excellent 3CD sampler of music 1967 - 1974 Decca/Deram issued about 5 years ago, covering many of these labels' signings from the period.  Apart from having an old 7" single by Timebox, I picked up Timebox's The Deram Anthology (Cat No 844 870-2) released in 1998, covering all the band's studio recordings.
 
As for Indo/jazz fusion starting out in 85, where does Oregon fit in with this theory?

Joe Harriott and John Mayer's Double Quintet's Indo-jazz Fusion  formed in 1965. They had a minor hit with their first album Indo-jazz Fusion (released originally on EMI specialist stereo hi fi label  - Studio 4?) both of their albums were reissued as a twoforone by Phonogram's Redial label  (Cat No 538 048-2). I've written elsewhere about Oregon  being Indo-jazz fusion, as heard in quite a bit of it's music - Collin Walcott clearly leading the group in that direction, but the later recruitment of Trilok Gurtu reinforcing the idea of their chamber jazz fused through with Indian music.

The best eclectic music on the Web,8-11pm BST/GMT THURS.
CLICK ON: http://www.lborosu.org.uk/media/lcr/live.php
Host by PA's Dick Heath.

Back to Top
A B Negative View Drop Down
Forum Senior Member
Forum Senior Member
Avatar

Joined: May 02 2006
Location: Methil Republic
Status: Offline
Points: 1594
Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 19 2007 at 06:19
Originally posted by Dick Heath Dick Heath wrote:

In passing, ever heard Ella’s version of Bruce/Brown’s Sunshine of Your Love
 
I think it's better than Cream's version!
"The disgusting stink of a too-loud electric guitar.... Now, that's my idea of a good time."
Back to Top
muhamad dlai View Drop Down
Forum Newbie
Forum Newbie
Avatar

Joined: December 29 2007
Location: panama
Status: Offline
Points: 11
Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 29 2007 at 18:00
the term for me is redundant.  Fusion itself is a vast, deep of connotative of a blend of other generes or styles.... as you reviewed extensively, thanx for that...
 
adding jazz to the term just emphasises on a heavier improvisative music that´s not jazz... but is not properly "rock" at all...   is not jazz... jazzy improvisation and musicianship makes fusion my very favorite kind of music... but  is not only a rock blend...  world music, latin, arabic, indian and other regional music generes enter into this blend too... the richness of this genere is to deep to just call fusion to an specific blend...
 
here in my country, people call fusion to danceable music with rock.  it sux.... but is A fusion, term is well used.. but badly asociated when i refer to masters like cobham or DiMeola...  then, using the redundancy of jazz is NEEDED.
 
Clap
"llrr lrlr rrllrrlrl lrlrrlrlrlrr... at the end are just senseless letters... "
Back to Top
 Post Reply Post Reply
  Share Topic   

Forum Jump Forum Permissions View Drop Down

Forum Software by Web Wiz Forums® version 11.01
Copyright ©2001-2014 Web Wiz Ltd.

This page was generated in 0.094 seconds.