Jazz Fusion


[wpspoiler name=”Watch Miles Davis perform Santuary and Spanish Key” open=”true” style=”aatw-video” ][/wpspoiler] In the 1970s and ’80s jazz met rock in a modern form called “fusion’ or “jazz rock.” MILES DAVIS, pioneering yet another jazz genre, was essential in laying the groundwork for fusion by adding rock beats and electric instruments to several of his albums in the late ’60s and throughout the ’70s, causing much consternation among jazz purists. Pianists CHICK COREA and HERBIE HANCOCK, guitarist PAT METHENY and the jazz-rock ensemble WEATHER REPORT didn’t express consternation at all, embracing and advancing fusion by adding synthesizers, keyboards and highly processed woodwinds.

[Watch Miles Davis perform early fusion compositions “Sanctuary” and “Spanish Key” in 1970 | Watch Chick Corea and his band Return to Forever perform “Vulcan Worlds” in 1974| | Enjoy Weather Report’s “Birdland,” performed live in Germany in 1978 | Watch Pat Metheny perform “As It Is” | Watch Herbie Hancock perform “Cantaloupe Island” with Pat Metheny on guitar.]


Today’s jazz is a “restless” genre that both infuses other genres such as rock, funk and hip hop and envelops them to expand its own horizions. Jazz may just as likely blend with hip hop to make both genres, unbelievably, even more cool–DIGABLE PLANETS‘ 1993 “Rebirth of Slick” is a great example of an uber-cool genre that became known as “ACID JAZZ“–or infiltrate elevators and grocery store sound systems everywhere, like the universally palatable–and therefore uncool?–SMOOTH JAZZ. (You’d disagree with the “uncool” label if you love KENNY G., seen here performing live with his son–clearly, his son–Max G.) Some contemporary jazz performers, such as avant-garde composer and saxophonist JOHN ZORN, blur boundaries between jazz and other genres, simultaneously mashing them all together and ripping them apart (watch Zorn perform “Karaim” in 2010)–while others, like jazz greats Barnford and Wynton Marsalis, return to jazz’s foundations as a base for their own work. (Watch Branford Marsalis perform “Cherokee” in 1991 | Watch Wynton Marsalis perform “Embraceable You.”) Since the late ’90s the term NUJAZZ has become a blanket term for jazz that eagerly blends with other styles, such as soul, electronica, house or hip hop. (Curious about NuJazz? Learn about the artists featured in the 2011 Toronto NuJazz Festival.)

We’re going to end our class by listening to “Radio Song” by bassist and vocalist ESPERANZA SPALDING. In 2011 Spalding was the first jazz musician to win the “Best New Artist” Grammy, surprising not only fans of Justin Beiber but also contemporary jazz fans who rarely see their favorite artists hit the mainstream. Spalding’s jazz is of many jazz genres at once and therefore doesn’t fit neatly into any of there. Where do you think Spalding will land? Decide for yourself after watching her perform “Radio Song” live on David Letterman in 2012.

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