|Persona Digital Music |
Fusion describes the merging of different musical styles and intentions. In the best case, Fusion is an open door to all music traditions everywhere to merge with novel, exciting creativity. Fusion is not always an easy path to follow. Musicians who are well established in one musical genre usually face criticism and degrees of rejection when they move in another direction. Bob Dylan switched abruptly from folk music to a rock and roll, electric band, suffering angry criticism in the process. Dizzie Gillespie and Charlie Parker were criticized by fellow jazz musicians for their new jazz style "Bebop." Miles Davis also faced criticism as he moved from more "traditional jazz" into continuously evolving styles that incorporated world music and at times came perilously close to rock and roll. Davis attracted the best musicians available so that innovation was an eclectic group effort.
Rock and Roll emerged through the combination of rhythm and blues, gospel and country music. Some rock bands with more diversified and talented musicians moved in the direction of jazz bands and some moved to long pieces with symphonic orchestration. Jazz fusion merges progressive jazz formats with a wide variety other musical styles including funk, rock, R&B, electronic, latin and world music. Recordings from fusion bands such as Chicago, Earth wind and Fire, Steely Dan are often classified as rock and roll but have the sophistication and virtuosity more typical of jazz.
Latin Music arrived In American as a fusion mix of music traditions-- native music with Spanish, Portuguese and African music. In the US, Latin music fused with jazz, R&B, rock and roll and hip hop, in ever-changing, derivative styles.
Miles Davis moved through "classic jazz" to Bebop, cool jazz, and modal jazz. The 1968 album “Miles in the Sky” introduced Herbie Hancock playing electric piano and Carter playing bass guitar. In 1969, electronic instruments dominated the next album “In a Silent Way”, an innovative fusion album. The musicians who played with Miles often continued to develop fusions styles. 1970’s fusion bands originated with Miles Davis alumni: Tony Williams Lifetime, Weather Report, McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra, Corea's Return to Forever, and Herbie Hancock's Headhunters band. Herbie Hancock was one of the first jazz keyboardists to use synthesizers. Funk jazz emerged in his albums, Head Hunters 1973 and Thrust in 1974.
Weather Report, featuring Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter developed world music fusion jazz. Jaco Pastorius, the electric bass player, went on to great fame and a tragic death in 1987. In 2006, Pastorius was voted "The Greatest Bass Player Who Has Ever Lived" by reader submissions in Bass Guitar Magazine. Zawinul, a jazz keyboardist and composer used synthesizers was widely admired. He won the "Best Keyboardist" award 30 times from American jazz magazine. Zawinul objected to the "fusion" classification. He stated that Weather Report played its own creative music: “You can’t call it rock or fusion or all these comical words. I love that word ‘jazz,’ man. Jazz is a beautiful word. I connect jazz not with what’s happening today in America so much as when I was young and listened to Jimmie Lunceford, Ellington, Miles Davis, Bird, Dizzy Gillespie: how beautiful music was then and how exciting music was then. That’s what I connect myself with.”
Chick Corea, another of the great keyboardists, founded the band Return to Forever in 1972 with latin-influenced music. The band soon evolved into a jazz-rock band. John McLaughlin was influenced by his guru, Sri Chinmoy and created the Mahavishnu Orchestra that merged psychedelic rock with Indian music. Carlos Santana’s band blended Latin salsa, rock, blues, and jazz. Pat Metheny started a fusion band in 1977 that produced popular recordings that made both jazz and pop charts.
Spyro Gyra, an American jazz fusion band, was formed in the 1970's by Jay Beckenstein and Jeremy Wall. The band released 30 albums and sold 10 million copies. Beckenstein described the band’s eclectic approach to music: "When we first started a lot of the jazz purists got on our case about calling what we did jazz and now it's funny to hear us getting respect from the same people. Like, wow, what you guys did was so much more intriguing than some of the stuff they hear today… Art manifests itself in a multitude of styles and contexts. Isn't that why we started to play in the first place? Not many people know it, but Buffalo was like a mini Chicago back then, with a smoking blues, soul, jazz, even a rockabilly scene."