Classic Fusion

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The Classic Fusion genre at JMA includes those jazz artists who added rock, funk and world beat influences to jazz in the late 60s and 70s, and also to those artists who continue to play in this original fusion style today. Some important leaders in this genre include; Larry Coryell, Tony Williams, John McLaughlin, Soft Machine, Miles Davis, Billy Cobham, Herbie Hancock, Weather Report and Return to Forever.

Rock musicians who use jazz as part of their musical language can be found in the Jazz Related Rock genre. Other more modern style jazz fusion artists can be found in the (Post 70s) Eclectic Fusion genre.

classic fusion top albums

Showing only albums and live's | Based on members ratings & JMA custom algorithm

MILES DAVIS In a Silent Way Album Cover In a Silent Way
MILES DAVIS
4.74 | 78 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Get Up With It Album Cover Get Up With It
MILES DAVIS
4.81 | 20 ratings
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HERBIE HANCOCK Crossings Album Cover Crossings
HERBIE HANCOCK
4.72 | 44 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Bitches Brew Album Cover Bitches Brew
MILES DAVIS
4.68 | 72 ratings
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HIROMI Time Control Album Cover Time Control
HIROMI
4.81 | 17 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Dark Magus: Live at Carnegie Hall Album Cover Dark Magus: Live at Carnegie Hall
MILES DAVIS
4.77 | 20 ratings
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MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA The Inner Mounting Flame Album Cover The Inner Mounting Flame
MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA
4.66 | 55 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Pangaea Album Cover Pangaea
MILES DAVIS
4.79 | 16 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Live at the Fillmore East (March 7, 1970): It's About That Time Album Cover Live at the Fillmore East (March 7, 1970): It's About That Time
MILES DAVIS
4.96 | 7 ratings
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BILLY COBHAM Shabazz Album Cover Shabazz
BILLY COBHAM
4.74 | 12 ratings
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PAT METHENY The Way Up (PMG) Album Cover The Way Up (PMG)
PAT METHENY
4.58 | 20 ratings
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BILLY COBHAM Spectrum Album Cover Spectrum
BILLY COBHAM
4.51 | 34 ratings
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This list is in progress since the site is new. We invite all logged in members to use the "quick rating" widget (stars bellow album covers) or post full reviews to increase the weight of your rating in the global average value (see FAQ for more details). Enjoy JMA!

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classic fusion Music Reviews

KLAUS DOLDINGER/PASSPORT Infinity Machine

Album · 1976 · Classic Fusion
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Miler72
Used Passport LPs in my neck of the woods (I live in Veneta, Oregon, but have to buy my stuff in nearby Eugene) are a dime a dozen, so it didn't take me too long to build up my collection all the way up to Ataraxia (of course, their stuff pre-Looking Thru doesn't appear in Eugene, and I still don't have Second Passport, but I was surprised to find a copy of Hand Made in Eugene, but I had to get my copy of their debut online). I was completely blown away by Cross-Collateral, an LP I found at a St. Vincent de Paul in Springfield, of all places. So I had to get Infinity Machine. Well, while many feel Infinity Machine is frequently considered their final album worth getting, I, for a long time thought it was a let-down. But it's grown on me since. The opener "Ju-Ju Man" has a rather funky feel, and evidence of Latin rhythms showing up. The title track and "Ostinato" are certainly the highlights, where they attempt a more electronic approach, especially "Ostinato". On the other hand, I didn't think the album had quite the intensity of its predecessor. What I do get a kick off is that cover depicting the Earth as a cube. I don't know if this is a coincidence or not, but seemed like the cover got spoofed in 1977 by an American band called The Fanz (featuring ex-Blues Image and Iron Butterfly member Mike Piners) on the album The Grand Illusion (coincidentally sharing the same title as Styx that same year). That album cover too featured a cube-shaped Earth! After hearing Igacu (has its moments, but drifted too much in smooth jazz, I had less troubles with the Brazilian sounds, though), Infinity Machine is definitely better. Still good, but I prefer Cross-Collateral, Hand Made, and the debut (and even, strangely some of the more interesting stuff off Ataraxia).

JAMES FARM City Folk

Album · 2014 · Classic Fusion
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js
The first time you spin James Farm’s “City Folk”, you may get the impression that its not much more than some instrumental indie rock/pop tunes with jazz solos. It doesn’t help that lead off tune, “Two Steps”, is not one of the strongest cuts on here, but give this CD some more plays and a deeper more complex creation will reveal itself. There is a melodic indie pop element to many of these songs, but others are more abstract in their blending of modern fusion and post bop, and on every cut, the band is careful to avoid anything too predictable or cliché.

For those looking for something more in the way of a jazz workout, “North Star” and “Mr E” are probably two of the best tracks to go with. Of the more melodic fare, “Unknown” has one of those ‘haunting’ melodies that really sticks with you, as well as an excellent building chord progression that keeps reaching upwards. For a jazz album, the playing on many cuts is a bit restrained, but always creative and thoughtful. Joshua Redman always impresses with his sense of melody in improvisation.

I’m not sure on the intended target audience here, some jazz fans may balk at the simple rock beats on some tracks, while other tunes get a little more abstract than what the average rock listener is used to. I suppose the jam band fan who wants to move up to something a little more jazzy could see “City Folk” as a gateway. Also, those who like the music of Brad Mehldau and other similar contemporary piano trios will understand where this band is coming from with their moody indie rock influences. Overall, this is a good contemporary jazz CD, just don’t expect to get blown away by anything too dramatic, “City Folks” is more about careful creativity than fireworks.

SANTANA Welcome

Album · 1973 · Classic Fusion
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DocB
Welcome is the second jazz fusion album by Santana. It is a more laid-back, Latin-jazz outing than Caravanserai, but no less enjoyable. However, it does not generally get ranked as highly as Caravanserai or Borboletta. This may be because it is too mellow for fans steeped in the intense sounds of Santana's previous albums, and it does not have as many incendiary guitar solos by Carlos, who seems more into the overall sound here regardless of who is playing. With Caravanserai the band, and Carlos in particular, took a keen interest in jazz, Carlos collaborating on a number of solo albums with jazz musicians. Themes from John Coltrane appear on Welcome, along with collaboration with Alice Coltrane. The band's makeup has changed as well, so that affects the overall sound. While Welcome is not the innovative album that Caravanserai is, and does not have a consistent theme, the playing is great and the songs are good. Enjoy!

PAT METHENY Pat Metheny Unity Group: Kin (←→)

Album · 2014 · Classic Fusion
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js
“Kin” is the second installment from Pat Metheny’s new ‘super group’, the Unity band. Once again the brilliant saxophonist Chris Potter is on board, as well as the rhythm section of Ben Williams and Antonio Sanchez. Giulio Carmassi has been added on a variety of instruments as well as voice, and Pat’s bizarre mechanical orchestrion has been added to the mix too. “Kin” is a well crafted album with a vast variety of sounds and textures, with the group often sounding like a mini-orchestra, but there are some problems too, mostly in sound production, not performance.

“Kin” opens with a couple of highly ambitious multi-sectioned pieces that almost sound like suites within themselves. On these pieces the band builds layers of sound over Afro-Latin rhythms while Potter turns in stellar solos on the sax. Pat plays some nice solos too, but this is where some of the sound problems begin. On the opening track, “On Day One” Pat’s guitar seems buried under layers of fake reverb, and on other tracks he utilizes a thin, almost annoying synth guitar sound. I had no idea any guitarists still dabbled with the synth-guitar, it always seemed like a failed experiment at best. Track three, “Adagia”, is a nice balladic change of pace before the band heads back for more epic soundtracks over Afro-Latin grooves.

After these first five tracks, “Kin” takes a left turn and ends with a series of ballads, not really jazz ballads per se, but more in the pop/rock/soul vein really. These songs would fit well on an album by Seal or John Legend, they are all well written and soulfully played by Potter and the others, so its just a matter of taste if these cuts work for you or not. The one oddball in this closing batch of songs is “We Go On” , a short little jagged melody that sounds like early Ornette Coleman, it sounds great, but it also seems entirely out of place.

Fans of Pat Metheny and contemporary jazz in general will find a lot to like here, some of the opening cuts are very imaginative with plenty of fresh ideas and great solos, and I think contemporary jazz fans are going to be less annoyed by the overly processed modern digital sound that can be bothersome to others. Like a lot of modern jazz records, “Kin”, has been subjected to heavy compression so it can easily blend with other jazz cuts for play on modern internet jazz radio stations. Unfortunately, compression can also drain some life out of the music and make Potter’s big tenor sax sound too thin and impersonal.

MARBIN The Third Set

Live album · 2014 · Classic Fusion
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js
Marbin’s first three studio albums reveled a diverse band that mixed art rock, jazz fusion, blues rock and middle eastern music into interesting CDs that balanced melodic sensitivity with high energy jazzy rock. There was always a feeling that guitarist DanI Rabin wouldn’t mind pushing aside some of the more sensitive material and show the world what he was really capable of on the guitar, and on the new live CD, “Third Set”, that is what we get. Gone are most of the melodic ballads, while the amount of high octane rock fusion numbers increase, the end result; a new guitar hero is born. It always seemed like Dani Rabin had this sort of performance inside him, and on “Third Set” his inner guitar-hero is finally set free. This is jazz rock guitar playing on the rock side of things with a very heavy distorted and saturated sound somewhere in-between Jeff Beck, Steve Vai, Oz Noy and Jimi Hendrix. Sometimes when Dani unleashes a steady stream of notes on the high end of the neck, he almost recalls the late Pete Cosey on Miles’ “Agharta” album. Dani’s strong melodic sense can also recall Mike Stern, another famous Miles sideman.

Although this live CD leans more towards Rabin and the rockier side of things, saxophonist and fellow band co-leader, Danny Markovitch, definitely adds some fire of his own. Danny’s playing on here adjusts to the heavy feel by playing a lot of guitar-like fast repeating riffs, rather than the flowing lines of a jazz approach. His choice of high end saxophone sounds, such as the soprano sax, may seem at odds with the heavy guitar, but he makes it work. Once again the album “Agharta” comes to mind on which saxophonist Sonny Fortune would play rock like riffs on the soprano sax over Miles’ heavy psychedelic band. Not everything on “Third Set” is heavy, on the song “Culture”, Markovitch opens with an unaccompanied solo that shows his interest in middle-eastern music. Also, the tracks “Crystal Bells” and “Northern Odyssey” act as instrumental power ballads among the more high octane numbers.

For those who were hoping that Marbin might head in a more energetic and guitar based direction, your dreams have come true. As far as heavy guitar oriented fusion goes, this is one of the best CDs so far for 2014. DanI Rabin’s solos are fast, extravagant and laser accurate, but more importantly, they are fun to listen to, lots of life affirming good vibes going on here.

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WEATHER REPORT Live in Germany 1971

Movie · 2010 · Classic Fusion
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Sean Trane
Well if the world still has to find some live recording from the very first studio all-star line-up (not likely, though), at least we've got now something very close to and we can even see the quintet at work with this just-as-famous version in the form of a German TV show called the Beat Club. With only Airto Moreira gone, replaced by Brazilian countryman Um Romao, the other four being Vitous, Shorter, Mouzon and Zawinul, Weather Report embarked on this TV show adventure not knowing that Alphonse Mouzon would leave the band in a while.

As you'd expect this broadcast consisted mainly of tracks from the debut album, but some are fairly different as WR always made improvisation their force. So you'll recognize 'Umbrellas generic structure, but drafted fairly differently, not just because of Romao's constant change of percussions instruments - he's one of the visual focus of the group, who otherwise remains fairly static and even blows a flute (and later some whistles) for a short while. One of the big difference between the studio album and this broadcast is that Miroslav has taken up the electric bass (his contrabass is still very present but mainly played with a bow), thus allowing even more energy to invade the quintet's shared space. The group's steaming-hot improvised fusion is simply awesome and flows naturally from your speakers like a river of fresh lave spewing out from your volcanic woofers.

Clearly the gravitational centre of the band is Zawinul's Rhodes, but it is clear that it is the group's tightness its main force. Morning Lake is much needed breathing space, starting out slowly with Shorter's sax signalling the dawn for Romao's birdsongs. Just past that Dom pulls an Brazilian berimbau . Drummer Alphonse sings funkilly (rather well, too) a rare sung track in the closing medley, but it's will veer into the Dr Honoris Causa - later on the Body Electric album.

A while later, Mouzon would leave the band and be replaced by drummer Erik Gravatt and this line-up would go on to record Body Electric and the Tokyo concert (released in 77, but part of it in the ISTBE album) and in the process become the definitive line-up of the Vitous- era Weather Report But for now, this German TV broadcast is an inestimable witness of the group's almost original line-up, and is just as essential as their debut album, the Tokyo concert or Body Electric.Too bad it's relatively short, though. Run for this baby...

DIXIE DREGS Live At The Montreaux Jazz Festival

Movie · 2005 · Classic Fusion
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Slartibartfast
This was the Dixie Dregs lineup that I first come to know live and otherwise. The Montreaux Jazz Festival performance was used for side two of the LP Night of the Living Dregs. I had no idea the concert was filmed. This represents the band at their prime. Keyboardist Mark Parrish, would soon be replaced by T Lavitz, who is a better keyboard player, but this as this performance testifies, he was no slouch either. Oddly enough, the back cover of this DVD shows a band picture with the original keyboardist from Freefall, Steve Davidowski (guess there was only room for one Steve in this band). Steve Morse was at his most inspired around this time, even though he has certainly grown in skill over the years.

The set list is a little disappointing as it lacks some of the prime cuts from What If (Night Meets Light, Odyssey, Travel Tunes, What If), but I'm not complaining. Now I have something more than just memories of the many Dregs shows I saw back then. It is more of a forward looking set which includes Attila The Hun, that didn't show up on an album until three years later. Also of note, but of less interest to progressive rock fans, is the bluegrass style ditty, Kathreen, never released on a regular album, but only showed up on their demo album, The Great Spectacular, from 1975. If you have a copy of that album, you have something rare, indeed.

Thrown in for bonus are two live TV appearances, one on American Can'tstand (Bandstand) and one on Don Kirschner's Rock Concert. On the former, you get to see them both try out a vocalist, in an attempt to appeal to a more mainstream audience, and with Mark O'Connor, who only played with them for one album, but a few great live shows before the band disbanded for a few years.

As great as the band studio albums were, the live shows took things to an even higher level. Now you can see what you missed, unless you didn't.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN Abstract Logix Live! / The New Universe Music Festival 2010

Movie · 2011 · Classic Fusion
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js
Abstract Logix’s New Universe Festival of 2010 was probably one of the more significant fusion concerts in recent history, and it is all captured in excellent form on this concert video. Many of the top names in current fusion are here and what a great varied and colorful approach they all bring to this music that will always be associated with its 70s roots. Ranjit Barot fuses fusion with Indian flavors and orchestral music, Human Element bring back the beautiful noise and chaos that has been absent since the early days of jazz-rock, Wayne Krantz takes on the modern NYC flavor with his harsh jarring free funk, Jimmy Herring plays sentimental, sometimes delicate, progressive rock flavored fusion, and of course the great John McLaughlin rounds it all up with high speed post bop mixed with funk and contemporary fusion. Every single performance is top notch and very convincing in letting us know that there is still plenty of life left in this sometimes maligned genre.

The music on here is great, but the video itself is even better. Its amazing how far concert videos have come over the years. This one is clear as a bell and features lots of accurate close-ups of the musicians as they display their virtuoso skills. They say that fusion is a musician’s music, if that is the case, then this video is a great learning tool for the aspiring player. Much of the footage on here goes right to the source and features the musician’s hands as they work their scales and fret boards. Any aspiring fusionist can pick up a lifetime of high speed licks and extended technique by studying this video and even stop-starting it it frame by frame. Long gone are the days of vague camera angles from way far away and pointless shots of musicians grimacing while they play, this video is all about accuracy and showing you exactly how this music goes down. This is a spirited and enthusiastic concert and highly recommended for fans of modern fusion.

MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA Live At Montreux 74/84

Movie · 2007 · Classic Fusion
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Slartibartfast
The 1984 appearance of the MO was a lineup that didn't have any of the previous MO lineup of musicians except for John. Still there was a pretty impressive roster. Jonas Hellborg, on bass, steals the show. I suspect he's been rather influenced by Jaco at this point. Also, we also have Bill Evans, fairly fresh out of his stint saxing with Miles Davis. There's also a fine drummer, Danny Gottlieb, who'd played with Pat Metheny prior. Don't know much about Mitchell Forman. With John experimenting with the Synclavier Guitar so much, the keyboards are almost redundant in this ensemble. I had a hard time sitting through this at first. It definitely has that '80's taint, if you know what I mean. But I've warmed up to it. It's a bit like an attempt to return to the magic of the original lineup that doesn't quite get there. Still, if you judge it in the context of the time, it's not too bad.

I got this for one reason and one reason only, it was the two video bits from the Apocalypse lineup of Mahavishu Orchestra. Actually calling them bits isn't quite accurate. Wings of Karma and Hymn to Him are actually decently long pieces. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had some actual orchestra musicians with them there at Montreaux. The first inkling I got that there was some live footage from this MO lineup was a poor quality video of Smile of the Beyond on a certain video clip web site many of us know of. It's very disappointing that we only get two clips from the show with video and the rest are audio only. I'm guessing the rest of the original footage has been lost. One can only hope that it will resurface. The performance is a bit more structured than the more compact MO's could be live, but that's to be expected due to the larger number of musician's involved. Still the core band does get to work in some improvisation, McLaughlin in particular.

This release is all in all a pleasant surprise for 2007, but there's more video out there from the older Mahavishu Orchestras, and I hope to see that material surface soon. It gets a four on the round up.

JEFF BECK Performing This Week...Live At Ronnie Scott's

Movie · 2008 · Classic Fusion
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Slartibartfast
Holy crap, there's a new Jeff Beck live DVD out there!.

...I thought as I saw this at the record store. This is why it's important to keep those local independent brick and mortar record stores open: you'll never know what you'll find browsing.

As near as I've been able to find out, Jeff Beck (THE Beck, not that other guy) hadn't been touring in a long time, but rather was sticking to special performances. To make up for it, sort of, he did a week's worth of shows at London's Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in late November 2007. I've never been there, but it looks a little large as some jazz clubs go but still reasonably intimate. I'm pretty sure you don't need binoculars to observe any performances there.

Jeff has assembled an interesting set of musicians, the oldest being Jeff himself (b. 1944), Vinnie Colaiuta (1956) on drums, Jason Rebello (1969) on keys, and Tal Wilkenfeld (1986) on bass. Vinnie I know best from association with Zappa, Jason's new to me but I found out has worked with Sting, Tal (new to the music scene) hails from Australia and judging from her performance she is someone to really keep your eye on. Guests appearances by Joss Stone, Imogen Heap, and Eric Clapton, heyyy.

The set list, not really the proper term as it must have been culled from all the shows, is an impressive collection of material spanning Jeff's career so far. Original stuff includes Beck's Bolero {is this not actually a cover?}, Led Boots, Scatterbrain, Angel, Blast From The East, Rollin' And Tumblin'. Also some nice covers thrown in for good measure including Eternity's Breath!, Cause We've Ended As Lovers {never really seemed like a cover to me}, People Get Ready, A Day In The Life, You Need Love). You also get some interviews as bonus material and the DVD booklet is a nice read. 21 tracks altogether, mixed in Dolby 5.1 and DTS surround sounds with a 16:9 video format, I might add.

Wish I was there but this is the next best thing. It's one hell of a way to experience one hell of a guitarist. It's a live assortment, but due the quality and quantity I am rounding this one up.

Artists with Classic Fusion release(s)

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