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, 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
4.81 | 71 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Get Up With It Album Cover Get Up With It
MILES DAVIS
4.84 | 17 ratings
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HERBIE HANCOCK Crossings Album Cover Crossings
HERBIE HANCOCK
4.73 | 42 ratings
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MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA The Inner Mounting Flame Album Cover The Inner Mounting Flame
MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA
4.68 | 51 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 | 19 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Bitches Brew Album Cover Bitches Brew
MILES DAVIS
4.65 | 68 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Pangaea Album Cover Pangaea
MILES DAVIS
4.79 | 15 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 | 11 ratings
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PAT METHENY The Way Up (PMG) Album Cover The Way Up (PMG)
PAT METHENY
4.58 | 19 ratings
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BILLY COBHAM Spectrum Album Cover Spectrum
BILLY COBHAM
4.52 | 32 ratings
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RETURN TO FOREVER Returns Album Cover Returns
RETURN TO FOREVER
4.63 | 9 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

JACK BRUCE Things We Like

Album · 1970 · Classic Fusion
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Sean Trane
Under that typical jazzy album title, you’ll the ex-Cream bassist Jack Bruce’s second solo album. If you think that JB and jazz don’t really mix, you’re in a for a bit of a surprise, as Jack first came to prominence with Graham Bond’s ORGANization, and JB and GB (Ginger) used to joke the Cream was a jazz band, and that they never told Clapton so. More than the Cream connection, here, we’re getting the Colosseum (Heckstall-Smith and Hiseman replaced JB and GB in Bond’s band) and we’re heavily in a standard jazz affair – which might be very strange, since JB was also involved with McL in Tony Williams’ Lifetime, which was much more “fusiony”. Actually, TWL was recorded prior to JB’s first official solo album, but the present is indeed his first try (recorded in Aug 68)… but only found release almost two years afterwards.

So, the quartet’s line-up might have hinted you as an all-star JR/F group, but we’re quite distant from that realm. Six of the seven tracks are Bruce composition (he plays only stand-up bass on TWL), and the lone medley Sam Enchanted Dick (sic…) is more or less in the same sonic template of the rest of the album. Indeed, we’re dealing with a fairly competent late-50’s or early-60’s boppy jazz that will raise your eyebrows, mostly because that’s about the last thing you’d expect from these dudes. Were they out to prove something to the old-guard of jazzers? Maybe so, but personally, I find that, outside McL and to a lesser extent DHS, this is the kind of stuff that lacks a certain credibility from the “rock-related” crowds. Don’t expect much of McL’s fiery guitar histrionics (he does get the odd spot here and there, but nothing of the sort of Devotion or Mahavishnu), because he’s relatively low-key. DHS’ gets more sunshine, but it’s clearly JB’s show – and to that same extent, drummer Hiseman gets to pull his wild cards out on the table. You’ll find the odd inspiration in JB’s jazz writing. The more modern-sounding track of the album? HCKHH Blues, without a doubt.

So, if not familiar with TWL, I’d strongly suggest that you lend an earshot (not even very attentive) before investing in the album, because the line-up (written out on the front cover) can (and will) induce into error. Is it a good standard jazz album?? Maybe so, but given the déjà-entendu sonics (save McL’s electric interventions), it certainly sounds like a waste of talent at the time… I’d have loved to hear these guys let it all hang out in the wild JF/F affair.

JOE HENDERSON The Elements (feat. Alice Coltrane)

Album · 1973 · Classic Fusion
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Sean Trane
From Henderson’s Milestones discography, there is little doubt that his most adventurous album is the one he made with Alice Coltrane - for which he’s played on her Daoud album – and there is little doubt about its nature when seeing the album and track titles. Apparently, while reaching the mid-70’s, Henderson went spiritual, and maybe a bit psychedelic. The line-up is quite a stellar one, not only featuring the headlining Alice & Joe, but the afore-mentioned Haden and Leon Chancler, though lesser-known Michael White on violin, Ken Nash on percussion (and the odd flute and spoken text and Indian percussionist Oshun complete the roster.

The mood is explorative and modal throughout the four elements , and much of the exotic feel is given via Alice’s usual tambura, harmonium and harp, but Nash and Oshun’s percussions give the whole thing a very worldly sonic aura, but it is White’s violin that add that extra touch of originality. The opening 11-mins Fire is a fast-paced affair, and probably the most standard affair on the album, despite the presence of the harp and violin. The following 10-mins Air is a much more reflective mood sometimes bordering on the dissonant, but it’s got Trane’s shadow all over it. Over the flipside, the 7-mins+ Water is the most eastern piece, because Alice’s tambura sets the tome from note 1, and despite the slight dissonance, Haden strikes a variant of the ALS bass line. The closing 13-mins Earth is the slowest-paced and most-modal piece of the album, but also the most psychedelic and hypnotic and features a soft-spoken chant.

If Columbia has developed into the 70’s master label (and my personal fave) of JR/F, Milestones is certainly not far behind in a slightly different genre of fusion and sometimes strikes me the successor of the Impulse label of the 60’s. Of course, Alice’s presence on Elements gave the album an edge that no other Henderson wax slice could compete with in this writer’s opinion.

JOE HENDERSON Canyon Lady

Album · 1975 · Classic Fusion
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Sean Trane
By the time Canyon Lady was out, Henderson was now fully in the 70’s, and his Milestones label albums were clearly attesting this. Of course, JH’s move away from the Big Apple proved to be a breath of fresh air, but it also allowed him to renew his supporting cast, thus the appearance of George Duke, Eric Gravatt or conga-man Aguabella, but most importantly pianist Marl Levine, who would compose the two tracks on the flipside of Canyon, the first even giving the album its name.

The opening Tres Palabra offers a slightly Latin conversation with a small Gil Evans-type of big band. Henderson’s only composition on the album is certainly the highlight of the album as Las Palmas features some red-hot steamy fusion that started very softly and settles into a bedevilled groove. Over the flipside, the title track is a mid-tempo filled with congallero (yup, I like to make up some names too) rhythms with George Duke’s excellent Rhodes tapestry as a woven sonic fabric. The closing All Things Considered is more or less in the same line, thus inducing a certain déjà-entendu (without Duke, though), though Aguabella’s conga solo (possibly a duet with Pantoja) will certainly dispel that feeling.

With this kind of album, Henderson moved in the proximity of his label-mate Tyner (though masterpieces like Sahara were still rather unreachable), and he would even go on to better things with Multiple. While purist will hail his 60’s works on Blue Note (like Mode For Joe), this fusionhead will likely go with Henderson’s Milestones era.

THE WRONG OBJECT Platform One

Album · 2007 · Classic Fusion
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Sean Trane
Although I’m not familiar with every release of TWO’s discography, I believe that this could be the project’s first real studio release that has no direct link with Frank Zappa’s musical oeuvre that still today is one of the band’s raison d’être. Of course, you’ll still find the Zappa covers of Filthy Habits and Big Swifty on Platform One , but this album is mostly about serious JR/F (English-styled) with two of Britain’s jazz scene stalwarts, the legendary Harry Beckett and the female trombonist extraordinaire Annie Whitehead. Not sure what the modern industrial landscape pictures of the booklet bring to the music’s intent; but those who favour 70’s torrid fusion ala Nucleus or later Soft Machine, you’re in for a treat… Of course their previous collab Unbelievble Truth with Elton Dean and here with Beckett will be a slight hint, but it’s only by inserting the disc in your laser beck that you’ll be certain of it.

Right from the first notes of the opening intro of Honeypump Riff, you’ll just know that you’ve hit paydirt and the roller-coaster ride will be a thousand times worth the gate’s tariff. And once the excellent cover of Zappa’s Big Swifty reaches your ears, you’ll be almost disappointed that the band doesn’t stick with their own compositions, or one of the famous guest’s compositions. Whitehead’s Platform One double dapper is certainly one of the album’s centrepiece, and everyone fires from the own pistons, wind instruments or not - actually only Beckett and Dellicour have some (pistons), but the V-8 cylinder engine runs smoothly anyway. The other Zappa piece is a much better (and fitting in the overall concept) reprise than its predecessor, Delville filling Frank’s hoes in a very different (and yet totally awesome) manner, with a fiery guitar solo. The Delville-composed Wet Weather has a slight 100 MPH Peter Gunn trashy quality, which contract with the gentler Beckett-written Scarlet Mine, which oozes standard/boppy jazz, which again contrast heavily with the gentle-ballad Tinseltown with a stupendous succession of wind instrument solo, initiated by Dellicour”s sax underlined by Sun-Ra type of drumming. The closing 1é-mins Hello Mas overstays its welcome and is over-repetitious, though.

Of course, the main attraction to the album is Beckett and Whitehead’s names, just Elton was for their previous project, but what’s really the meat of the album is the TWO band, which will have a fairly stable line-up (for the jazz scene anyway) for a small decade. Lead by guitarist Michel Delville, the wind trio of Delplancq, Dellicourt and Estievenart is the other backbone of the band. Though the album contains less than 50% of the tracks written by TWO, there is no doubt that this album‘s artistic success gave them the self-confidence and assurance to pull out the pure masterpiece that would follow: Stories From The Shed. In the meantime, Platform One is definitely one of the band’s peaks, though it must fell like the Annapurra next to the Everest.

PAT METHENY The Way Up (PMG)

Album · 2005 · Classic Fusion
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siLLy puPPy
I am not the hugest fan of smooth jazz but I can take it in small doses. The likes of Kenny G, The Rippingtons and their ilk are ok, but I generally prefer more of a bite in my jazz tastes with my favorites being the most adventurous musical souls. PAT METHENY alone and with his GROUP rarely manage to excite me and always tread lightly upon the musical paths they embark upon. Such the case can be said for this release THE WAY UP which seems to be universally hailed as their best album and judging by the handful of METHENY releases I have listened to so far, I would have to agree with that statement. Yes, this is still smooth jazz, but this is progressive smooth jazz!

This album was inspired by both the works of Steve Reich and Eberhard Weber, both of whom METHENY has worked with. This album is designed to be one long album long track that reaches just over 68 minutes in length but broken into 4 tracks only for navigational purposes. The sounds on here are very typical for METHENY, of what i've heard so far, but what is very different from other releases is that the compositions are much more complex than anything i've encountered from this group so far. They master the art of extending pieces and exploring variations on themes and add interesting solos as well.

Although this still reminds me of fluffy unsalted and unbuttered popcorn with cotton balls in the clouds in a place where calmness and serenity suffocate any remote threat of surprise and angst, the fact is that when the compositions are interesting as on this album, then I have to admit that the smoother and calmer side of the jazz-fusion spectrum can be quite interesting indeed. Although this will probably never rank up there in the top ranks of my all time treasured albums, this certainly has a worthy spot in my collection to fire up every now and again simply to ride the jazz-fusiony ethers that are as light and fluffy as a light breezy spring shower raining pillows and marshmallows on the fertile lands where only white bunnies and fuzzy easter chicks roam.

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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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