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 | 60 min. caching

MILES DAVIS In a Silent Way Album Cover In a Silent Way
MILES DAVIS
4.69 | 86 ratings
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HERBIE HANCOCK Crossings Album Cover Crossings
HERBIE HANCOCK
4.67 | 47 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Bitches Brew Album Cover Bitches Brew
MILES DAVIS
4.64 | 78 ratings
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HIROMI Time Control Album Cover Time Control
HIROMI
4.76 | 20 ratings
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MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA The Inner Mounting Flame Album Cover The Inner Mounting Flame
MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA
4.65 | 59 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Get Up With It Album Cover Get Up With It
MILES DAVIS
4.66 | 27 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Pangaea Album Cover Pangaea
MILES DAVIS
4.68 | 20 ratings
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JEAN-LUC PONTY Enigmatic Ocean Album Cover Enigmatic Ocean
JEAN-LUC PONTY
4.66 | 21 ratings
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EDDIE HENDERSON Realization Album Cover Realization
EDDIE HENDERSON
4.79 | 11 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Dark Magus: Live at Carnegie Hall Album Cover Dark Magus: Live at Carnegie Hall
MILES DAVIS
4.64 | 23 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
4.79 | 9 ratings
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TERJE RYPDAL Terje Rypdal Album Cover Terje Rypdal
TERJE RYPDAL
4.81 | 8 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

DONALD BYRD Electric Byrd

Album · 1970 · Classic Fusion
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js
Just as psychedelics had swept through the world of rock-n-roll in the 60s, it also eventually influenced the world of jazz too, albeit a few years later. This mixture of jazz fusion and psychedelia sometimes resulted in some interesting music, Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock in particular were able to use electronic effects to enhance their early 70s albums, but then there were albums by other artists that were proof that all the electro gizmos in the world could not save mediocre music. In fact, if the artist was leaning too heavily on the electronic effects to save his album, that only made such effects all the more cheezy and annoying, which brings us to Donald Byrd’s unfortunate “Electric Byrd”. The album title alone lets you know that they are hoping the word ‘electric’ will help sell the album.

Donald Byrd came on strong in the late 50s as a rising star in the world of hard bop. He cut records with some of the best, including Quincy Jones, Phil Woods, Herbie Hancock, Pepper Adams and many more. As the earning power of jazz began to dwindle, Byrd spent the rest of his career involved more in RnB, dance, pop and fusion, whatever helped pay the bills. So it came to pass in 1970 that Miles Davis got a huge promotional push from Columbia for his “Bitches Brew” album, and the dollars came rolling in. Not to be outdone, Byrd bought himself an echo machine, plugged in his trumpet and recorded “Electric Byrd“, but he forgot an important step, writing some memorable material that’s worth recording.

The opening track on “Electric Byrd” is probably the best track on the album. Here we have a laid back African groove that sounds like a cross between Sun Ra and Lonnie Liston Smith, and the effects are not too overbearing. It’s the second, and closing track on this side where things go very wrong. Here we have Ron Carter walking the bass over a simple two chord blues vamp. This is the kind of music musicians play late at night when they are too tired to play a real song. Also, walking the bass is a great technique, but it sounds like a total anachronism against all the needless psychedelic effects. In among the ‘go nowhere solo noodling’, some sax player starts shrieking, but it seems more out of boredom and frustration than inspiration. The drummer tries to go into double time, but its too late, the others have nodded off, or just don’t care anymore.

Side two opens with echoed trumpet screams that sound like a direct rip of “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down”. This track recovers for a bit with a nice Latin melody and groove from Airto, but then someone starts messing with the echo on the electric piano and the rhythm gets swamped with sludgy echo syrup. Closing track, “The Dude”, cans all the effects and goes for a decent funky soul jazz riff in a style that Byrd will be picking up soon after he ditches all the psychedelic crap. Its an okay track, but it seems like an odd fit with the other three cuts, possibly it was originally meant for a different album.

There are some okay moments on here, particularly opener “Estavanico”, but much of the rest of this album is best appreciated as hippie kitsch from an age of not-so-innocent indulgence.

HAROLD LAND Choma (Burn)

Album · 1971 · Classic Fusion
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Steve Wyzard
MAELSTROM: LITTLE BIG BAND

The listener, upon viewing this album's lineup of musicians, would be forgiven for assuming the two drummers and two keyboardists are performing on alternating tracks, except for one little intrusive fact: they aren't. That's right, the full septet plays on all four compositions, with the two drummers and the two keyboardists simultaneously pounding up a storm. Add on top the busy bass work of Reggie Johnson, the vicious vibes of Bobby Hutcherson, and the spikey tones of the one and only Harold Land, and you have a wall of sound that could occasionally be described as "cluttered".

Which is NOT to say this is a bad album. Oh no, far from it. But it needs to be said this is not a "starter" album, or even for the very faint of heart. And while I certainly haven't heard everything Harold ever recorded, a much closer comparison can be made with his performances as part of the big sounds of Gerald Wilson's larger ensembles in the 1960s.

So for the new listener, please be advised that Choma (Burn) is not a big-band album or an avant-garde album, but rather one of his more over-the-top performances of the 1970s. A much higher recommendation can be made for A New Shade of Blue (sadly STILL not available on CD), recorded and released the same year (1971). Also take into account that on the opening title track, Harold does not play the tenor sax, but one ferocious flute!

RETURN TO FOREVER Romantic Warrior

Album · 1976 · Classic Fusion
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Modrigue
Progressive fantasy jazz rock

Often considered as RETURN TO FOREVER's best album, "Romantic Warrior" is more avant-garde and less funky than the band's previous efforts. Featuring a more important usage of electronic keyboards and rocking guitars, the musicians also incorporated symphonic/heavy prog elements from bands such as YES or KING CRIMSON in their music. Combined to the strange and charming synthesizers of Chick Corea, the result is quite original and inspired, while remaining accessible. The question is: what's the relation with the title?

"Medieval Overture" (by Chick Corea) is in fact not really medieval. Instead, this composition is a rather retro-futuristic spacey jazz/rock with various keyboards in the style of YES. Very nice, and sets the tone for the rest of the disc. Lenny White's "Sorceress" is the funkiest track of the record. Opening with a calm and groovy bass line, it contains a few guitar and keyboards interventions with a slight flavour of McCoy Tyner. In contrast, the title track (by Chick Corea) is fully acoustic. Majestic and delightful, however a bit too long.

Despite its title, the cool "Majestic Dance" is not very dancing but rather the rock-iest passage of the disc with its distorted guitars. This is logic when you know this was composed by Al Di Meola. Stanley Clarke's "The Magician" is the most complex composition, and also my least favorite track. Quite odd and changing, it incorporates fun small melodies. Ironically this song is the only one truly related to the album thematic, as it sounds a little medieval by moments. Once again by Chick Corea, "Duel of the Jester and the Tyrant" is the longest composition. Contrarily to the previous song, the music is more accessible and built around a nice melancholic melody as a main theme, with a few surprises inside...

Only after the listen can you understand the album title. "Romantic Warrior" do not naively refer to love or martial metal songs. Instead, it should rather been taken as an oxymoron that corresponds to the musical style: both calm and turbulent, light and ferocious. Everything is a matter of contrast. Unusual, original and with an unique sound, this 1976 opus is one of the proggiest and greatest achievements of its genre.

Very recommended to jazz rock / fusion aficionados or hard rock fans wanting to discover the style!

RETURN TO FOREVER Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy

Album · 1973 · Classic Fusion
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Miler72
To me, I really felt this is the first real Return to Forever album. Light as a Feather still found the band exploring Brazilian/Bossa Nova stuff (helps that Flora Purim was on the album), although it's a highly regarded album, but it's with Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy that they really take off. No more Bossa Nova, or even vocals, for that matter, here's you get Chick Corea (naturally), bassist Stanley Clarke, guitarist Bill Connors, and drummer Lenny White. This time they go right to the jugular, unbridled breakneck fast playing from all around, it's as if Corea was blown away by what Mahavishnu Orchestra was doing and felt they needed to do something just like it (but without violin). Bill Connors' guitar playing has a rather distinct rock style, which you won't mistake for John McLaughlin. In fact the reason for Bill Connors departure was apparently the music was too similar to Mahavishnu Orchestra for his liking (he probably wanted something a bit more original). Regardless, this is totally recommended if you love Mahavishnu, that similar breakneck fast playing from everyone involved. Most of the music follows a similar pattern, but "Captain Senor Mouse" has a rather catch melody to goes with the extended jamming and "Space Circus (Part II)" is quite funky. If you don't mind the obvious Mahavhisnu Orchestra feel to it, I really highly recommend this!

MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA Inner Worlds

Album · 1976 · Classic Fusion
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Miler72
OK, so I'm laughing over this cover. I knew I had to get this album for the cover. What was John McLaughlin thinking to pose shirtless on this cover? Grand Funk Railroad, maybe? McLaughlin hardly seems the kind of guy who'd take something like Grand Funk seriously, but he's certainly taking after Mark Farner's tendency of going shirtless (at least Farner had an excuse, it's rock and roll, for one thing, and the girls started screaming when he took off his shirt at Grand Funk concerts, which I'm sure if McLaughlin tried the same thing at Mahavishnu concerts, he won't get the same reaction, probably laughed at, but then I'm sure he only went shirtless for this album cover).

Inner Worlds is the last album (until a 1980s reunion) of Mahavishnu Orchestra. At this point, Gayle Moran had departed, to join her husband Chick Corea in Return to Forever for their apparently forgettable Magicmusic. Jean-Luc Ponty also departed, to continue embarking on his hugely successful solo career. In comes Stu Goldberg on keyboards, no violin this time, with Narada Michael Walden and Ralphe Armstrong remaining. Visions of the Emerald Beyond is easily the best album they did outside the original lineup. Vocals, while present, were kept to a minimum, allowed for more great instrumental workouts for the band. Now comes Inner Worlds. Is it really that bad? The instrumental stuff, which there still is plenty is actually quite good, but what throws people off are the vocals cuts. I actually like a couple of them, "Planetary Citizen" has a funky vibe going on. I think people are simply thrown off by the vocal cuts (most of them sung by Michael Waldon, one sung by Ralphe Armstrong) and the soul/R&B influence seems to collide with the instrumental fusion found on the album. If they stuck to what they did on the previous album, only a couple of vocal songs, and the rest was instrumental, they'd probably not get the negative reactions they did here. Strangely I don't find this album that bad, even the vocal cuts, as out of place as they are, are, for the most part, pretty enjoyable to me. I doubt this review will make you change you mind on Inner Worlds, so this is pretty much my opinion.

classic fusion movie reviews

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.

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