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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BILLY COBHAM Spectrum Album Cover Spectrum
BILLY COBHAM
4.51 | 34 ratings
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PAT METHENY The Way Up (PMG) Album Cover The Way Up (PMG)
PAT METHENY
4.55 | 21 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

DEWA BUDJANA Hasta Karma

Album · 2015 · Classic Fusion
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js
Dewa Budjana has been putting out high quality fusion records at the rate of about one per year for quite some time now, and fortunately, each album has its own unique flavor. His latest, “Hasta Karma”, is somewhat of a return to the big orchestrated sound of 2011’s “Dewa in Paradise”, but with some differences too. Having Ben Williams on upright bass and Joe Locke on vibes gives the band more of a loose and ‘jazzy’ sound this time around, and less of the power jazz-rock sound of 2014’s “Sura Numaskar”. Joe’s vibes also provide a nice counter voice to Dewa’s guitars during solo sections, as the band is apt to break it down and play in a more sparse fashion during the vibe solos.

“Hasta Karma” opens strong with an ambitious opening track called “Saniscara”. Its big sound and driving South Asian/Latin fusion rhythms sound similar to Pat Methny’s new popular Unity band. Follow up track “Desember” is slower and darker and has one of Budjana’s best guitar solos. This burning intense noise fest of a solo may remind some of the young Robert Fripp. Follow up track, “Jayaprana” returns us to the world fusion drive and bustle of the opening cut. After hearing the unified approach of these first three songs, it would appear that Budjana is really going for a wider western audience this time around, and possibly pointing straight at Pat Methany’s recent successes, but he throws us a total curve ball on track four, “Ruang Dialisis”.

“Ruang Dialisis” is a lengthy track dedicated to Dewa’s father and features a recording of his grandmaother, Jro Ktut Sidemen, chanting Mamuit in the form of a traditional funeral song. This chant is accompanied first by mournful guitar arpeggios, followed by a free section in which Dewa and his band really cut loose and then a return to the opening section. It’s a powerful and moving track and unlike anything I’ve heard from Dewa before, and certainly well beyond any commercial considerations or ‘crossover’ appeal. The following two closing tracks are good, but not as focused as the first four. “Just Kidding” is a patchwork of decent jazzy jam sessions, and “Payogan Rain” is a mid-tempo contemporary jazz, almost pop, number with relaxed solos for everyone.

Another excellent album for Dewa Budjana, he and Joe Locke turn in good solos on almost every track, and the first four tracks in particular feature Dewa’s usual skills at arranging and composing.

LES MCCANN Invitation to Openness

Album · 1972 · Classic Fusion
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Miler72
I don't know a whole lot about Les McCann, apparently he's associated as a soul/R&B-influenced jazz musician, but 1972's Invitation to Openness is very much a straight-up fusion album, and a wonderful album. It's very much in the post-In a Silent Way/Bitches Brew type of fusion, and perhaps reminders of Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi Band-era albums. There's only a few faces I'm familiar with helping out on this album, including Alphonse Mouzon (who played on Weather Report's debut), Yusef Lateef, Bernard Purdie, and David Spinozza (who I was previously familiar with on Julian Priester's Love Love album). The others I am not as so familiar with.

The 26 minute "The Loves" is nothing else than the best of fusion. It starts off mellow so I get reminded of In a Silent Way-era Miles Davis, but then they really got going. I really dig the harp being used, played in a rather trippy manner. Soprano sax playing gets me thinking of Karl Jenkins' sax playing in Soft Machine. "Beaux J. Poo Poo" does show a bit of the soul influenced that McCann is known for, but it's still very much fusion, and is also another winner. "Poo Pye McGoochie (And His Friends)" starts off with a nice dreamy electric piano that makes me think of those Canterbury jazz rock albums, before the music takes off. Here McCann also includes a nice synth melody he repeats several times throughout, where in between is improvisation. This is simply fusion of the first order and any fusion fan needs this album!

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!

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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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