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 Hiromi's Sonicbloom ‎: Time Control Album Cover Hiromi's Sonicbloom ‎: 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
4.64 | 60 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

MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA The Inner Mounting Flame

Album · 1971 · Classic Fusion
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Modrigue
The primal flame to really fused jazz and rock?

This is perhaps what a volcanic eruption may sound like...

First effort of one of the big 3 fusion bands of the 70's, with WEATHER REPORT and RETURN TO FOREVER, "The Inner Mounting Flame" can be considered as the first record to genuinely combine the raw fury of hard rock with free unconstrained jazz. Of course, funk, jazzy rock or jazz incorporating rock elements have already been heard since the end of the 60's, but I cannot think any other artist went so far in this fusion of genres before. Compared to pioneering records such as Miles Davis' "In a Silent Way" or Frank Zappa's "Hot Rats", "The Inner Mounting Flame" marks a clear evolution. This debut album is a pure magma, an acoustic and electric maelstrom sculpting heavy musical mantras inside mountains. Jazz, rock, blues and Indian ragas find themselves melted together to fuel an unique loud, rapid and mystical fire, with multiple uncommon time signatures and complex rhythms.

Like most line-ups from this time period, MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA's members are all virtuosi in their respective instrument and form a true dream-team: incredible guitarist John McLaughlin, who just spent 2 years at Miles Davis' school to record no less than pioneering albums, organist Jan Hammer, who will later compose Miami Vice theme, whirlwinding violinist Jerry Goodman, bassist Rick Laird and extraordinary drummer Billy Cobham. The fast and spiritual aspects of the music is logical when you know John McLaughlin was the only composer as well as a disciple of the Indian guru Sri Chinmoy. That's certainly where these stylistic choices come from.

The disc opens with the incandescent "Meeting Of The Spirits". Violin and drum explodes in a lava of burning guitars. Wow! After all this condensed fury, "Dawn" arrives as a welcomed spacey pause. A calm beautiful jazzy and bluesy kind of ballad. Then appears the raging "Noonward Race". This high-speed delirium jazzy hard-rock can stand for an overboosted jam. In contrast, "A Lotus On Irish Streams" is the perfect soundtrack to wander barefoot in peaceful hanging gardens. A bit mystical and dominated by Jan Hammer's relaxing keyboard textures, this track is a delicate and soothing passage.

Back to life with "Vital Transformation", maybe the hottest and grooviest composition of the album. Not really sounding like an ancient Center American ritual, "The Dance Of Maya" starts with a dark oppressive pattern. This first half tends to become a little repetitive though. Then it surprisingly mutates into a heavy blues-rock! The slow desert jam "You Know, You Know" is enjoyable, nonetheless not varied enough. The record finishes in fireworks with its wildest track, "Awakening". A thundering and breathtaking piece, fast-paced, with multiple breaks and corrosive moments. Guitar, bass, violin, keyboards, drums, each musician displays his virtuosity here!

As the debut opus of a legendary band, "The Inner Mounting Flame" was already, and still remains nowadays, a true sonic blast, stunning and innovative. Such an advanced mixture of hard rock with complex time signatures in the improvisational jazz mold was never heard at the dawn of the 70's.

Simply an essential listen for anyone interested in fusion music. Not the most accessible MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA offering, but undoubtedly their rawest!

DEDALUS Materiale Per Tre Esecutori E Nastro Magnetico

Album · 1974 · Classic Fusion
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siLLy puPPy
Well one thing is for sure. DEDALUS showed on their debut album that they were certainly open-minded and willing to take risks and experiment but absolutely no one, especially the jazz-rock-fusion fans of their debut could have seen this one coming. For some reason, DEDALUS decided it was time to move on after one album of primo jazz-fusion workouts and go to even stranger pastures. In this case they took on a real career killer and tackled musique concrète and pointillistic surrealism. The result is an album that gets almost universally panned for it sounds absolutely nothing like the debut and i can only imagine how many jazz-fusion lovers over the years have fallen for the debut only to scratch their heads after listening to this one! Part of the situation was that the bassist Furio De Castri parted ways after the debut. Instead of the sensible decision of replacing him, the remaining four members decided to let their freak flag unfurl full staff and really go for it in the experimental department which pretty much destroyed all momentum they had built and pretty much ended their musical credibility. Instead of syncopated jazz rhythms mixed with solo tradeoffs and spaced out freak outs, we get a series of clanging cans, breaking bottles, piano sweeps and various other noises such as cats meowing, operatic meanderings and whacked out outbursts. There are still traces of jazz here and there with drum rolls, sax runs and even violins but they appear sporadically. There are also scant outbursts of melodies that are fleeting but nonetheless present themselves.

For anyone to enjoy this they must really have had some exposure to some of the avant- garde music of the 50s and 60s. There reminds me a lot of John Cage and his surrealist musical vision and the strange musique concrète of Edgar Varèse but most of all i get a Karlheinz Stockhausen vibe whose pointillistic musical impressionism is the main focus here. Like a good impressionalist painter, DEDALUS paints sonic textures with bloops and bleeps and scant traces of an underlying motif. I like to think of this in general as a ride in a canoe with the chaotic swirls and eddys of water that surround the canoe as the main focus that lead to an underlying object but only as indirect evidence that has to be mounted to come to the final conclusion.

Yes, this is ridiculously convoluted and complex and most listeners will not give this the time of day, but i personally find this kind of music stimulating on rare occasions. I think of this as the musical equivalent to those rare nutrients that the body needs like molybdenum that are only needed in the smallest of doses but yet are essential for the overall health of an organism. There is something about listening to this on the rare occasion that is kind of like defragging your computer. It just kind of makes melodic music sound better! Maybe i'm just a disturbed individual for finding any joy in this whatsoever, but being familiar with the avant-garde classical artists that preceded has aided in my understanding. Admittedly, WTF were these guys thinking?!!! This pretty much ended a promising career and they should have at least put out a couple more stellar jazz-fusion releases before doing anything this alienating to their fans.

As a litmus test you can ask yourself if you can tolerate Area's "Caos" from Maledetti and if the answer is yes, then you can take that track and make a whole album out of it and it will give you a hint of what's going on here. I certainly wouldn't call this essential but this certainly is more than random noise going on. Like the invisible canoe on the flowing stream that creates wakes and hydrologic distortions, this music is the impression of an underlying unheard musical structure that demands your full attention and multiple listens to discern. There are occasional classical motifs that just briefly bubble up from the underworld. This album is tacked on to the end of remastered versions of the debut album. It may not be essential but is well worth it if it's a freebie and can satisfy one's utmost strangest musical urges when the mood hits, at least it does for yours truly.

DEDALUS Dedalus

Album · 1973 · Classic Fusion
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siLLy puPPy
Just who are those four dudes hiding behind the clocks on the album cover? Must be DEDALUS! This band emerged from the Turin, Italy scene in the early 70s and delivers some of the most varied and interesting jazz-fusion from the era on their eponymous debut album. The name DEDALUS apparently comes from Daedalus who was the inventor of the labyrinth in Greek mythology. Like their namesake, this band delivers a labyrinth of extremely well-crafted jazz- fusion that holds up well after many decades. This was another good find for the short-lived Trident Records which also hosted some other greats like Semiramis and Biglietto per l'Inferno. There was another folk rock band with the same name from Italy just to confuse everyone!

This album is really a brilliant concoction of steaming jazz-fusion laced with healthy doses of space rock. In fact at times they drop the jazz-rock all together and venture into Krautrock territory. This is an all instrumental album that finds Fiorenzo Michele Bonansone (keyboards, cello, vocals), Marco Di Castri (guitar, sax), Furio Di Castri (bass) and Enrico Grosso (drums) synergizing their energetic and eclectic talents to create a nice mix of styles that takes a little from the jazziest sounds of the Soft Machine and mixes in some highly eclectic avant-garde jazz, psychedelic freak outs and energetic solos. The sound despite the tempo is always warm and inviting and can range from frantic Mahavishnu Orchestra type workouts to subdued Weather Report passages.

This one has really been a grower. Although i liked it a lot upon first listen, it has managed to burrow deep into my psyche. It just incorporates enough diversity and technical prowess to keep me thoroughly entertained upon repeated listens. If dreamy syncopated rhythms with tasty solos and tight group interaction is what you're craving in your jazz-fusion experience then you should look no further than this debut album by DEDALUS. This delivers for both jazz lovers and progressive rock lovers alike. Unfortunately they would never release another album like this again and moved into even more experimental musique concrète for their second release. If you have one of the newer remastered versions of this you will find the second album tacked onto the end. In my case it's not even listed as being on the album. It's just a surprise!

RETURN TO FOREVER Romantic Warrior

Album · 1976 · Classic Fusion
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VerticalUprising
The jazz fusion scene features some of the most skilled musicians that are unmatched by most. One of the more notable examples is that of Return to Forever, a band fronted by piano virtuoso Chick Corea.

Return to Forever's Romantic Warrior features some of the most wonderful sounding pieces I've heard in awhile. The aforementioned frontman Chick Corea's skill with a plethora of different pianos, including but not limited to the Yamaha organ, Polymoog, and ARP Odyssey is nothing short of inspiring to a keyboard player like myself. Every band member plays similarly; with eclectic and complex tempos but with a cool, smooth disposition, very similar to Corea's free jazz solo career. Lenny White's insane playing style is punchy and extremely effective especially with the beautiful chords presented by Corea and Stanley Clarke's ominous bass plucks.

The album art as well as the style with which the acoustics are played bring out a sort of medieval vibe, like an ancient piece invigorated with the intricacy of a team of modern masters. The certain hone to this blade gives off a sense of subtle self-respect that isn't too hard to chew, because I resoundingly revere such wonderful music.

Romantic Warrior combines the chill swing of your downtown parlour jazz with the richness of an orchestra. I highly suggest you check it out.

DEDALUS Dedalus

Album · 1973 · Classic Fusion
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VerticalUprising
Ever imagine a universe where Icarus didn't fly too close to the sun? Well, obviously he would have gone on to form a wonderful little jazz band named after his beloved father, Daedalus. Somewhere along the way he forgot the 'a' in his name, most likely due to the one too many ouzos he'd downed the night before in the name of celebration.

Anyhow, this little obscure gem of a group comes from the wonderful country of Italy. They released their first album in 1973, and it was their only album featuring their complete original quartet, as their bassist Furio Di Castri departed after it was released. The album, self-titled Dedalus, is a cool combination of the free-jazz style of Chick Corea and the slightly avant- garde nature of Mahavishnu Orchestra, if I were to put juxtapose it with it's bedfellows. Much of the album is surprisingly spacey, but in the kind of way that cool jazz can just be so....'out there' at times. The best of examples of this being the two epics 'C.T. 6' and 'Santiago' (the latter being the superior in my opinion).

A glaring problem that becomes rather annoying after a few listens through is the incessant noodling that goes on (generally) towards the latter half of the song. It's not the worst avant-garde elements they could have mixed in but it does tend to ruin the atmosphere they so easily crafted. If I were to compare it to something I would say pre-Kraftwerk Organisation's Tone Float from 1969, which I shiver when thinking of associating it with anything particularly tasteful. This is the main reason why 'Leda' is my favorite track; it's devoid of any of the aforementioned. Yet, it also has a tranquility provided mainly in part by that classic floaty synthesizer (the guitar and drums are some of the best as well). That is not enough for me to hate the album though in any case, because the music still remains extremely pleasant for the majority of it's duration.

Criminally unknown and underrated, I want to the best of my ability to spread the world of this little-known album. Hell, it's got me hooked for the remaining material of the band, so why don't you get in on it as well?

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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