Post-Fusion Contemporary

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Post-Fusion Contemporary is a broad umbrella genre that contains several recent trends in jazz. One important branch of Contemporary Jazz (which first appeared in the mid 1970s) is rooted in Northern Europe and is often associated with the ECM label. This is a somber style of jazz often played in straight (non-swing) rhythm with elements of regional folk music and early 20th century classical music. This style is sometimes referred to as ‘chamber jazz’. Some early practitioners include Keith Jarret and Jan Garbarek. Although originally rooted in Europe, today this style is played and enjoyed around the world.

Another branch of the Contemporary sound started in the late 70s when artists such as Jeff Lorber and Pat Methany began to play in a style that mixed fusion with elements of smooth jazz and post bop. This was a somewhat light and radio friendly style of jazz, and a very dominant force until acoustic post/hard bop made a comeback.

Although most early forms of Contemporary Jazz were of a light and borderline easy listening nature, today’s Contemporary artists are often playing in a more energetic and rhythmic style influenced by indie rock, hip-hop, RnB, drumnbass, world beat and fusion. Leading the way in the new sound is the modern jazz piano trio. Heavily influenced by the popular trio, e.s.t., most of these groups consist of a trap set, acoustic bass and a very powerful virtuoso piano player.

Today’s Contemporary genre often borders on Classic Fusion, but there are differences. The rock influence in fusion comes from extravagant jam band artists like Jimi Hendrix, while the Contemporary artist draws from moody and dronish indie rock bands like Radiohead and REM. Fusion tends to have a basis in Afro-Latin or funk rhythms, while Contemporary Jazz tends to have straighter rhythms taken from pop and art rock.

Generally speaking, the difference between Contemporary and Post Bop is that Post Bop usually swings, while Contemporary often does not, although the new Contemporary piano trios continue to blur lines by occasionally playing in a post bop swing style too. Harmonically speaking, Post Bop usually uses the extended harmonies of jazz (9th chords, 11ths etc), while Contemporary may mix jazz harmonies with the simpler triadic harmonies of pop or classical.

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post-fusion contemporary Music Reviews

RALPH TOWNER Matchbook (with Gary Burton)

Album · 1975 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
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Steve Wyzard
Transcendent!

Back in the early 1970's, the ECM Records motto "The Most Beautiful Sound Next To Silence" was never so eloquently captured and epitomized than on this album. It's one of the greatest moments in both Ralph Towner's and Gary Burton's extensive catalogs dating back to the 1960's. Those looking for the avant-garde and envelope-pushing sounds found on many other ECM recordings from this time are advised to look elsewhere. This is the anthemic, thought-provoking "chamber jazz" that made ECM the success story it still is today.

From the utter stillness of "Drifting Petals" and "Some Other Time", to the humorous title track (where Towner achieves a fuzzy buzzing sound by inserting a matchbook - thus the title - into his guitar strings on the fretboard), to Oregon covers "Icarus" and "Aurora", to the experimental solo pieces "Brotherhood" and "1 x 6", this album is staggeringly inspired and has no weak moments. If a quiet Sunday afternoon could be set to music, this album would be it. Highest of all possible recommendations, and one of the best examples of the highly-vaunted "ECM sound".

PETE OXLEY Pete Oxley & Nicolas Meier : Chasing Tales

Album · 2015 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
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js
“Chasing Tales” was released earlier this year on MGP Records, and it seemed to slip beneath the radar and not get the attention it deserved, which is a shame because fans of guitar picking duos may find this to be one of the top albums of the year. Hopefully this album’s re-release on MoonJune might help bring the recognition this CD deserves. The interplay between Pete Oxley and Nicolar Meier, as they field a variety of string instruments centered around nylon string guitar and clean tone jazz guitar, is incredible as they sound very much like one mind. This album is the exact opposite of those sort of chest-beating acoustic guitar extravagances fueled by the likes of Dimeola and McLaughlin, there are no furious trade off solos on here, instead, you get music made through sensitive interplay and co-operation.

The guitar sound on here is of the softer variety, along the lines of Jim Hall, George Benson and Pat Methany, but just like those three mentioned virtuosos, the light tone does not imply light content, instead, this music is complex and holds up very well to many repeat listens. Oxley and Meir display many sources in creating their thick tapestries, besides modern jazz mixes of fusion and post bop, they also pull from art pop, middle eastern music and folk derived finger picking. They share writing duties, with Oxley’s tunes favoring abstract jazz, while Meir leans towards more forthright melodic material. Their compositions tend to alternate in sequence which makes for a great blend. These are all original compositions, and they are for the most part excellent, very original and personal, but two tracks don't seem to fit. "The Bridge" uses a nasal guitar synth sound that doesn't seem to fit the rest of the album, and "Breezin On" uses 'humorous' vocoder vocals that fit even less, but the rest of the album is superb.

Although labeled a contemporary jazz album, “Chasing Tales” probably has appeal far beyond just a jazz audience. Fans of world fusion acoustic guitar summits such as Strunz and Farah will probably enjoy this, as well as fans of that whole acoustic guitar world that includes new grass, Leo Kotke followers and David Grisman's ‘dawg music’. The interplay on here is very special and the compositions are fresh and inventive, hopefully this album will get the attention it deserves.

MARCIN WASILEWSKI TRIO Spark Of Life (with Joakim Milder)

Album · 2014 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
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Matt
The Marcin Wasilewski Trio first came to International recognition in 2002 with the release of Tomasz Stanko’s “Soul Of Things” . They backed Tomasz Stanko on 13 variations of his composition which is no mean feat due to the fact of working just this one tune for the entire album. One could be excused for thinking that things could get a little dull and boring with only working the one piece but not so as every variation was performed beautifully and all had a different perspective. I was not the only Jazz fan that was impressed with the album which garnered impressive reviews and comments. They went on to do the next two albums with Tomasz Stanko being “Suspended Night” and Lontana” and all were recorded on the ECM Jazz label. Between the release of these two albums they released their debut on ECM as their own band simply named “Trio” in 2005 and once again all were highly impressed. After the release of “Trio” although the band treat all equal they decided to use the name, Marcin Wasilewski Trio as the pianist is usually referred to when naming Jazz trios. Albeit, as well Marcin does write the most of their material. Three albums have been recorded since by the band with just the trio present but this time around for the fourth they have decided to have Joakim Milder on tenor saxophone as an addition. Joakim Milder has also played with Tomaz Stanko being included in the line up for “Litania-The Music Of Krzysztof Komeda” which came out back in 1997. Joakim though like all these other musicians mentioned is not Polish but Swedish. Connections between these musicians are everywhere as Tomasz being a friend of the great Krzysztof Komeda ( Rosemary’s Baby Soundtrack plus loads more) has always had a special connection to this man’s music as Marcin’s Trio do, which is how Tomasz Stanko came across them in his native Poland and over a few years prior to their International debut they had been recording albums back in Poland and supporting him on various projects.

The trio still contain the same personnel and comprise Marcin Wasilewski , piano, Slawomir Kurkiewicz , double bass player and Michal Miskiewicz, drums for their latest release “Spark Of Life”. Space, time, silence with a touch of minimalism seem to best describe their approach with primarily a gentle laid back approach and every note and chord resounding with a beautiful contemplative clarity. “Austin “ with just the trio present opens the album with Marcin playing this ballad to perfection and The Rhythm section are spot on with the bass from Slawomir and brush work from Michal providing a simply low played beautiful support. You could never accuse Marcin of overplaying as every note that he plays, a simply gorgeous clarity is coming through. Joakim Milder comes in with his tenor for “Sudovian Dance” and similar to Marcin he has that space approach to his technique on tenor saxophone with a slight gradual build up throughout his input into what is another laid back number. The title “Spark Of Life” is given two separate takes on the album being track three and the last with a different approach for each but both are at that contemplative tempo with once again another absolutely beautifully played composition. We also have “Sleep Safe And Warm” the usual Komeda addition and it is another of the albums highlights played to perfection with an outstanding take of the tune containing a wonderful bass solo and piano input from Marcin and the band picks up a little tempo here for this one. Police’s “Message In A Bottle” is also included but for me it is the Marcin Wasilewski compositions including “Three Reflections” with the one Komeda and Herbie Hancock’s “Actual Proof” that are the album’s highlights. There are eleven tracks contained within the album but all but two seem to be heading to a sameness due to the same slow tempo approach. The albums length is just under 74 minutes which I find is for myself is a little too long and a good description maybe a Filet Mignon is just right for a dinner but to have the whole Chateaubriand given to one is just too much.

Superb musicianship from a superb band and saxophonist but just because on cds you can pile more content and it is great to think that bands feel they want to give everybody their money’s worth it sometimes gets a little too much.The album is superbly played and with that usual ECM production,sounds even a little more exquisite and if it had ran no more than 50 minutes I would be hitting repeat on the player but as it is 74, I'm kinda glad it is over.

DEWA BUDJANA Joged Kahyangan

Album · 2013 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
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progshine
Really nice and smoothy album by Indonesian guitar player Dewa Budjana! I got used to have Moonjune Records albums in a Jazz Fusion line and this kind of music really don't hold any water for me as I prefer something that was built and something with melody.

For my surprise Joged Kahyangan (2013) is one of this records! Dewa instead of trying to go on full Free Jazz do what you want wrote some really pretty melodies in a more traditional Jazz style, there's even a Vocal Jazz track on the album (As You Leave My Nest) with singer Janis Siegel.

This is the kind of album that is indeed a joy to listen to and you can enjoy it even while reading, but that doesn't make it a 'background music' album as Dewa is a great guitar player and the line up on the album is amazing.

Recommended! Please Moonjune, more of this kind of releases!

JOSHUA REDMAN Walking Shadows

Album · 2013 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
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js
Josh Redman’s music has become eclectic enough over the years that I really don’t know what to expect when I pick up one of his CDs. Listening to “Walking Shadows’ for the first time I noticed the saxophone-with-strings sound and figured this was Redman’s ‘easy listening’ album and didn’t think much of it more than that. Although ‘Shadows’ could pass as an easy listening album, I’m glad I gave this album some more listens because it is so much more than mere pleasant background music. In many ways ‘Shadows’ recalls efforts from the 50s to 70s when artists such as Don Sebesky and Gil Evans would combine relaxed jazz with ambitious 3rd stream scores that were presented in an exotic easy listening environment. Les Baxter and Don Ellis also created music along these lines, and you could also include many works by the Ellington-Strayhorn team. In fact, its no big surprise that ’Shadows’ contains an excellent modernized and moody arrangement of Strayhorn’s “Lush Life”.

The music on here is a mix of modern pop tunes, some originals, a couple standards and even a number by JS Bach. Despite the disparate background of the tunes, almost everything on here flows together and is well blended through the creative arrangements. The strings are actually on only half of the tracks, but their comings and goings are so subtle that you don’t notice a huge difference between tracks with or without the orchestra. The rest of the band is made up of Brad Mehldau on piano and vibes, Larry Grenadier on acoustic bass and Brian Blade on drums. Having Brad on board is a nice touch as this sort of high brow dreamy art pop is right down his alley. He not only provides his unique piano fills, but also some arrangements and an original piece too.

Top tune honors goes to an excellent arrangement of Wayne Shorter’s “Infant Eyes”, followed closely by “Lush Life” and “Easy Living”. All of the original tunes are good, with Mehldau’s modern “Last Glimpse of Gotham” sounding like a good fit for a current concert hall program. The only clunker on here is the Beatles wore out “Let it Be”. The simple plaintive melody is no match for the sophistication of the other tunes, and although Redman does his best to change up the melody and make it fit, it still sticks out like a sore thumb. There are a couple of other tracks that aren’t quite up to the quality of this CD’s best numbers.

Redman came very close to creating a classic here, with a little editing, a slightly shorter but better album exists within “Walking Shadows”. On another note, the cover photography is very clever and it fits the music exactly.

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