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

MORILD Nordic landscapes

Album · 2018 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
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js
Geographically speaking, jazz music has traveled a long ways since its birth in New Orleans long ago. As the jazz tradition moves throughout the globe it takes on different characteristics depending on the region that has adopted it next. There is no mistaking the distinct sounds of jazz from Cuba (Afro-Cuban), Brazil (bossa nova), Jamaica (ska) and England (acid jazz), which leads us to this new CD, “Nordic Landscapes”, by Morild, which features the contemporary sounds of Nordic jazz. As displayed by the music on this CD, Nordic jazz is a ‘cool’ jazz that emphasizes melody over technical solos and reflects the icy cold, yet beautiful windswept wide open landscapes and mountains of these two artists’ homelands. This is jazz for quiet reflection by the fireside, where the thoughtful melodies will help keep you warm through those long winter nights.

Morild is made up of two master musicians, Dag Einer Eilertsen on tenor trombone and Marius Noss Gundersen on classical guitar. Eilersten’s tenor trombone sounds a bit like a more mellow trumpet, which Dag plays with a breathy sound similar to Nils Petter Molvaer or 60s era Miles Davis. When Dag attaches a mute to the horn, it furthers the association with Miles in his cool mode. Gundersen is well versed in technical guitar skills as he is quite fluid in both classical music and bossa nova, but he keeps his technique in check on here as he supplies only what is needed to back up Dag’s plaintive melodies. As mentioned earlier, this is a music about inner reflection, not outward flash, Nordic soul music if you will.

All of the tunes on “Nordic Landscape” are originals, yet many carry a depth that would imply more history than just this year. Some standout tracks include “Voringsfassen”, which has a bit of Spanish heat to it, “Floyen” with its hint of bluesy jazz and “Molen”, which almost sounds like a familiar standard, but checking the credits, it is a Eilertsen original. This CD is highly recommended for fans of contemporary North European jazz, the melodic content you seek will be found in these musical tributes to the wide open landscapes of the far north.

JOACHIM KÜHN Situations

Album · 1988 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
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Steve Wyzard
NOT FOR MASSAGE THERAPY

For those of you who weren't there, the late 1980s were a very unique time in the history of jazz. Suddenly the music was acceptably hip, and was seen and heard everywhere, all with the media's full support and approval. It was what some have called the "Armani Suits/Skinny Ties" era of jazz, and many peripheral figures briefly found themselves in the spotlight for 15 minutes of fame. Such was the case for Joachim Kuhn when he released this album in early 1988.

Kuhn, best known in Europe, had been recording since the mid-1960s and was even a semi-prominent figure in the mid-1970s fusion scene. By the time Situations was released, he had already recorded a number of solo piano and piano trio albums, most of which had hideous cover art and were only sporadically available to his small-but-devoted following. When George Winston albums started going multi-platinum, Atlantic Records gave this album a major push before (naturally) dropping and forgetting all about him after the moment had passed.

So why are we discussing Situations today? Because it's a masterful solo piano album that truly transcends its release date. Don't for a moment think this is background music for candlelit dinners. The virtuosic "Delicate Pain" begins with startling vigor and passes through many tempo changes before returning to the original passionate fire it opened with. The impressionistic "Lunch in the Rain" betrays Kuhn's classical background, moving from a stately opening, through reflective moods, before reaching a crystalline peak. The best known song on this album, "Hauswomen Song" originally appeared on a compilation entitled Piano One, released on the Private Music label in late 1985. This longer version is one of Kuhn's most memorable compositions ever, brimful of hummable melodies. "Sensitive Detail" is a leisurely intermezzo before an indefinite conclusion, and the album closes with the dark-yet-warm beauty of "Refuge". Yet it's the first track, the exploratory "Situation", that most effectively captures the contemplative mood of its time.

The uncreditted package design (and the late 1980s zeitgeist) probably led many people to unfairly file this album under the dreaded moniker of "New Age". Situations far surpasses the music usually associated with that unfortunate label, and should interest far more than just Joachim Kuhn listeners. For jazz solo piano fans, this one is truly worth any efforts expended toward tracking it down. While so many contemporaries were going electric or exploring "World Music", Situations should be remembered as one of the defining statements of its era.

JOSH NELSON The Sky Remains

Album · 2017 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
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js
Josh Nelson’s “The Sky Remains” is a tough one to define. What do we have here, a modern art pop concept album, a contemporary third stream jazz album, a cinematic soundtrack to a movie not made yet? Possibly the best definition would be that this is a composer’s personal pastiche that combines all three of the aforementioned elements, but in all fairness, not all of these compositions are Josh’s, but although some of the pieces were penned by others, they all combine to create Nelson’s very moving look at a select history of the city of Los Angeles. Its hard not to think of Joni Mitchell when you encounter a bittersweet ode to ‘the city of angels’ such as “the Sky Remains”. Truth be told, sometimes Josh’s combination of thoughtful folk pop, jazz and panoramic soundscapes can recall Joni’s best work, but then there are other elements that help Josh’s work stand apart on its own.

The soundtrack like sound of this album appears right off the bat on the opening cut on which soaring wordless vocals state a theme that might have you picturing a favorite Robert Altman ‘Americana’ flick. Apparently concerts of these peices have featured movies and pictures, how perfect for a concept album about the city of movie making dreams. As we move past this opening track we encounter many great treats such as “Ah, Los Angeles, with its repeating buildup chorus recalling the heyday of great art pop in the early 70s. Russ Garcia’s enchanting “Lost Soul’s of Saturn” combines exotica and Latin jazz, its hard to think of two genres that personify Southern California more than those two. “The Architect” is the ‘jazziest’ number as it allows the soloists a chance to go off. Elsewhere, this album’s blend of creative vocal songs and jazz influenced composition blend to build the sometimes melancholy, but always hopeful atmosphere of a city that has a richer history than many would give it credit for. An added plus is a booklet that comes with the CD that explains many of the fascinating stories that inspired this music.

SIMON SAMMUT Crossing - A Visual and Music Experience

Album · 2017 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
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Carmel
As humans, we have been enamored with acts of crossing, be it literally of figuratively, since the beginning of time. There is always a point where a person crosses into something, into a field or mindset of adventure, leaving the known limits of the world of point “A” and venturing into an unknown and dangerous realm or mindset where the rules and limits are unknown to get to point “B.” Bassist and composer Simon Sammut uses the crossing as a point of inspiration, to bring meaning to the act through music. Using specific events in history and mythology, Sammut focuses his musical mind by using visual art by Anthony Catania that depicts the events related to crossing, to form the mechanics of his compositions. His new project is entitled, Crossing and it marks the combining of music and visual art, forming beauty and color. Both music and paintings expressing emotions and ideas, and in this project work together to create something truly striking and unique.

Sammut’s artistic pallet is vast on both the upright and electric bass. On the electric bass especially, his use of chords possesses a color pallet that far exceeds the usual spectrum of a bassist. He cites Jaco Pastorius as an influence, and like Jaco, Sammut’s ability to convey complex harmonies using chordal movement on the bass, is dynamic and adds a great deal to the music. Sammut additionally uses orchestral colors of voice, guitar, melodica, keyboards, percussion, electronics, brass and woodwinds. “The Tin Soldier’s Last Dance” displays this ability perfectly. Sammut’s chordal work on the bass is wonderful. The tune has a strong melody and a form that keeps the music marching forward.

On “Promethean Man,” Sammut’s inspiration is that we are not alone in our journey, but ultimately guided by a higher intelligence that is involved in our Crossing and change, the process brought to us through the world. Sammut’s upper register melody on the bass starts the melodic journey. Developing into programmed drums with keyboard swells and backing, Sammut continues to take the lead melodic role. Sammut’s bass solo is tuneful, with lines the build a story and again he uses chords in his solo in a inimitable way.

Sammut’s compositions are focused and provide a sonic delight for Crossing, taking the listener on a journey into the magical world music. The bassist’s impressionistic soundscapes contribute to the album’s success as well. Crossing is a consistently musical and entertaining listen from beginning to end. Highly Recommended, and an enlightened melding of art and sound.

ART LANDE Skylight

Album · 1981 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
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Steve Wyzard
ECM PASTORALISM

Until recent times, this was a very hard album to locate, especially in the USA - in fact, to this day, I've never seen an LP copy. Now that it's more readily available, listeners will be greatly rewarded by this one-off trio featuring Paul McCandless (Oregon) on woodwinds, Dave Samuels (Spyro Gyra/Double Image) on vibraphone and marimba, and Art Lande (Jan Garbarek/Gary Peacock/Rubisa Patrol) on piano and percussion. While no one player receives top billing, it is McCandless who dominates this material, pushing his many instruments to the absolute limit. And when I say "pastoralism", don't think "quiet and sleepy", rather "wide open spaces" or "resonant pictorial landscapes" more accurately describe the atmospheres contained within.

McCandless alternates his instruments on each track to create a wide variety of tones and timbres. The opening title track is a showpiece for soprano sax, with Lande providing Chick Corea-ish background colors. The hypnotic "Dance of the Silver Skeezix" is a quirky scherzo, with McCandless hitting some very shrill high notes on the oboe and Samuels creating kaleidoscopic textures on the marimba. "Duck in a Colorful Blanket (For Here)" is the obligatory free improv with McCandless on bass clarinet and Lande on cymbals. "Chillum" is a slow, drifting impressionistic piece for soprano sax, while the meandering "Moist Windows/Lawn Party" includes an English horn solo. The experimental "Ente (To Go)" is a duet for percussion and wood flute, and the closing "Willow" begins with piercing soprano sax only to resolve into something much dreamier.

As with many ECM recordings, some will say the music is "too classical" to be jazz, and "too jazzy" to be classical. My best recommendation would be if you enjoy the music of Lande, Samuels, and McCandless in other contexts, you should find much to appreciate here. And while it would be a stretch to consider Skylight an all-time classic, it remains to this day a thought-provoking exercise in musical pastoralism. Had it been more widely released, it might have found itself on many "Album of the Year, 1981" lists.

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