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.

post-fusion contemporary top albums

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EBERHARD WEBER Pendulum Album Cover Pendulum
EBERHARD WEBER
4.83 | 6 ratings
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JOHN ABERCROMBIE Current Events Album Cover Current Events
JOHN ABERCROMBIE
4.88 | 4 ratings
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JOHN SURMAN Saltash Bells Album Cover Saltash Bells
JOHN SURMAN
5.00 | 3 ratings
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KEITH JARRETT Sleeper Album Cover Sleeper
KEITH JARRETT
4.64 | 7 ratings
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KEITH JARRETT Paris Concert Album Cover Paris Concert
KEITH JARRETT
4.50 | 14 ratings
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TOMASZ STAŃKO Soul Of Things Album Cover Soul Of Things
TOMASZ STAŃKO
4.88 | 3 ratings
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KETIL BJØRNSTAD The Sea Album Cover The Sea
KETIL BJØRNSTAD
4.57 | 7 ratings
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JAN GARBAREK It's OK To Listen To The Grey Voice Album Cover It's OK To Listen To The Grey Voice
JAN GARBAREK
4.58 | 6 ratings
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KEITH JARRETT The Köln Concert Album Cover The Köln Concert
KEITH JARRETT
4.34 | 30 ratings
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KEITH JARRETT Rio Album Cover Rio
KEITH JARRETT
4.50 | 6 ratings
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RALPH TOWNER Matchbook (with Gary Burton) Album Cover Matchbook (with Gary Burton)
RALPH TOWNER
4.54 | 5 ratings
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MIROSLAV VITOUS Journey's End Album Cover Journey's End
MIROSLAV VITOUS
4.67 | 3 ratings
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post-fusion contemporary Music Reviews

RALPH TOWNER Chiaroscuro (with Paolo Fresu)

Album · 2009 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
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Steve Wyzard
INCOMPARABLE LIGHT AND SHADE

With the passage of time, the trumpet has become increasingly important to ECM Records. Following in the footsteps of Tomasz Stanko and Enrico Rava, we are here introduced to Paolo Fresu, who has led many ensembles and recorded many albums (available as imports) in his native Italy. For his first widely distributed release in he western hemisphere, he is paired with long-time ECM recording artist/guitar virtuoso Ralph Towner. The two met at a festival in Italy, and decided to perform and record together as a duo.

So when was the last time you heard a guitar/trumpet duet? This album works brilliantly on every level despite taking a risk with an unusual pairing. While this is mostly reflective, introspective, meditative music, there is also way too much happening with both performers for it to remain placidly in the background. Towner, who has played on many of ECM's greatest albums (Matchbook, Solstice, Solo Concert, et al), contributes fleet-fingered picking on "Punta Giara", double-tracks a baritone guitar on "Sacred Place" and "Doubled Up", and recaptures throughout the classical/jazz/world/folk sound he has given us since the early 1970s. Fresu plays both trumpet and flugelhorn, and his tone has just enough sharp edges (especially on the title track) to avoid being dismissed as a smooth impressionist. He performs a muted tribute to Miles Davis on "Blue in Green", which receives a very different arrangement from Towner's cover with Gary Burton on 1986's Slide Show album. Chiaroscuro closes with two brief but haunting improv pieces, "Two Miniatures" and "Postlude".

It all sounds "very ECM", and one wonders why this instrumental pairing hasn't been attempted before (or if it has, why so rarely). At 46:43, the idea is not overworked and never drifts into aimless repetitiveness. Outstanding recording and booklet graphics, as always, are a given with ECM. Highly recommended for late-night listening, and for those looking for something different.

TORD GUSTAVSEN Extended Circle

Album · 2014 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
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Amilisom
Extended Circle was my introduction to the Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen and his quartet.

As an ECM release, this album lives up to its name. It is spacious, contemplative, and has a slight trace of third-stream classical romanticism. The spacious quality is most present in "Entrance", a free track where the tenor sax quietly plays notes into the dark silence, joined occasionally with high and quiet chords in the piano.

Because I was given this album as a gift, I was disappointed to find a lack of virtuosity. Rarely throughout the album does anybody play a compelling lick that I would want to transcribe and work into my own playing. However, the value in this album comes not from the licks, but from the group as a whole. The quartet does a fantastic job communicating with each other. Everybody in the group contributes perfectly to what each track is expressing. For example, the drummer and bassist are always unified in establishing the light, delicate groove in a way that could be easily messed up by other rhythm sections. Nobody ever gets in the way of any of the others, either.

In spite of its excellent execution, I would personally say this falls within the 3-3.5 star range. It's a good one, but certainly not a masterpiece.

BILL FRISELL When You Wish Upon a Star

Album · 2016 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
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js
It seems that over the years Bill Frisell has drifted further from the world of new jazz and fusion, and more into a one man genre of his own making, something that might best be called “Nostalgic Americana”. In this new ‘genre’, Frisell has positioned himself alongside such classic ‘twangy’ guitarists like Tommy Tedesco, Duane Eddy and Chet Atkins. So it is more or less within this style that Frisell presents his new CD, “When You Wish Upon a Star”, a collection of music from classic movies and TV shows, a trip down memory lane so to speak.

The music on here is a real mixed bag, tracks from “To Kill a Mockingbird”, “Psycho”, “Once Upon a Time in the West”, “The Godfather” and “The Bad and the Beautiful” present sophisticated arrangements that Frisell’s small ensemble handles with sensitivity and modern creativity. Despite the small group, Bill’s cohorts do a great job with their orchestrations and manage to sound much fuller than five people. Special mention should go to the subtle wordless vocals of Petra Haden. On the negative side, there are other cuts that might seem trite or downright corny, for instance; “Bonanza”, "Moon River", “Happy Trails”, and a few others. After a while it becomes obvious that the real make or break for this CD is how attached one might be to movie themes and that whole attractive nostalgia that tends to surround classic movie culture. In short, those who might want to make a big bowl of popcorn and grab a box of Kleenexes for the inevitable misty eyes will find a lot to like here, “When You Wish Upon a Star” presents the perfect atmosphere for such rememberances, but if you are looking for some new jazz, you best mosy along pardner.

JOHN SURMAN Saltash Bells

Album · 2012 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
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Steve Wyzard
APOCALYPTICALLY IRRESISTIBLE!!!

Let me put it to you straight: if you own and love Upon Reflection (1979), Withholding Patterns (1985), and/or Road to Saint Ives (1990), you absolutely, positively MUST hear Saltash Bells. As of this writing, John Surman has now dwelt among for 7 decades, and while it's too soon to tell if this album will be his definitive masterpiece, this utterly compelling solo statement MUST be heard to be believed. And while Surman has recorded a number of solo albums over the years (some more successful/memorable than others), Saltash Bells is truly special, different, and one for the ages.

Inspired by his beloved Cornish countryside, we are given no other clues regarding the songs' titles or the album's thematic concept; the only liner notes are a "thank you" to his son for help with electronics. Unlike some of his previous, more measured albums, we are instantly aware of the busier, percolating synths beneath his soloing on the opener, "Whistman's Wood". "Glass Flower" is a showpiece for alto, bass, and contrabass clarinets. "On Staddon Heights" begins hauntingly only to become the album's most rhythmic track: with the magic of multi-tracking, soprano sax leads soar over baritone sax bass lines. "Triadichorum" is a short piece for three baritone saxes. Too lively to be elegiac, "Winter Elegy" is probably the most "traditional" Surman composition: a repetitive synth pattern is joined by a rumbling, tidal contrabass clarinet before tenor and soprano sax lines are contrapuntally woven into a musical tapestry.

The baritone solo "AElfum" is merely a prelude to the album's most awe-inspiring number, the End-Of-All-Days title track. There is almost too much going on here for mortal comprehension with who-knows-how-many horns in the multi-tracking arrangement of the century. What "Desireless" is to Jan Garbarek, "Saltash Bells" is now to John Surman. Opening with random tinkling synths and closing with sampled church bells, this mind-bending exercise in canon will no doubt repay hours of listening and re-listening. Before the mood grows a little too serious, Surman throws us a curveball with two jaunty, upbeat songs. "Dark Reflections" (a mass of soprano saxes) is angular, perky, and hypnotic, while "The Crooked Inn" features baritone and soprano bouncing off one another to almost humorous effect. A harmonica is introduced in the album's closer, "Sailing Westwards". All folky and countryish connotations are dashed to bits when a gurgling baritone is joined by piercing soprano over a rolling boil of synths before fading to a murmur of chirping insects. Unreal!

John Surman's gift for saxophone/woodwind melody is unparalleled, and the career renaissance that began with 2009's group album Brewster's Rooster continues unabatedly with the solo Saltash Bells. This is no wistful gaze backwards before riding off into the sunset, but an aggressive, jaw-dropping statement of virtuosic proportions. This album cannot be recommended more highly, especially to those with previous exposure to Surman's magical music. And at 59:13, it's not too much of a good thing. Only one questions remains: why did it take three years from recording (June 2009) to release (June 2012)?

TOMASZ STAŃKO Suspended Night

Album · 2004 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
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Steve Wyzard
ALBUM OF THE DECADE

I wish there were some way words could convey not only what a huge surprise this album was when it was released, but also how it has almost single-handedly re-defined and re-invigorated jazz in the 21st century. ECM Records has raised the stakes by placing a sticker on the shrink-wrap with a quote from The Guardian: "If everyone who owned Kind of Blue heard Stanko's new album, it would top the charts tomorrow." The point of comparison, while understandable, is a bit of a stretcher: Kind of Blue has two saxophonists, five titled tracks, and runs almost 25 minutes shorter. Still, for everyone who appreciates what has been described as "2AM jazz" (moody, atmospheric, unhurried, haunted), Suspended Night absolutely MUST be heard to be believed.

Trumpeter Tomasz Stanko returned to the ECM label in the early 1990s and released a few experimental albums that didn't attract much attention. Everyone took notice in 2002 with the release of Soul of Things, where he introduced his new quartet (Marcin Wasilewski, piano, Slawomir Kurkiewicz, double bass, Michal Miskiewicz, drums/cymbals) on 13 lively, adventurous but unnamed tracks. Much deeper and broader in scope, Suspended Night not only fulfills the potential indicated by the previous album, but also escapes into entirely new and different directions. Only very rarely does 69:07 pass so quickly, and every note is magic. If Soul of Things can be described as "uptown", Suspended Night is simply "timeless".

There's no point in describing all 11 tracks or discussing individual solos, as all four players are at the top of their game. There is, however, one absolutely definitive composition that should instantly erase any pre-existing misconceptions (such as "it's morose/slow/gloomy"). "Suspended Variation II" opens on the bass, before adding piano, trumpet, and drums. The unforgettable melody line is almost playful (yes, it swings!) and excitement builds with each solo and return to the opening theme before a memorable, sudden ending. If the world's few remaining jazz radio/satellite stations would only play this track, it would do far more to build interest than comparisons to Miles Davis. And so it goes throughout: Stanko shares so much of the spotlight with his young trio that he's almost a guest on his own album. Listen to the percussive intro and false ending of "Suspended Variation III", or the uptempo "Suspended Variation VIII" to hear his most fiery playing on the album. The imaginative "Suspended Variation V" introduces tension with a wildly angular bass line, while "Suspended Variation VII" is wholly improvised. The closing "Suspended Variation X" is obviously the resolute "last call of the evening" number, with awe-inspiring cymbals playing over a slow fade to black.

Suspended Night is one of those albums that many people will discover simply via word-of-mouth long after its release, and then wonder "Why didn't I know about this before now?" All ECM recordings are exquisitely produced, engineered, and mastered, but this one is truly special, exemplary in a very crowded field. 2004 was a stellar year for recorded jazz, but Suspended Night is the ne plus ultra and is an almost shoo-in candidate for album of the decade. There is no shortage of jazz featuring great playing/writing/atmospheres, but the Tomasz Stanko Quartet has now perfectly married all three together. This is one for the ages: no comparisons necessary!

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