Third Stream

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Third stream is a term coined by composer Gunther Schuller to desribe music that attempts to mix jazz with classical concert hall music. Jazz caught the ear of many composers in the early 20th century and soon Ravel, Debussy, Stravinsky and others began to put elements of American ragtime into their music. French composer Darius Milhaud furthered these experiments that culminated in George Gershwin's 'Blue Monday' and 'Rhapsody in Blue', two pieces which represented some of the first truly successful fusions of jazz and concert hall music.

From the jazz side of things, early attempts at classical influence came from Duke Ellington, Artie Shaw, Woody Herman, Bix Beiderbecke, James P. Johnson and others. Gunther Schuller and John Lewis' 'Third Stream Music', which combined a string quartet with a cool jazz combo, was one of the first entirely successful concert hall pieces by a jazz composer.

In today's music world, Third Stream often refers to compositions that have some element of jazz. At JMA, the Third Stream genre is also where you will find jazz or jazz related music that relies on composition more than improvisation.

third stream top albums

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TERRY RILEY In C (Members of the Center of the Creative and Performing Arts in the State University of New York at Buffalo feat. conductor & saxophone: Terry Riley) Album Cover In C (Members of the Center of the Creative and Performing Arts in the State University of New York at Buffalo feat. conductor & saxophone: Terry Riley)
4.66 | 7 ratings
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JOHN ZORN Magick Album Cover Magick
4.44 | 8 ratings
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LALO SCHIFRIN The Dissection and Reconstruction of Music From the Past (aka Blues for Johann Sebastian aka Marquis de Sade) Album Cover The Dissection and Reconstruction of Music From the Past (aka Blues for Johann Sebastian aka Marquis de Sade)
4.67 | 3 ratings
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JAN GARBAREK Mnemosyne (with The Hilliard Ensemble) Album Cover Mnemosyne (with The Hilliard Ensemble)
4.50 | 4 ratings
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BOBBY PREVITE Rhapsody / Terminals Part II : In Transit Album Cover Rhapsody / Terminals Part II : In Transit
4.49 | 4 ratings
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JACQUES LOUSSIER Baroque Favorites: Jazz Improvisations Album Cover Baroque Favorites: Jazz Improvisations
4.40 | 5 ratings
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EBERHARD WEBER Silent Feet Album Cover Silent Feet
4.18 | 11 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Sketches of Spain Album Cover Sketches of Spain
4.09 | 45 ratings
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EBERHARD WEBER The Following Morning Album Cover The Following Morning
4.10 | 10 ratings
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TERRY RILEY A Rainbow in Curved Air (aka Ambient 2) Album Cover A Rainbow in Curved Air (aka Ambient 2)
4.09 | 9 ratings
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DAVE HOLLAND Life Cycle Album Cover Life Cycle
4.08 | 6 ratings
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KEITH JARRETT Spheres Album Cover Spheres
4.12 | 4 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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third stream Music Reviews

BOBBY PREVITE Rhapsody / Terminals Part II : In Transit

Album · 2018 · Third Stream
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In year 1971 Carla Bley's massive 6-sides eclectic jazz-rock opera "Escalator Over The Hill" became sensation of sort presenting bulky if way-too-long collection of musical genres and scenes' stars all mixed together. Where else dedicated listener had the possibility to hear Jack Bruce, Linda Ronstadt,Jeanne Lee,Don Cherry,Charlie Haden,Gato Barbieri,Roswell Rudd,John McLaughlin,Paul Motian,Enrico Rava and some others playing/singing together?

London-based RareNoise label for some last years trying hard mixing their basic prog/rock aesthetics with creative jazz and improvs elements, at their best the results are truly impressive. Last year they released unpredictable "Loneliness Road" where mainstream jazz rooted trio of organist Jamie Saft,bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Bobby Previte is improved with Iggy Pop(!) singing on three songs ("Don't Lose Yourself" is a true killer, two others are just fillers though).

Now they continues with Bobby Previte's "Rhapsody" - second in line American drummer and composer's suite where (as almost half a century ago on Carla's "Escalator...") one can hear some leading modern creative scene's musicians playing together. Guitarist Nels Cline,harpist Zeena Parkins,pianist John Medeski are well known to everyone familiar with downtown scene, American (of SE Asian descent) vocalist Jen Shyu is one of the brightest new name among creative jazz vocalists of today. Only dark horse in a list is young Austrian sax player Fabian Rucker, but he does his job really well.

Most important is still music itself - Previte demonstrates here well-framed and tightly composed modern rock opera rooted in prog rock aesthetics of the past (there are few moments sounding as citation from Pink Floyd music of mid 70s),but deeply reworked according to new millennium requirements. Take on material is almost classical with attention to details and melodic lines importance. Combined with neo-classical/Far Eastern trad vocals of Jen (plus tasteful addition of Chinese traditional string instrument erhu sounds, played by her as well) it produces music, which could sound more comfortably in modern opera than on rock scene. Still guitar licks and explosive sax solos together with high energetic level in general make whole music quite accessible and possibly attractive for listeners,more familiar with rock music too.

Freshly sounding, diverse and modern (with respect to different traditions), "Rhapsody" is a really successful release which can attract listeners of very different background/interests.

OLIVER LAKE Oliver Lake Featuring FLUX Quartet ‎: Right Up On

Album · 2017 · Third Stream
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kev rowland

Oliver Lake is showing no signs at all of slowing down, even though he released his debut album as long ago as 1974, and continues to play and record with a variety of ground-breaking jazz groups. He has been working with the Flux quartet since 2002, and this album is their first collaboration together. Somewhat unusually, this isn’t a collaboration in the sense one would normally expect, but instead features The Flux Quartet performing seven of Oliver’s compositions for string quartet, and he only joins them on alto sax for three of these.

The result is something that is grounded in jazz, but with real avant-garde and classical stylings. This is as abrasive as it is compelling, and while never easy to listen to has a depth and breaking soul that cries out to be heard. I have never heard strings played as harshly as this, the beguiling sound one normally expects is nowhere to be heard, and instead we have music that wouldn’t be out of place on a kitsch Seventies Italian horror noir. This certainly isn’t music for the fainthearted, yet for those who are brave enough to keep turning this up there is a very special world indeed to be discovered. To my poor old jaded ears this is fresh, invigorating, compelling and immediate. From the first note to the very last I was intrigued and excited, as these musicians combine to create something incredibly significant.

HENRY THREADGILL Old Locks and Irregular Verbs

Album · 2016 · Third Stream
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Henry Threadgill's "Old Locks And Irregular Verbs" is an exceptional album, one among few released this year. Living AACM legend, Threadgill is high respected not only among avant-garde jazz fans. His music is almost always tuneful, well structured and being adventurous as rule is quite easy accessible.

"Old Locks..." are different beast though. It's a tribute to "improvisation conduction" pioneer Butch Morris, and it represents Threadgill as a composer (he doesn't play here at all). Four parts suite is played by a bit unusual (but probably expected from Threadgill) band - two star-pianists(Jason Moran and David Virelles), two alto saxophonists,cellist,tuba player and drummer. Music itself is closer to Threadgill's AACM colleague Wadada Leo Smith's more current monumental works, but perfectly avoiding later's often bombastic monumentalism.

In fact, "Old Locks..." are one of quite rare successful examples of brewing (modern) classics and jazz - being pre-composed, all album sounds extremely fresh and dynamic, full of jazz swings and freer soloing.Strictly looking, it is not jazz mixed with classics anymore, it is the new music rooted in both but distanced far enough from both to be accepted as independent genre.

Quite different from more regular Threadgill recordings,this music has his signature with no doubt - in tunes, light and optimistic atmosphere surprisingly successfully combined with New Orleans funeral marches echoing. It's not like such work is exclusive for Threadgill - everyone familiar with his obscure Zoid's debut album remembers for sure how strange it sounded offering two amorphous percussive pieces closer to minimalism than to usual Threadgill's full-blood pulsating jazz (tuba player Jose Davila plays on both above mentioned albums). But for listeners waiting for "another Threadgill" who's expectation are based on his more regular music, this album brings a surprise.

One can hardly mention bad or even average album, released by Threadgill, "Old Locks And Irregular Verbs" is not only good, it opens some new horizons. Not often such thing happens on modern jazz scenes.

WILLIAM PARKER For Those Who Are, Still

Live album · 2015 · Third Stream
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Bassist William Parker is a living legend who started his musical career in early 70s playing with Don Cherry and Cecil Taylor among many others. During last five years he released series of collection of previously unissued recordings, coming from different time periods, but "For Those Who Are ,Still" is most probably most unusual of them all. In fact this 3CD-set contains most unorthodox music recorded by Parker in new Millennium and it doesn't look all that strange none of it has been released before.

Opener "For Fannie Lou Hamer" is 28-minutes long composition,recorded live in 2000 (all other albums music has been recorded between 2011 and 2013). Ten-piece combo with strings plays chamber composition with Leena Conquest soprano vocals and some recitatives,which represents William Parker as composer (he doesn't play here at all). Rest of the CD 1 contains studio recordings of same vocalist but in support of Parker-led acoustic drumless trio (and recorded eleven years later). It still sound a bit chamber, but much freer and minimalist comparing with earlier orchestrated version.Leena's vocals recalls Swiss vocalist Irene Aebi singing,known from some Steve Lacy albums.

Second set's CD "Red Giraffe With Dreadlocks" is world music ecstatic mix containing two traditional Indian singers singing against avant-garde jazz sextet,playing drones and ritual chants seriously reworked in modern creative jazz manner. Even with such heavyweights as pianist Cooper-Moore and percussionist Hamid Drake (besides of Parker on bass)second CD often sounds more as contemporary experiments with Indian traditional music than as jazz.

Third and last CD contains "Ceremonies For Those Who Are Still" - ten-piece suite recorded live in Poland by Parker-led trio (with sax player Charles Gayle and drummer Mike Reed)with local symphonic orchestra and choir. This part sounds quite a lot as chamber music spiced by jazz trio's inserts here and there. As set's opener,all other compositions till this place are all Parkers's originals.

Set closes with 25-minutes long free jazz trio's improvisation (actually recorded by above mentioned Parker-Gayle-Reed trio right before above suite during same concert in Poland). In fact,"Escapade For Sonny"(set's closer title)is the only true jazz song on all release, and it sounds great but too predictable comparing with all what sounded right before.

"For Those Who Are, Still" is a long album, and music presented here is very different and as rule quite unorthodox even for William Parker fans. Still for those interested in modern searches rooted in advanced jazz and all open ears listeners this is a perfect release, one of the best among jazz and jazz related music albums,released this year.

VIJAY IYER Mutations

Album · 2014 · Third Stream
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American pianist Vijay Iyer ECM debut opens with "Spellbound And Sacrosanct, Cowrie Shells And The Shimmering Sea" - solo piano composition,coming from his first ever album, released in 1995 (Memorophilia,Asian Improv Records ‎– AIR 0023). But on "Mutations" this song sounds not like free improv, but as well-composed chamber piece. "Vuln,part 2" coming next changes the mood radically - Iyer's piano sounds are walking over deep electronics pulsation more common on ambient or left-field recordings.

Rest of the album is completed with one long suite,composed by Iyer and played by him (on piano and electronics) and strings quartet."Mutations I-X" is perfect title for music presented under that title - mostly pre-composed,it flows changing its form,mood and timbres but staying generally almost the same. All compositions are minimalist,with lot of space and cross-stylistic by their origin. Strings quartet (cello,viola and two violins) sound sometimes chamber,but more often - dark,dissonant or even streetwise(in places their droning recalls "Apocalyptica plays Metallica" aesthetics). Iyer plays very ascetic piano here and there, more often he's a source of different electronic voices and noises.

Main pleasant surprise with "Mutations.." is that being a product of many (and often polar)influences,music here doesn't sound chaotic or eclectic. All techniques and aesthetics are so carefully used that final product sounds as new unity,tasteful,stylish,ambitious and accessible at the same time.

As many cross-genre recordings of similar origin, "Mutations" isn't music for everyone's ear. Jazz purists wouldn't find much jazz here (probably not at all),chamber snobs will be shocked by flippant use of electronics,noise and drones combining it with string quartet's music,but fans of advanced (and very cinematographic,or probably better to say - modern theater soundtrack-like)music will find lot of joy and new ideas here. Excellent Vijay ECM debut - opening label's already a bit conservative doors wider.

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