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

Showing only albums and live's | Based on members ratings & JMA custom algorithm

JOHN ZORN Magick Album Cover Magick
JOHN ZORN
4.86 | 6 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Sketches of Spain Album Cover Sketches of Spain
MILES DAVIS
4.50 | 38 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)
LALO SCHIFRIN
4.95 | 3 ratings
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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)
TERRY RILEY
4.66 | 6 ratings
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KEITH JARRETT Arbour Zena Album Cover Arbour Zena
KEITH JARRETT
4.54 | 9 ratings
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JACQUES LOUSSIER Baroque Favorites: Jazz Improvisations Album Cover Baroque Favorites: Jazz Improvisations
JACQUES LOUSSIER
4.75 | 4 ratings
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JAN GARBAREK Mnemosyne (with The Hilliard Ensemble) Album Cover Mnemosyne (with The Hilliard Ensemble)
JAN GARBAREK
4.50 | 4 ratings
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STEVE KUHN Pavane For A Dead Princess Album Cover Pavane For A Dead Princess
STEVE KUHN
5.00 | 1 ratings
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JACQUES LOUSSIER Bach: Goldberg Variations Album Cover Bach: Goldberg Variations
JACQUES LOUSSIER
5.00 | 1 ratings
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KEITH JARRETT Spheres Album Cover Spheres
KEITH JARRETT
5.00 | 1 ratings
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OUTWARD BOUND Outward Bound Album Cover Outward Bound
OUTWARD BOUND
5.00 | 1 ratings
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OUTWARD BOUND The Path Album Cover The Path
OUTWARD BOUND
5.00 | 1 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

WADADA LEO SMITH Occupy The World

Album · 2013 · Third Stream
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snobb
From the very early days of the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians founded in Chicago in 1965) its members were influenced by classical/composed music as much as by jazz/improvisational.Muhai Richard Abrams,Roscoe Mitchell and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith are all renowned authors of solid composed works, many of which are recorded.

"Occupy The World" is Leo's monumental two-CD conceptual album, dedicated to political tension and activism in the modern world. Smith developed his own non-metric compositional theory that he uses in his music: none of the five long (between 15 and 33 minutes) compositions have a continued theme, all the music is kind of liquid kinematic installation of rhythmic and melodic multi-layers, but it has nothing in common with esoteric/new age amorphous viscosity. Each musical layer, even more, each small element, is engineered in details. There are a lot of small spaces where each musician has some space for improvisation, so the music doesn't sound too fixed or cemented, but at the same time, there are not even minimal traces of chaos.

For listeners not very familiar with Smith's musical theories, this hour-and-half long double album sounds like something that is very close, and yet alternative at the same time, to a more traditional classical opus. These dramatic and often bombastic compositions also contains precisely included distortions and rhythmical structures that are more African than European, but all in all, this music sounds as if you're in an Opera House, not in a jazz club.

For this project, Smith and his regular collaborator bassist John Lindberg, co-operate with a leading Finnish progressive jazz orchestra (22-piece collective with harpist Iro Haarla, trumpeter Verneri Pohjola, Danish drummer Stefan Passborg, sax player Mikko Innanen on board among others). Not all the members play on every composition, Smith uses smaller sub-collectives depending on his vision and needs. Not all the compositions are really new - for example, "The Bell - 2" was originally written by Smith for the late 60s Anthony Braxton album, "3 Compositions of New Jazz".

Not an easy listen and probably even more controversial because of it being a cross-genre work, it represents one of the most ambitious and monumental pieces of music of the last couple years, not many artists around have the inspiration and faith required to still be working in this field. Wadada Leo Smith is one of the few living legends, who even in his 70s, is looking ahead.

NEIL ARDLEY A Symphony of Amaranths

Album · 1972 · Third Stream
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Sean Trane
Amongst the rare works of Neil Ardley that hadn’t received a reissue (CD or other), Symphony Of Amaranths was a major gap, and it finally found its way on Dusk ire in 2012 (much to my relief), though I didn’t find out until a few months ago. Along with its predecessor, Greek Variations, these two albums feature Ardley as a leader of Third Stream fusion (classic and jazz), and it is little wonder some draw comparison between Ardley and Gill Evans or Duke Ellington (as thought of with the previous Greek Variations). Retrospectively billed as the second staple of his “trilogy”, I find Amaranths much closer to Variations than to Kaleidoscope, but also less thrilling than the first. As for musicians, we’ll find the usual suspects, , from Lowther, Carr, Beckett, Barbara, Rendell, Heckstall-Smith, , Tracey,and Jenkins to Ricotti, Clyne, Hiseman, and many others. And in the string dept, you’ll find most of the names found on Variations as well.

The sidelong instrumental title track suite (dedicated to GE and DE) is the main course of the album, and is a good mix of classic music melted in a twirling happy big-band jazz music. The long piece goes through almost every mood, alternating between the string section and the horn section, but never afraid to cross-pollinate and present a hermaphrodite product that can either overjoy or repel the listener. Indeed, the barrier-breaking fusion can be seen as groundbreaking, but can also appear as a sell-out “Night Of The Prom” thing for those who don’t have the historical musical landmarks in mind.

The flipside opens with a big surprise with poems declaimed as narrative Dong And The Luminous Nose: I’m generally wary (if not even dismissive) of such musical cheesy exercise – even worse when rock music is involved: Tull’s Hare in Passion Play or Wakeman’s Journey or Round Table or Procol’s Something Magic - but in this case, we’re dealing with a very well written piece over texts from Edward Lear, James Joyce and Lewis Carroll that avoids cheesiness or ill-attempted humour and involves the spoken words (courtesy of Ivor Cutler) evolving to singing or almost rapping (ala Gill-Scott Heron), partly because the pace is gradually and dramatically increasing throughout, backed some tremendous instrumentation like Ricotti’s vibraphone. Ardley goes one further with Three more Poems, this time sung by the unavoidable Norma Winstone with a fun-time big band, though in this case, we’re closer to crooner singing, if it wasn’t for the advanced un-mainstream arrangements of the music behind her.

Of course, with the fad of bonus material added on to classic albums, they often don’t add up to much or are completely out of context and it is the case here, with the God Saves Tango version. Forgettable and best forgotten, really, as it kind of ruins the experience of the album.

Though SoA and GV are very audacious albums (if the present is a tad syrupy, because of the string section being too present), Ardley would go one step further (if not two) with Will Power (subtitled Shakespeare Birthday Celebration Music), but that is simply a step too far for yours truly. Thankfully enough, Ardley found the light and went back to safer grounds with the excellent Kaleidoscope Of Rainbows (76) and Harmony Of The Spheres (79), though both were quite unique and Ardley-esque in their own rights. In the meantime, Amaranths is a very solid (and unsettling) album that deserves to be heard by all Third Stream fans. And if you’re curious about the slogan of “Britain’s answer to Evans and Ellington”, you might want to check it out, to see if it isn’t usurped. Though Duke might seem a bit of a stretch (the recording technology and time lapsed is too big), comparisons with Gil are certainly valid. OK, Dusk Fire, bring on “Déjeuner Sur L’Herbe”, the last brick in Ardley’s wall.

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 · 1968 · Third Stream
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siLLy puPPy
Although TERRY RILEY actually composed his famous IN C way back in 1964, it didn't find a release as a recording until four years later. RILEY is famous for his minimalist approach to Western classical music with a healthy helping of jazz and Indian classical music as influences. Apparently the 60s was a time when composers were obsessed with finding ways to break down the barriers and limitations of the status quo by throwing all the accepted norms out the window and freeing themselves of set chord changes, scales and anything else that was thought to be “normal” for composers to accept.

IN C is interesting in that when played live it has no set duration. It can last a few minutes to several hours and every performance is improvised and therefore completely different. This one album is but a particular snapshot serving as a mere example of what you might hear if you happen to witness a live rendition. The whole thing is quite technical to explain and all the terminology including the term heterophonic which refers to different rhythmic displacements can easily be found on the internet.

Basically the whole thing begins on a C major chord with different patterns that recur by adding and subtracting different instruments. I would say it's kinda like you were walking down a very long hallway with rooms on each side and in each room there is a different instrument playing a subtly different part off of the C major chord. As you continue to walk you would hear the instruments you've already passed fade away while the ones you approach getting more prominent. Of course while all this is occurring some instruments begin and stop randomly.

It is all strange and unpredictable as to which rhythms and timbres will occur yet totally predictable as to which notes will continue during the 45 minutes of length, at least on my CD. Of course RILEY would go on to redefine music in other ways but on this album he shows that you can be academic in your approach and still make something pleasurable to listen to. Of course, this is one of those occasional listens since it is so strange as to be almost alien. I can hear how artists like Philip Glass and others were influenced by some of RILEY's approach. It seems the Acid Mother's Temple has done a version of this as well as many others.

CHARLES MINGUS Jazzical Moods, Vol. 1

Album · 1955 · Third Stream
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js
Apparently the word jazzical is supposed to imply the mixing of jazz and classical music, and in subtle and creative ways, that is what we get on one of Charles Mingus’ earliest recordings, “Jazzical Moods I”. Although some musical elements of “Moods” will appear on later Mingus records, in many ways this short album is very unique in the Mingus discography. The “classical” music that is influential on here is not of the historical variety, but instead reflects the modern harmonies of the time and often sounds like Stravinsky’s later twelve tone influenced works for small ensembles. The jazz on here is likewise modern and abstract, with odd arranged parts coming and going against interplay from soloists who seem to be working with a mix of improvisation and arrangement, although some accounts claim that most, or almost all of this music was written out.

The mixing of concert hall music with jazz is a risky endeavor, and there is plenty of cheezy music out there that is evidence to that fact, but the two genres mix seamlessly on “Jazzical Moods I” into a true hybrid that often features a walking bass that implies jazz, but these pieces could easily be played side by side at a concert with music by Milhaud or the aforementioned Stravinsky. Lots of great playing on here from folks like Thad Jones and Theo Macero, but the real plus is you get to hear Mingus on piano, whose very personal and quirky style lands him in a camp with other odd individualists like Monk and Ellington.

What is referred to as “chamber jazz” these days quite often has nothing to do with real concert hall music, but instead presents a sort of trumped up pop music played with utmost somber seriousness. “Jazzical Moods I”, on the other hand, comes from a time when chamber jazz actually meant a new and experimental combination of current tends in both jazz and concert hall music. For those who have an interest in these early 3rd stream endeavors, “Moods” is better than most, it has some real grit and soul that can sometimes be lacking in composed jazz pieces.

“Jazzical Moods I” is a product of an interesting period in jazz music, experimenters were on their own, trends had yet to be tagged and grouped by the media, and opposite camps had not yet been drawn up in an imaginary war of windmills. You won’t find too many records like this one, not even in Mingus’ discography.

JON LORD Windows

Live album · 1974 · Third Stream
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progshine
Jon Lord had been very active between all the bands he was in. Between recording and touring with Deep Purple and Whitesnake he had a solo career where he tried to fulfill his classical dream. He tried with Deep Purple in Concerto For Group And Orchestra (1970), the band wasn't that much interested, so he tried solo with Gemini Suite (1971) and then Windows (1974), his second solo album.

I think he lost himself here, Windows (1974) is quite boring and full of nonsense music. Only this last line would resume the album quite accurately, but, for the sake of the album Jon Lord was smart enough to bring in some good participations like David Coverdale and Glenn Hugues (both his partner in Deep Purple at the time). They play a good role when the moments that the music really appears. Because the rest of the time the album is just a fail try in making a 'serious composition'.

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