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 | 60 min. caching

JOHN ZORN Magick Album Cover Magick
4.83 | 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)
4.95 | 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)
4.66 | 6 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Sketches of Spain Album Cover Sketches of Spain
4.41 | 40 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Porgy and Bess Album Cover Porgy and Bess
4.29 | 17 ratings
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EBERHARD WEBER The Following Morning Album Cover The Following Morning
4.33 | 9 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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JACQUES LOUSSIER Baroque Favorites: Jazz Improvisations Album Cover Baroque Favorites: Jazz Improvisations
4.40 | 5 ratings
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KEITH JARRETT Arbour Zena Album Cover Arbour Zena
4.18 | 14 ratings
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EBERHARD WEBER Silent Feet Album Cover Silent Feet
4.18 | 11 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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Tarkovsky Quartet : Nuit Blanche
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third stream Music Reviews

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.

ERIC HOFBAUER Prehistoric Jazz – Volume 1(The Rite of Spring)

Album · 2014 · Third Stream
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It seems every time you turn around these days someone has a new jazz version of “The Rite of Spring” out. Possibly the recent 100 year anniversary of the piece has something to do with that. A certain high profile piano trio got a lot of attention recently for their rendition of “Rite”, but their version was turgid and unimaginative compared to this far better version by the less known guitarist Eric Hafbauer and his four creative band mates (Jerry Sabatini - trumpet, Todd Brunel - clarinet, Junko Fujiwara - cello, Curt Newton - drums). This version of “Rite” uses the melodies and structure of the original for some very imaginative improvisations that also manage to stay true to the integrity of Stravinsky’s original piece.

There are so many interesting cross-references at work here, Hofbauer seems to have thought of everything. First of all, the sound and approach of this ensemble often sounds a bit like 1920s jazz, which would have been the era in which “Rite” could have been first played as an experimental jazz piece. None of this is obvious or ‘museum like’ as Hofbauer also draws on many modern elements such as free improvisation and more. The 20s sound of the ensemble and the modern NYC eclectic influences blend seamlessly, the end result is a piece that fits well with the music of today, but could almost pass as an avant-garde piece from the 20s as well. The 20s was a very experimental time in jazz, with a lot of borrowing from modern composers, and its possible Hofbauer may be paying tribute to that.

The other interesting cross-reference comes when you notice that when “Rite” is played with this small ensemble, it sounds a lot like Stravinsky’s “History of the Soldier”. “History” was one of Igor’s follow-ups to the massive “Rite”, a small scale piece by contrast, “History” was one of his first pieces to show a strong influence from jazz, both in the instrumentation and in the music. Possibly the key to bringing all these elements together, the 20s jazz and the latter jazz influenced Stravinsky pieces, is the fact that there is a clarinet on board instead of a saxophone. Todd Brunel’s clarinet playing is what gives this rendition of “Rite” so much of its flavor. All of this may sound academic, but despite their sensitivity to nuance, Eric and his crew approach this music with sly humor and a sense of chaotic fun.

Eric Hofbauer’s version of “The Rite of Spring” never gets boring or predictable, the main melodies of the piece come and go while they mix with all manner of diversions and excursions. Eric is able to accent the modernist elements of this piece, both in the context of its time period and today, and show the connecting similarities in both decades. This rendition really brings new life to Stravinsky's creation, and I think Igor would have enjoyed hearing it. The added plus is Hofbauer’s guitar playing, which somehow can capture some of the color of Stravinsky’s original orchestrations.


Album · 2013 · Third Stream
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MAGNUM TRIO were founded as a flute ensemble trio by Jun'ichiro TAKU, Yuya KANDA, and Kazuhiro KAJIWARA in 2006, their university (Tokyo Univ. Of Arts, Japan) days. Got renowned with their marvelous flute techniques and unique original play styles, and got appreciated not only in Japan but all over the world. In 2013 they’ve released the eponymous debut album in collaboration with Yuiko YASUDA (piano) on their own. This "Magnum Trio" must let us enjoy their flute variations, funky tunes, and as a result, playing flute itself definitely.

"EyEris Waves", a track suitable for the opening of this album, sounds like fresh, cool atmosphere with complex air turbulence represented utterly with superb flute technique and multi-dimensional sound combinations. Their breath creation reminds us directly of breath by nature ... that can called also as their "human nature". Avantgarde piano play by Yuiko is another fantastic dreammare too. "Samurai Blow", exhibited in a woodwinds competition in UK, can be claimed as their masterpiece. They notify the audience of Japanese woodwinds (Shakuhachi) aka Japanese soul along with a large amount of sound variations via Western woodwinds called "flute". I'm sure there would be their magnificent intention to control breath, finger, and flute itself. Exactly originated Japanese social solidarity (called "Wa") has been launched via their systemic bodies. On the other hand, they show us East-European texture flooded with percussive blows upon the following track "Variations On Bulgaria", contrary to the previous ones. Persistent repetitive sound footprints might confuse us I guess, and the confusion in front of us should kick us away into a bulky yogurt cup. Oh what a sour.

Anyway, "Clock A Larm", characterized with brilliantly high-tone, rhythmical flute voices and pleasant tune phrases, should be needed as an alarm clock for us Magnumers (please ignore Jun's snore lol). Very easy for us to hum, isn't it? Another curiosity can gush out just when we listen to "Recollection Merry-Go-Round". IMHO suppose they'd play this stuff only with a head (top) woodwind, correct? Incredible technique and concentration needed. The sixth track "Highland Park" is the name of a Scotch distillery established on the North side in Orkney Island. I love Highland Park Single Malt Whisky, featuring peaty smokey topnote, ground / earthy flavour, and deep salty taste. This song fantastically shows flavour of ground / earth, smoke, and Bourbon / Sherry barrel. Would they visit Orkney previously? Very vivid the impression is. Jun-ichiro, btw, says he compose tunes with enjoying Highland Park 12 Years Old (on his blog), and it's fun how he shoot a creation if he could enjoy the whisky bottled more formerly (actually, deeper and earthier and esterier).

Yuiko's classical piano is splendidly beautiful in "Guilaume Lekau : Piano Quartet in B minor", where sounds like the three flutists would stand and play behind her completely (no? :P). Cannot shout "gemmy" enough, even if I did hundreds of times. On the contrary, suggest "Magnum Arab" be one of the jazziest pieces of all upon their library. Mysterious, religious veils around Arab world we can feel here and there, and at the same time, we can get immersed in their mysterious, wondrous play styles as well. The last "Magnum Bee" sounds like a bee flies around and around, very quickly and very smoothly, with loud buzz. But we feel not annoying but delightful via such a speed flute guru. Oh they might shout loudly "Hi there!" and let us keep opening the mouth forever.

Yikes. What a splendid work this debut creation was. Wish the mixing of this album could be better (cannot get deeper, louder sound explosion like Magnum, their title!), but we can say this creation can propose us their extreme, incredible flute techniques and delightful tunes. Enjoy!

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