Fusion

Jazz music community with review and forums

Rock and RnB came from jazz in the 1940s via the jump blues genre. Needless to say, over the years jazz, rock and RnB have enjoyed a close relationship and have cross-influenced each other from the beginning. In the mid to late 60s, rock and RnB under went major changes with rock becoming much louder and more experimental under the influence of artists such as Jimi Hendrix and Cream, while RnB became more syncopated and abstract with the new funk sound created by James Brown, Bootsy Collins, Sly Stone and Larry Graham. Meanwhile, Latin jazz was undergoing similar experimental changes under the guidance of artists such as Hermato Pascoal and Flora Purim.

At this point in the mid to late 60s, any intersection between jazz, rock, funk and Latin became a radically different form of music that eventually came to be called fusion. Pioneers in the world of fusion include Larry Coryell, Jermy Steig, Gary Burton, Don Ellis, Chico Hamilton, Charles Lloyd, Jack DeJohnette, John McLaughlin, Tony Williams, Soft Machine, Brian Auger, Miles Davis, Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea and Dreams (Billy Cobham and the Brecker Brothers)

fusion top albums

Showing only albums and live's | Based on members ratings & JMA custom algorithm | 24 hours caching

MILES DAVIS In a Silent Way Album Cover In a Silent Way
MILES DAVIS
4.68 | 113 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Bitches Brew Album Cover Bitches Brew
MILES DAVIS
4.58 | 101 ratings
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MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA The Inner Mounting Flame Album Cover The Inner Mounting Flame
MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA
4.58 | 79 ratings
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HERBIE HANCOCK Crossings Album Cover Crossings
HERBIE HANCOCK
4.57 | 61 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Live at the Fillmore East (March 7, 1970): It's About That Time Album Cover Live at the Fillmore East (March 7, 1970): It's About That Time
MILES DAVIS
4.71 | 12 ratings
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MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA Birds of Fire Album Cover Birds of Fire
MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA
4.49 | 81 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Dark Magus: Live at Carnegie Hall Album Cover Dark Magus: Live at Carnegie Hall
MILES DAVIS
4.54 | 30 ratings
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EDDIE HENDERSON Realization Album Cover Realization
EDDIE HENDERSON
4.58 | 16 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Big Fun Album Cover Big Fun
MILES DAVIS
4.49 | 35 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Pangaea Album Cover Pangaea
MILES DAVIS
4.49 | 28 ratings
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PAT METHENY Pat Metheny Group : The Way Up Album Cover Pat Metheny Group : The Way Up
PAT METHENY
4.46 | 30 ratings
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LES MCCANN Invitation to Openness Album Cover Invitation to Openness
LES MCCANN
4.58 | 11 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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fusion Music Reviews

ANDY SUMMERS Earth + Sky

Album · 2003 · Fusion
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Steve Wyzard
21ST CENTURY SUMMERS

After recording two tribute albums to Monk and Mingus, guitarist Andy Summers returns to his own compositions on 2003's Earth + Sky. By this time in his career, Summers had long since eschewed the pop/commercial sounds that had made him world famous. With a long string of mostly instrumental albums behind him, Summers no longer even had a record label to release his work in the USA (I had to import my copy from Germany).

For all the comparisons Summers receives with guitarists like Robert Fripp and David Torn (both of whom he has recorded with), on Earth + Sky his sound palette is much closer to someone like Kevin Eubanks than ever before. Listen to tracks such as the light and airy "Now I'm Free" or "Return" and you will hear this album leans more toward the jazz end of the spectrum. Then there's his trademark boundary-pushing on the title track (a multi-layered guitar extravaganza), "Circus" (where his bluesy lines are doubled with a saxophone), and "Red Stiletto" with its brash chords that lead to a funky jam. When you hear the opening drum flourish on "Above the World", you can be forgiven for thinking it's Stewart Copeland sitting in. Actually it's Vinnie Colaiuta, who at various times all but steals the aural spotlight away from the other players. Summers is also backed by longtime session bassist Abraham Laboriel and two keyboardists who effectively capture the "Fender Rhodes through a Leslie cabinet" tones that add a touch of fusion timelessness.

Acoustic guitar textures are heard on "Parallels" and "Roseville", and the album closes with the ambient blues of "I Choose You". At 51:08, this album doesn't overstay its welcome, although some listeners might have wanted more of the guitar-synth weirdness found on albums such as 1990's Charming Snakes (which receives my vote as his solo masterpiece). Earth + Sky effortlessly brings Summers into the 21st Century, and his compositions and guitar tones are more relevant than ever. If you are a long-time Summers listener, there is much to enjoy here, and this album is highly recommended.

TRITONE ASYLUM The Hideaway Sessions

Album · 2022 · Fusion
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js
I’m not really sure how the band Tritone Asylum got their name. The tri tone is the name of the most dissonant harmony in western music. When I first heard this band name, I expected some severe avant-garde jazz of the blaring horns variety, but instead, the Asylum performs fusion that is energetic and creative, but also quite often ‘radio friendly’. This is a Los Angeles based collective led by Phil Topping and Peter Sepsis. Peter plays the bass and Phil, who was originally a trumpet player, had to switch to EVI (Electronic Valve Instrument) because of an injury to his lip. They cite Herbie Hancock, Eddie Harris, The Brecker Brothers and Pat Metheny as influences. The performers on here are top notch, and the songs are often good too, although there are some that are better than others.

“Grasshopper”, one of the best tracks, leads things off with an ear candy melody voiced with double tracked trumpets that recall Herb Alpert, and that is a complement. There are two ballads on the album, the best of which is “The Road to Hue”, on which flute and electronic instruments blend for a nice pastoral effect. “Malawi” features Baba Sissoko, from Mali, on vocals and percussion. The song’s syncopated rhythm brings out the best in the soloists, particularly pianist Mitch Forman who builds an almost orchestral solo on top of the rhythmic foundation. The best cut for jamming is the live, “Simple”, featuring Ian Vo’s swinging tenor sax and the searing electric guitar of Andy Waddell. These are all good points, on the down side there are a couple tracks that just don’t seem to elevate as well. The EVI, (not to be confused with EVO), may be an acquired taste for some. At best, it sounds like a keyboard synthesizer, at worst it seems to have a wobbly intonation and a very wide track vibrato at times. Overall though, this is a solid fusion album that features some very top notch soloists

FREDDIE HUBBARD Straight Life

Album · 1971 · Fusion
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Steve Wyzard
SUNSET SHADOWS

Let's address the elephant in the room right away: Freddie Hubbard's Straight Life album will always live in the shadow of its predecessor, Red Clay. There are those of us who believe this comparison is unfair, despite the two very different albums being recorded only 10 months apart. Yet as ground-breaking as the Red Clay album is, it's Straight Life that remains the far more awe-inspiring session of the two, even with its slightly shorter running time.

Straight Life gives us two long jams with an all-star group, and one classic ballad performed as a trio. As soon as you hear Freddie's trade-offs with Jack DeJohnette that open "Straight Life", you will know you're about to hear something special. The first big solo goes to Joe Henderson (tenor sax): a true 4-minute monster that will erase any doubt on whether he belongs among the all-time greats. Then it's Freddie's turn, before Herbie Hancock (banging away on electric piano), George Benson (guitar), and DeJohnette (drums) are given space to strut their stuff before Hubbard returns to wrap it all up. "Mr. Clean" has Hubbard and Henderson playing the main theme in tandem before and between everyone's solo spaces. This track moves and grooves more deliberately than the previous one, and Benson features more prominently. The album closes with a truly beautiful version of "Here's that Rainy Day". Hubbard and Benson duet before being joined by bassist Ron Carter, a truly memorable finish to a truly classic album (with no lost/missing tracks on subsequent re-issues).

So what's not to like? The critical orthodoxy will insist these songs are not compositions, but simply backdrops for soloing (as if that's a bad thing). Occasionally the musical textures (which also include a very busy percussionist, Richie Landrum) can become cluttered, but with all this firepower, why not use it? It was probably strongly suggested to Freddie that he make another Red Clay, but thankfully he didn't, and the jazz world is better for it. Hubbard's future CTI albums would add strings/horns/woodwinds (without Herbie Hancock), and just never be as downright masterful as Straight Life always will be.

MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA Apocalypse

Album · 1974 · Fusion
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js
Apocalypse” was the third album for Mahavishnu Orchestra and saw the band going through some changes. The first two albums were probably some of the most divisive albums in jazz history. There was nothing subtle about Mahavishnu’s first two outings. Their heavy rock approach and bombastic sound were a turn off to many jazzers, but a definite attraction to the prog rock crowd who flocked to them in droves. As if the band was not cumbersome enough already, this third album was recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra, a sign that the big prog rock sensibilities might reign supreme on this one, but upon hearing it, fortunately its not really all that. To their credit, Mahavishnu always had top notch musicians and their fiery solos could raise the roof, and with this third album they raise that ante with some new exciting players. Bassist Ralphe Armstrong and violinist Jean-Luc Ponty were just a notch above the people they replaced and now McLaughlin finally had some people in the band who could hold their own against him. Michael Walden replacing Billy Cobham was a fairly even trade and Walden does a great job of fitting into the Cobham style while supplying his own unique syncopations and energy.

The first side of the album presents a surprisingly coherent musical vision as John steps up as a worthy composer and arranger fitting band and orchestra passages together to build a dynamic musical piece. Some highlights include a heavy string motif that sounds like a cross between Mussorgsky and King Crimson and a middle section where John lays down a repeating impossibly funky riff, one of his best since “Jack Johnson”. The closing ballad, sung by Gayle Moran, is one of the finest bits of composition in McLaughlin’s long career. On side two, things get a bit more disjointed, but separate sections still have nice things to offer. There is one high energy trio jam with John, Ralphe and Michael that allows Armstrong to show what an incredible bass player he is, but it is marred by an overly processed sound on the guitar. On the bad side of things, the section towards the end that features furious trading of fours with a string section is just kind of ridiculous, this is the sort of excess that dragged down many a 70s prog rock opus.

STANLEY CLARKE Stanley Clarke

Album · 1974 · Fusion
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Steak Handsome
This Stanley Clarke album is for me as a newcommer to fusion jazz a real revelation. It has some of the finest drumming I have heard, and nice bass parts which is why I found Stanley Clarke. I have heard almost all the albums of Return to forever and find them very fine, but I like this album more, and find it great all the way. I have earlier listened to Jan Hammer and when it comes to make the keyboard parts great he is almost as good as Chick Corea. All in all this is a great album for new listeners who come from progrock or heavy rock, and if it is given a chance it will be an album that can be heard over and over again.

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WEATHER REPORT Live in Germany 1971

Movie · 2010 · Fusion
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Sean Trane
Well if the world still has to find some live recording from the very first studio all-star line-up (not likely, though), at least we've got now something very close to and we can even see the quintet at work with this just-as-famous version in the form of a German TV show called the Beat Club. With only Airto Moreira gone, replaced by Brazilian countryman Um Romao, the other four being Vitous, Shorter, Mouzon and Zawinul, Weather Report embarked on this TV show adventure not knowing that Alphonse Mouzon would leave the band in a while.

As you'd expect this broadcast consisted mainly of tracks from the debut album, but some are fairly different as WR always made improvisation their force. So you'll recognize 'Umbrellas generic structure, but drafted fairly differently, not just because of Romao's constant change of percussions instruments - he's one of the visual focus of the group, who otherwise remains fairly static and even blows a flute (and later some whistles) for a short while. One of the big difference between the studio album and this broadcast is that Miroslav has taken up the electric bass (his contrabass is still very present but mainly played with a bow), thus allowing even more energy to invade the quintet's shared space. The group's steaming-hot improvised fusion is simply awesome and flows naturally from your speakers like a river of fresh lave spewing out from your volcanic woofers.

Clearly the gravitational centre of the band is Zawinul's Rhodes, but it is clear that it is the group's tightness its main force. Morning Lake is much needed breathing space, starting out slowly with Shorter's sax signalling the dawn for Romao's birdsongs. Just past that Dom pulls an Brazilian berimbau . Drummer Alphonse sings funkilly (rather well, too) a rare sung track in the closing medley, but it's will veer into the Dr Honoris Causa - later on the Body Electric album.

A while later, Mouzon would leave the band and be replaced by drummer Erik Gravatt and this line-up would go on to record Body Electric and the Tokyo concert (released in 77, but part of it in the ISTBE album) and in the process become the definitive line-up of the Vitous- era Weather Report But for now, this German TV broadcast is an inestimable witness of the group's almost original line-up, and is just as essential as their debut album, the Tokyo concert or Body Electric.Too bad it's relatively short, though. Run for this baby...

DIXIE DREGS Live At The Montreaux Jazz Festival

Movie · 2005 · Fusion
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Slartibartfast
This was the Dixie Dregs lineup that I first come to know live and otherwise. The Montreaux Jazz Festival performance was used for side two of the LP Night of the Living Dregs. I had no idea the concert was filmed. This represents the band at their prime. Keyboardist Mark Parrish, would soon be replaced by T Lavitz, who is a better keyboard player, but this as this performance testifies, he was no slouch either. Oddly enough, the back cover of this DVD shows a band picture with the original keyboardist from Freefall, Steve Davidowski (guess there was only room for one Steve in this band). Steve Morse was at his most inspired around this time, even though he has certainly grown in skill over the years.

The set list is a little disappointing as it lacks some of the prime cuts from What If (Night Meets Light, Odyssey, Travel Tunes, What If), but I'm not complaining. Now I have something more than just memories of the many Dregs shows I saw back then. It is more of a forward looking set which includes Attila The Hun, that didn't show up on an album until three years later. Also of note, but of less interest to progressive rock fans, is the bluegrass style ditty, Kathreen, never released on a regular album, but only showed up on their demo album, The Great Spectacular, from 1975. If you have a copy of that album, you have something rare, indeed.

Thrown in for bonus are two live TV appearances, one on American Can'tstand (Bandstand) and one on Don Kirschner's Rock Concert. On the former, you get to see them both try out a vocalist, in an attempt to appeal to a more mainstream audience, and with Mark O'Connor, who only played with them for one album, but a few great live shows before the band disbanded for a few years.

As great as the band studio albums were, the live shows took things to an even higher level. Now you can see what you missed, unless you didn't.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN Abstract Logix Live! / The New Universe Music Festival 2010

Movie · 2011 · Fusion
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js
Abstract Logix’s New Universe Festival of 2010 was probably one of the more significant fusion concerts in recent history, and it is all captured in excellent form on this concert video. Many of the top names in current fusion are here and what a great varied and colorful approach they all bring to this music that will always be associated with its 70s roots. Ranjit Barot fuses fusion with Indian flavors and orchestral music, Human Element bring back the beautiful noise and chaos that has been absent since the early days of jazz-rock, Wayne Krantz takes on the modern NYC flavor with his harsh jarring free funk, Jimmy Herring plays sentimental, sometimes delicate, progressive rock flavored fusion, and of course the great John McLaughlin rounds it all up with high speed post bop mixed with funk and contemporary fusion. Every single performance is top notch and very convincing in letting us know that there is still plenty of life left in this sometimes maligned genre.

The music on here is great, but the video itself is even better. Its amazing how far concert videos have come over the years. This one is clear as a bell and features lots of accurate close-ups of the musicians as they display their virtuoso skills. They say that fusion is a musician’s music, if that is the case, then this video is a great learning tool for the aspiring player. Much of the footage on here goes right to the source and features the musician’s hands as they work their scales and fret boards. Any aspiring fusionist can pick up a lifetime of high speed licks and extended technique by studying this video and even stop-starting it it frame by frame. Long gone are the days of vague camera angles from way far away and pointless shots of musicians grimacing while they play, this video is all about accuracy and showing you exactly how this music goes down. This is a spirited and enthusiastic concert and highly recommended for fans of modern fusion.

MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA Live At Montreux 74/84

Movie · 2007 · Fusion
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Slartibartfast
The 1984 appearance of the MO was a lineup that didn't have any of the previous MO lineup of musicians except for John. Still there was a pretty impressive roster. Jonas Hellborg, on bass, steals the show. I suspect he's been rather influenced by Jaco at this point. Also, we also have Bill Evans, fairly fresh out of his stint saxing with Miles Davis. There's also a fine drummer, Danny Gottlieb, who'd played with Pat Metheny prior. Don't know much about Mitchell Forman. With John experimenting with the Synclavier Guitar so much, the keyboards are almost redundant in this ensemble. I had a hard time sitting through this at first. It definitely has that '80's taint, if you know what I mean. But I've warmed up to it. It's a bit like an attempt to return to the magic of the original lineup that doesn't quite get there. Still, if you judge it in the context of the time, it's not too bad.

I got this for one reason and one reason only, it was the two video bits from the Apocalypse lineup of Mahavishu Orchestra. Actually calling them bits isn't quite accurate. Wings of Karma and Hymn to Him are actually decently long pieces. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had some actual orchestra musicians with them there at Montreaux. The first inkling I got that there was some live footage from this MO lineup was a poor quality video of Smile of the Beyond on a certain video clip web site many of us know of. It's very disappointing that we only get two clips from the show with video and the rest are audio only. I'm guessing the rest of the original footage has been lost. One can only hope that it will resurface. The performance is a bit more structured than the more compact MO's could be live, but that's to be expected due to the larger number of musician's involved. Still the core band does get to work in some improvisation, McLaughlin in particular.

This release is all in all a pleasant surprise for 2007, but there's more video out there from the older Mahavishu Orchestras, and I hope to see that material surface soon. It gets a four on the round up.

JEFF BECK Performing This Week...Live At Ronnie Scott's

Movie · 2008 · Fusion
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Slartibartfast
Holy crap, there's a new Jeff Beck live DVD out there!.

...I thought as I saw this at the record store. This is why it's important to keep those local independent brick and mortar record stores open: you'll never know what you'll find browsing.

As near as I've been able to find out, Jeff Beck (THE Beck, not that other guy) hadn't been touring in a long time, but rather was sticking to special performances. To make up for it, sort of, he did a week's worth of shows at London's Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in late November 2007. I've never been there, but it looks a little large as some jazz clubs go but still reasonably intimate. I'm pretty sure you don't need binoculars to observe any performances there.

Jeff has assembled an interesting set of musicians, the oldest being Jeff himself (b. 1944), Vinnie Colaiuta (1956) on drums, Jason Rebello (1969) on keys, and Tal Wilkenfeld (1986) on bass. Vinnie I know best from association with Zappa, Jason's new to me but I found out has worked with Sting, Tal (new to the music scene) hails from Australia and judging from her performance she is someone to really keep your eye on. Guests appearances by Joss Stone, Imogen Heap, and Eric Clapton, heyyy.

The set list, not really the proper term as it must have been culled from all the shows, is an impressive collection of material spanning Jeff's career so far. Original stuff includes Beck's Bolero {is this not actually a cover?}, Led Boots, Scatterbrain, Angel, Blast From The East, Rollin' And Tumblin'. Also some nice covers thrown in for good measure including Eternity's Breath!, Cause We've Ended As Lovers {never really seemed like a cover to me}, People Get Ready, A Day In The Life, You Need Love). You also get some interviews as bonus material and the DVD booklet is a nice read. 21 tracks altogether, mixed in Dolby 5.1 and DTS surround sounds with a 16:9 video format, I might add.

Wish I was there but this is the next best thing. It's one hell of a way to experience one hell of a guitarist. It's a live assortment, but due the quality and quantity I am rounding this one up.

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