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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KEITH JARRETT The Köln Concert Album Cover The Köln Concert
KEITH JARRETT
4.72 | 37 ratings
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JOHN ABERCROMBIE Current Events Album Cover Current Events
JOHN ABERCROMBIE
4.72 | 9 ratings
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EBERHARD WEBER Pendulum Album Cover Pendulum
EBERHARD WEBER
4.68 | 8 ratings
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TOMASZ STAŃKO Soul Of Things Album Cover Soul Of Things
TOMASZ STAŃKO
4.69 | 7 ratings
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KETIL BJØRNSTAD Ketil Bjørnstad / David Darling / Terje Rypdal / Jon Christensen : The Sea Album Cover Ketil Bjørnstad / David Darling / Terje Rypdal / Jon Christensen : The Sea
KETIL BJØRNSTAD
4.61 | 10 ratings
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KEITH JARRETT Sleeper Album Cover Sleeper
KEITH JARRETT
4.61 | 9 ratings
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KEITH JARRETT Paris Concert Album Cover Paris Concert
KEITH JARRETT
4.53 | 16 ratings
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JOHN SURMAN Saltash Bells Album Cover Saltash Bells
JOHN SURMAN
4.67 | 6 ratings
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TOMASZ STAŃKO December Avenue Album Cover December Avenue
TOMASZ STAŃKO
4.83 | 3 ratings
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KEITH JARRETT A Multitude Of Angels Album Cover A Multitude Of Angels
KEITH JARRETT
4.62 | 4 ratings
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TOMASZ STAŃKO Litania: Music of Krzysztof Komeda Album Cover Litania: Music of Krzysztof Komeda
TOMASZ STAŃKO
4.62 | 4 ratings
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KEITH JARRETT Rio Album Cover Rio
KEITH JARRETT
4.50 | 6 ratings
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post-fusion contemporary Music Reviews

CHET BAKER Chet Baker / Jim Hall / Hubert Laws : Studio Trieste

Album · 1982 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
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Steve Wyzard
VERY LATE CTI

Many people are stunned to discover that CTI Records was still releasing albums in the 1980s, of which Studio Trieste is probably the best example. Recorded in March and April of 1982, all the usual suspects (Creed Taylor, Rudy van Gelder, Don Sebesky, Pete Turner) are here, but without Ron Carter on the bass. And while the album is credited to 3 big names with past CTI experience, let it be known here that this is really a "CTI All Stars" album in all but name.

In fact neither Chet Baker nor Hubert Laws appear on the first track, "Malaguena" (9:44), which was originally popularized by Stan Kenton. Opening with percussionist Sammy Figueroa and Hall's stately guitar, this is a soul funk workout for keyboardist Jorge Dalto, electric bassist Gary King, and most especially, the amazing drumming of Steve Gadd. Both Baker's trumpet and Laws's flute open John Lewis's "Django" (10:02), in case anyone was wondering when they would appear. Another CTI staple was a classical piece arranged for jazz band, which here is provided by Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" (8:42). This is a showpiece for Laws, who opens and closes the piece, while Baker takes a rare flugelhorn solo. The rhythm section now includes Kenny Barron on keyboards and George Mraz on acoustic bass. The final track, Miles Davis's "All Blues" (9:43) is given a very different, almost Spanish, arrangement. Steve Gadd's drums feature prominently, and both Baker and Laws get to play the famous melody line. While Hall's fluid guitar work receives the most solo space throughout the album, he never dominates as this is truly a "CTI group" performance where the production and arrangements are everything.

It should be mentioned here that of the 3 names on the cover, Chet Baker, while given first billing (alphabetical?), plays the least. This is also one of the rare albums he appears on with NO VOCALS. If you're a fan of these players and the classic "time stands still" CTI sound, you should find much on Studio Trieste to enjoy. With most of the boxes checked, this is a worthy addition to the CTI library in spite of its late recording date.

TOMASZ STAŃKO December Avenue

Album · 2017 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
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Steve Wyzard
LAST CALL

By the time December Avenue was released in 2017, trumpeter Tomasz Stanko had only a little over a year left to live. After helping to revitalize the ECM label in the early 2000's, this album proved to be his final release. While the classic Stanko trademarks can be found throughout in abundance, do not expect this to be a "last-will-and-testament" album. If anything, Stanko's passing places a poignant shadow of unfulfilled promise over this music, as the ensemble exceedingly demonstrates they were far from done.

Bassist Reuben Rogers has replaced Thomas Morgan, but otherwise both David Virelles (keyboards) and Gerald Cleaver (drums) return from 2013's Wislawa album. All 12 tracks include copious space for both soloing and improvising. Three of the 12 ("Burning Hot", "December Avenue", and "Yankiels Lid") are driven by vigorous Rogers basslines, with Stanko and Virelles playing brightly and clangorously together. The other nine are impressionistic, incantatory, melancholy Stanko compositions that never cease to surprise. On "Bright Moon", a fluttering trumpet resounds above haunted drum rolls, while "Young Girl in Flower" is a little too busy to be a peaceful closer. Don't miss the sudden piano explosion in "Sound Space" or Rogers's arco performance in "The Street of Crocodiles".

You may not be blown away when you first hear December Avenue, but don't give up: it has much to offer over repeated listens. And while it will naturally be compared to 21st century masterpieces like Suspended Night (2004) or Soul of Things (2002), this is very much a different work that stands completely on its own. At 64:23, it's shorter than previous Stanko ECM albums, but loses nothing by being so. Those looking for a "crowning achievement" album may be disappointed, for it's nothing more or less than Stanko doing what he does best. That this is regretfully the last album makes December Avenue all that much more memorable and cherished.

RALPH TOWNER My Foolish Heart

Album · 2017 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
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Steve Wyzard
KALEIDOSCOPIC

What could Ralph Towner possibly have to add to his deep catalog after 40+ years with ECM Records? Plenty, it turns out, and while some may grumble about the 40:28 running time, My Foolish Heart is proof positive that his unfettered guitar greatness has not even remotely diminished with age.

Towner's albums (even in the CD age) have never run long, and have rarely included a liner note like this one does. He tells us that the title track (and the Evans/LeFaro/Motian version in particular) had an "immeasurable impact" upon his formation as a musician, and that he "decided to pay a visit" to this "reverent musical space". It's one of the album's true highlights, and the only cover version among the other eleven which are his own compositions.

Long-time listeners will recognize all of the classic Towner trademarks, from the angular, jagged lines of "Pilgrim" to the unbridled vigor of "Rewind". Everything is played with an effortless authority, and the impressionistic "wide-open-spaces-under-a-wild-sky" atmosphere is always present. This is familiar, well-trodden ground, but Towner's intuitive intellect always gives us something original and he continues to turn new pages. The relentless subtlety of "Dolomiti Dance" is this album's stunner, but don't overlook the haunting nostalgia of "I'll Sing For You" or the searching ruminations of the shorter pieces. "Saunter", the longest track at 5:01, begins whimsically, but soon ventures toward probing bent notes and intense slides that are truly awe-inspiring.

Yet another Towner trademark is to be found in the closing flourishes he uses to wrap up his performances, almost as if he's letting the audience know, "we're done now". There's nothing in the kaleidoscopic sound-world of My Foolish Heart to indicate he's anywhere near to being "done". This album can stand head-and-shoulders next to anything else he's ever recorded without any qualifications. The ECM recording is, as always, pristine.

TOMASZ STAŃKO Tomasz Stańko Quintet : Dark Eyes

Album · 2009 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
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Steve Wyzard
RISKS ARE TAKEN!

Inevitably, this album will be compared to Stanko's three preceding albums for ECM, Soul of Things (2002), Suspended Night (2004), and Lontano (2006). The Polish quartet has been replaced with a Scandinavian quintet, and while the Stanko trumpet sound remains the same and there are some similar tonal textures, Dark Eyes is also something very different. Most significantly, the addition of electric guitar and electric bass produce a fuller, more modern, even urban soundscape. Where some will recognize a natural progression from the experimental Lontano, surely others will lament the loss of the classic quartet atmosphere. Dark Eyes is a shorter album (61:44) than the quartet albums, and with a variety of moods takes some time to come to grips with. This is definitely not an avant-garde side-street, but it's also not an accessible "start here" recording.

The album begins with the pace-setting, scratchy-toned "So Nice". It's unusual, after the three piano/bass/drums albums, to hear a guitar backing Stanko. Dark Eyes was my introduction to guitarist Jakob Bro, and he plays moodily and unobtrusively throughout. The thunderous drumming of Olavi Louhivuori and the rumbling bass of Anders Christensen are the highlights of "Terminal 7". Many of the songs begin hesitantly, such as "Amsterdam Avenue", "Samba Nova", and "Grand Central", which stops completely before resuming. Pianist Alexi Tuomarila takes his best solos on these three. The album closes with a call-back to 1976's Balladyna album, "Last Song", and the poignant "Etude Baletova No.3".

Special mention must be made of the following stand-outs: "The Dark Eyes of Martha Hirsch" is this album's instant classic, beginning as a dirge before Stanko launches into his wildest solo on the album. Over tolling piano chords and splashing cymbals, Stanko wails and Bro plays an airy solo on "Dirge for Europe". The ethereal "May Sun" does without Stanko entirely: a simple piece for guitar and piano, reminiscent of a Chick Corea "Children's Song".

While risks are taken, Dark Eyes is an overwhelmingly subdued album. The melancholy ECM sound is ever-present and will repay repeated listening. The first two quartet albums notwithstanding, this album sits very securely among the best of the now complete Stanko oeuvre. And lest any doubt be raised, the greatest trumpet with electric guitar albums remain Miles Davis's In a Silent Way (John McLaughlin), and Enrico Rava's The Plot (John Abercrombie).

CHARLIE HADEN Magico (with Jan Garbarek, Egberto Gismonti)

Album · 1980 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
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Steve Wyzard
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SOUND...

Whenever anyone brings up the much-discussed subject of the "ECM Sound", the first album I think of is Magico by Egberto Gismonti (guitars/piano), Jan Garbarek (saxophones), and Charlie Haden (bass). This is one of those unlikely "all-star" aggregations ECM Records specialized in during the late 1970s (see also: Abercrombie/Holland/DeJohnette and Rypdal/Vitous/DeJohnette). Released in 1980 to minor acclaim, this album today is seen as a forerunner to what we now refer to as "World Fusion".

Most listeners bring pre-conceptions to a recording like this, so let's deal with them right away. The lack of a drummer/percussionist does not make this a "quiet album", especially with Garbarek's piercing (no flute) tones sprinkled liberally throughout. A close listen also reveals this is not a "loosely structured jam session" as much thought was obviously given to the arrangements and double-tracking (especially Gismonti's intricate solo above his playing on "Magico"). While a previous familiarity with the performers will best prepare one for this aural soundscape, this album remains very accessible and was my first introduction to the music of both Gismonti and Haden over 25 years ago.

So what can one expect? Gismonti is the dominant voice both figuratively and literally: like on most of his recordings, "Bailarina" includes some brief ad-libbed vocals. There are a multitude of versions of Haden's "Silence" on the market, but this album's is the finest: 16 repeated chords on the piano above solos by Garbarek, Haden, Garbarek (again), and Gismonti. Garbarek's "Spor" features some of Haden's darkest arco playing, and Gismonti's "Palhaco" with its gospel-tinged piano is the peaceful closer with its other-worldly, haunted atmosphere.

The masterful performances throughout this album make Magico a true highlight in the voluminous catalogs of all three players. Never before has ECM's original motto "The Most Beautiful Sound Next To Silence" been more appropriate. Let it also be known that this same trio recorded a follow-up album (Folk Songs) 5 months later that is nowhere near as good as Magico. And just what is that artful cover supposed to signify: is it trees behind powerlines, or painted industrial siding super-imposed over trees?

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