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
4.74 | 36 ratings
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JOHN ABERCROMBIE Current Events Album Cover Current Events
JOHN ABERCROMBIE
4.74 | 8 ratings
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4.77 | 6 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
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4.67 | 9 ratings
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EBERHARD WEBER Pendulum Album Cover Pendulum
EBERHARD WEBER
4.69 | 7 ratings
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post-fusion contemporary Music Reviews

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?

RAY OBIEDO Carousel

Album · 2019 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
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js
Even if you don’t recognize his name, if you are a fan of contemporary jazz and RnB you have probably heard the guitar playing of Ray Obiedo many times by now. Ray is a busy session guy who has recorded with just about everyone in his field, including heavy weights like Herbie Hancock, Sheila E and George Duke. Ray also releases his own albums, and many of those are favored by the jazz radio crowd, so there is a good chance when you are hearing jazz as background, that might be Ray as well. “Carousel” is Obiedo’s latest CD and it finds him serving up an eclectic mix of RnB, Brazilian, Cuban, smooth jazz and more.

Ray invited 32 musicians to work with him on “Carousel”, with many coming from his hometown area of Northern California where they work with local stalwarts such as Tower of Power and Santana. Some of the better known guests include Bob Mintzer, Toots Thieleman, Peter Garibaldi and Andy Narell. As mentioned earlier, every track carries a distinctive rhythm and flavor as Ray attempts to cover all the bases. Two of the more energetic songs come early on with the RnB of “Jinx” and the Latin drive of “Sharp Aztec”. Bob Mintzer’s funky sax solo on “Modern World” is also a winner. Possibly the top track though is a mystical cover of Mancini’s, “Lujon”. First of all, it is a Mancini composition, and secondly, the ambient drift and arrangement on this track has a more modern sound. A couple other songs seem geared towards the radio in a smooth jazz context. Throughout “Carousel”, Obiedo plays soulful licks and solos that recall George Benson and Wes Montgomery, two other guitarists who were adept at combining hard bop grit with pop sheen.

ROB RYNDAK Rob Ryndak & Tom Lockwood : Gratitude

Album · 2019 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
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js
Apparently Rob Ryndak met Tom Lockwood when Lockwood bought a house in Ryndak’s neighborhood. When Rob went over to greet Tom they discovered that they were both pro musicians and educators with similar interests in jazz and world music. Soon Tom was performing in Ryndak’s band and the rest is history as they eventually decided to record an album together. The resultant CD, “Gratitude”, shows the two combining their song writing and performing talents into a diverse set of tunes that combine contemporary jazz, pop, RnB, hard bop, Latin and Caribbean grooves. To assist in their endeavor they brought in a variety of instrumentalists who help give each track its own distinct sound and tone color. Rob plays piano and percussion, while Tom handles all manner of woodwind instruments, to that they also added musicians on bass, drums, guitar, cello, trumpet, percussion, vibraphone and additional piano. Ryndak in particular creates creative orchestrations with his mini orchestra, particularly on the ballad like title tune, “Gratitude”.

Throughout the album, Ryndak’s tunes lean more towards the art pop side of things, while Lockwood’s favor swinging hard bop and Latin jazz. The first track is a Ryndak composition, while the second belongs to Lockwood, the tracks alternate this way for the rest of the album which makes for a nice musical blend. Bob’s song, “Just as They Are”, seems to reference a well known Latin folk song, but I will not give away which one, you will have to hear that for yourself. Most of the tunes are fairly concise and to the point, but there is still room for some great solos from Lockwood, Brian Lynch on trumpet, Sasha Brusin on guitar and Steve Talaga on piano. “Gratitude’ is more or less a jazz album, but there is plenty of melodic material that easily crosses over to fans of all manner of sophisticated instrumental music.

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