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
4.73 | 32 ratings
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JOHN ABERCROMBIE Current Events Album Cover Current Events
JOHN ABERCROMBIE
4.90 | 6 ratings
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KETIL BJØRNSTAD The Sea Album Cover The Sea
KETIL BJØRNSTAD
4.76 | 8 ratings
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EBERHARD WEBER Pendulum Album Cover Pendulum
EBERHARD WEBER
4.83 | 6 ratings
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TOMASZ STAŃKO Soul Of Things Album Cover Soul Of Things
TOMASZ STAŃKO
4.88 | 4 ratings
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JOHN SURMAN Saltash Bells Album Cover Saltash Bells
JOHN SURMAN
4.75 | 5 ratings
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KEITH JARRETT Sleeper Album Cover Sleeper
KEITH JARRETT
4.64 | 7 ratings
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KEITH JARRETT Paris Concert Album Cover Paris Concert
KEITH JARRETT
4.50 | 14 ratings
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JAN GARBAREK It's OK To Listen To The Grey Voice Album Cover It's OK To Listen To The Grey Voice
JAN GARBAREK
4.58 | 6 ratings
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KEITH JARRETT Rio Album Cover Rio
KEITH JARRETT
4.50 | 6 ratings
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RALPH TOWNER Matchbook (with Gary Burton) Album Cover Matchbook (with Gary Burton)
RALPH TOWNER
4.54 | 5 ratings
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RALPH TOWNER Solstice, Sound and Shadows Album Cover Solstice, Sound and Shadows
RALPH TOWNER
4.67 | 3 ratings
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post-fusion contemporary Music Reviews

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.

ESPEN ERIKSEN Espen Eriksen Trio with Andy Sheppard : Perfectly Unhappy

Album · 2018 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
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Matt
For this latest release “Perfectly Unhappy” from Norwegian Espen Eriksen and his Trio, one of Britain’s most well saxophonists Andy Sheppard joins them bringing a change in texture to their current slightly minimal but still highly melodic sound that the Trio display within their compositions. Their first album release garnered extremely good praise and many great reviews for “You Had Me At Goodbye” with the following two albums “What Took You So Long” and “Never Ending January” keeping the standard right up there. If you have not heard of them before Espen Eriksen is the pianist, Lars Tormond Jenset, bass and Andreas Bye is the drummer with the Trio performing together since 2007 with this album being the ensemble’s fourth release. Andy Sheppard’s addition of saxophone in the album works beautifully bringing quite a bit of a fresh sound for the Trio and keeping things in an interesting manner but still keeping them well within the melodic style that they have become known for.

“Above The Horizon” opens with a beautiful piano and bass interchange before stating the composition’s theme before Andy Sheppard’s saxophone to joins on this lovely inward piece with the following “1974” having a beautiful contemplative sound where Espen’s piano is more prevalent. The melancholy and contemplation just keeps on coming with the album’s title ‘Perfectly Unhappy” with Andy’s saxophone and Espen’s brief solo providing a lovely wistfulness within the number. “Indian Summer” just keeps the dreamy spaced melody prevalent, where “Suburban Folk Song” has a slightly more intricate opening and all these melodies that are intertwined with space and beautiful timing just keep coming with “Naked Trees”, the following “Revisited” containing a delightful solo from Espen and the beautiful melancholic closing composition “Home”.

Lovely album and an absolute delight to have on with the compositions being in a similar realm to Mathias Eick’s of maintaining a strong melody and quite a lovely contemporary sound. One other note is Andy Sheppard plays quite a major part and is in the majority of all the compositions with that gorgeous deep tone that he resonates.

KETIL BJØRNSTAD La notte

Live album · 2013 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
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Matt
Commissioned by the Molde International Jazz Festival and Recorded Live in 2010 at the Norway Festival for later release By ECM records has the multi talented Norwegian Ketil Bjørnstad presenting his perception in music on Italian Filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni with his 1961 film sharing the title of this very album from Ketil Bjørnstad “La Notte” ( The night). Ketil Bjørnstad has been around since the late sixties since playing Classical piano in his later teens but in the seventies headed for Jazz and Folk with a distinct Northern European influence of retaining Classical elements within his compositions. He has recorded over fifty albums as well most likely written as many books, hence the multi talented which is often used to describe his artistic output. Although this album was recorded in 2010 ECM did not release it until three years later in 2013 due to most likely the fact they already had an album recorded by Ketil prior, still in the can being “The River”.

The album line up is a Sextet with the majority involved having played with each other in various ensembles and bands with Arild Anderson the bassist having the most extensive experience with Ketil Bjørnstad and just about everyone else in European Jazz. The cellist David Darling who has played with Ketil extensively in the past is not present and has been replaced with the stunning German born Anja Lechner who usually you will find in ECM’s New Series having played with the Rosamunde Quartet, Tarkovsky Quartet, the pianists Vassilis Tsabropoulos and Francois Couturier as well as the great Bandoneon player Dino Saluzzi. Andy Sheppard who is usually in Carla Bley’s ensembles or leading his own these days is on tenor and soprano saxophone, Marilyn Mazur is on percussion and drums having played with Jan Garbarek for one as well as doing her own albums and also included is Eivind Aarset also an artist in his right as well as playing with Andy Sheppard above and who also has many well known productions behind him is playing guitar and providing electronics.

Ketil Bjørnstad has composed eight parts within the album’s structure with “La Notte I” commencing with a slight electronic drone and touches of bass and percussion with the sound picking up as the introduction of piano and cello is added in this mediative opening number. Andy Sheppard’s tenor and Eivind Aarset’s guitar inject two lovely pieces with Ketil’s piano and Marilyn’s percussion as the base in the bolder “La Notte II”. The ensemble delivers a delightful mix within “La Notte III” with Andy Sheppard’s saxophone barely noticeable coming in over Anja Lechner’s cello with a superb middle timed underlay from the rest of the musicians within the piece. It’s a slow tempo for “La Notte IV” primarily comprising piano and more of that beautiful cello from Anja Lechner who I have to say is the star amongst all these musicians within these beautiful compositions from Ketil Bjørnstad. The album continues with more of the stunning mediative input for “La Notte V and VI” with more stunning cello, soprano sax and Marilyn Mazur’s just right percussion comprising the odd chimes, beat etc with the ensemble picking things up again in “La Notte VII” with Arild Anderson’s superb bass opening and Eivind’s fabulous guitar solo. The album comes to an end with another beautiful slow relaxing piece in “VIII”

Leaning towards Classical at times and leaning towards some great Fusion at others in this highly interesting album which after quite a few plays with many in a row, I still have not tired of. One other note although the album states it is Live there is not a whisper of audience sound to be heard.

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