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twickster
11-13-2010, 10:42 AM
Saw John McLaughlin last night (the man just gets better and better), and am meditating on "fusion." What, specifically, is being fused in fusion? The X of jazz and the Y of rock -- what are X and Y?

Mustardseed
11-13-2010, 10:51 AM
i always assumed it to be a mix of the improvisatory freedom of Jazz with the strong Rhythm of Rock-music

Le Ministre de l'au-delà
11-13-2010, 11:06 AM
In John McLaughlin's case, there are multiple-fusions going on. He brought Spanish scales and Indian ragas to jazz, he brought the sound of a loud, distorted electric guitar from rock to jazz. He brings a more extended harmonic palette to rock - 'Any chord can follow any other chord in my book' is my memory of a quotation from an interview in 'Guitar Player' magazine from late '70s, early '80s. He's a great player who has credibility in traditional jazz, flamenco, driving blues-based rock 'n' roll and the southern Indian Karnatic music. He can blend in with the band when required; he can lead the band in a traditional setting, but his most characteristic music blends all of those influences into a 'fusion' of primarily jazz and rock, but there are all those other elements in there, too.

Plus he's a killer guitarist.

Have you heard any of this?

Cherokee (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Om6HDUKBbzE), from the Tonight Show, circa 1985

Zeldar
11-13-2010, 11:06 AM
This is just my take on it: Jazz provides more complex harmonies; Rock provides more of the "electric sound." Both genres have rhythmic contributions that apply.

My benchmarks for "Fusion" would be Miles Davis's Bitches Brew and In A Silent Way.

Zeldar
11-13-2010, 11:48 AM
This is just my take on it: Jazz provides more complex harmonies; Rock provides more of the "electric sound." Both genres have rhythmic contributions that apply.

My benchmarks for "Fusion" would be Miles Davis's Bitches Brew and In A Silent Way.

I need to clarify the "electric sound" thing. Jazz guitarists as far back as Charlie Christian have been playing electric guitars. But it's more the distorted, overdrive, fuzz-tone aspects that I would include in the "electric sound" of Rock.

A major player (in his day) of that sound was John Tropea who played a lot with Deodato. Even though this is as much Funk as anything, it's some of that sound I'm trying to describe: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYA469Td6Uk&feature=fvsr

Le Ministre de l'au-delà
11-13-2010, 11:52 AM
[slight hijack]And as I walked the dog a moment ago, I was listening to twickster's husband doing 'Joyful Noise' and thinking 'This is Indian/Blues fusion'. Derek Trucks, Harry Manx, Bill Brozman - what is it about slide guitar players gets them into explorations of the music of other cultures? Dunno why they do, but I'm glad of it...[/slight hijack]

Yes, I know John McLaughlin doesn't use a slide; he just bends well enough he sounds like a slide player sometimes...

WordMan
11-13-2010, 01:04 PM
[slight hijack]And as I walked the dog a moment ago, I was listening to twickster's husband doing 'Joyful Noise' and thinking 'This is Indian/Blues fusion'. Derek Trucks, Harry Manx, Bill Brozman - what is it about slide guitar players gets them into explorations of the music of other cultures? Dunno why they do, but I'm glad of it...[/slight hijack]

Yes, I know John McLaughlin doesn't use a slide; he just bends well enough he sounds like a slide player sometimes...

Slide playing is not graduated with frets so it already is more open to non-classic/Western scales. And, let's face it, slide players are a little...out there to begin with (said with respect) so they are going to be open to more exploration.

As for the OP - Fusion is one of those words that can mean a ton of different things to a variety of folks. I love the good stuff and absolutely abhor the bad stuff - and the distinctions are subtle but the opinions loud. Very much YMMV terriotry.

For what it is worth, a recent player / recording that I think sound beautiful as a performance and as a high-end recording, I recommend Julian Lage's Sounding Point (http://www.amazon.com/Sounding-Point-Julian-Lage/dp/B001QWH69E). Dude can play; child prodigy coming into his own as a guitarist across a variety of styles. And I was turned onto the recording by a stereo snob friend of mine who says it uses a high-end stereo rig really well, i.e., sounds really fresh and present.

RealityChuck
11-13-2010, 03:31 PM
Unless he's changed, never listen to McLaughlin live and indoors. I saw him twice, and he played at volumes that made people's ears bleed if they were walking within a mile of the concert hall. It was better outdoors, but a real shame, because he was so loud that you couldn't hear the music.

twickster
11-13-2010, 04:26 PM
This is the third or fourth time I've seen him, and I've never had that problem.

twickster
11-13-2010, 04:29 PM
And, speaking of sound quality -- McLaughlin has a very distinctive tone or timbre and I don't know what it is. There's kind of a muffled or deadened quality to his tone -- does anyone know what I mean, or, even better, know what it comes from?

twickster
11-13-2010, 04:33 PM
[slight hijack]And as I walked the dog a moment ago, I was listening to twickster's husband doing 'Joyful Noise' and thinking 'This is Indian/Blues fusion'. Derek Trucks, Harry Manx, Bill Brozman - what is it about slide guitar players gets them into explorations of the music of other cultures? Dunno why they do, but I'm glad of it...[/slight hijack]

Yes, I know John McLaughlin doesn't use a slide; he just bends well enough he sounds like a slide player sometimes...

If you like cross-cultural, I assume you know McLaughlin's stuff with Remember Shakti, which I like very, very much. (Last night when he said "Hm, what shall we play next?," I yelled "Lotus Feet!" which isn't a phrase I'd have predicted I'd ever find myself yelling, but there you are.) (He didn't play it, though. :( )

Tamerlane
11-13-2010, 05:21 PM
I saw him twice, and he played at volumes that made people's ears bleed if they were walking within a mile of the concert hall.

This is the third or fourth time I've seen him, and I've never had that problem.

This may be more an artifact of his style in the 1970's. His album with Carlos Santana (http://www.amazon.com/Love-Devotion-Surrender-Santana/dp/B000002505) and the live Mahavishnu Orchestra album in particular are recorded in a manner that cranks up the volume to 11. I remember one grizzled old music vet at a used record store ( who loved me when I was teenager in the early 1980's, as I was heavily into classic rock and fusion figures like McLaughlin and Coryell at the time ) opining that early MO concerts beat out even The Who for sheer volume.

The only time I saw McLaughlin, it was an acoustic set and pretty bearable :D. I'm also a huge fan of his Shakti and Friday Night in San Francisco (http://www.amazon.com/Friday-Night-San-Francisco-Live/dp/B000002AHM/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1289686844&sr=1-1) phases.

monkeylucifer
11-13-2010, 05:23 PM
Cold fusion powered guitars are just a myth.

DfrntBreign
11-13-2010, 06:19 PM
The first concert I ever saw was Mahavishnu Orchestra (in 1975) and it was indeed, very loud. But I saw him, in various incarnations, several times in the next few years and it was never again that loud. I guess it depended on what he was trying to do at the time.

Just to confuse the original issue further, this was Eric Johnson (with his band Electromagnets) in 1975. "Minus Mufflers" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXD2sK25BdU). The Mahavishnu influence seems pronounced (at least to me). So; "Fusion", right?

This is Eric in 1990: "Desert Rose" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWwNH3AhZDQ) After the 1:33 mark, it doesn't seem all that different. Yet I have never heard Eric Johnson referred to as a "fusion" musician. (The marketplace being what it is, I'm sure he's fine with that.)

So the question becomes: Is Eric Johnson's music "fusion"?

And, to muddy things even further, Where is the line between "fusion" and "progressive"? I loved me some Return To Forever back in the day (and last summer!!!). But I never understood how what they were doing was all that different from what Zappa had been doing around the same time. Why was Chick Corea's band "jazz" while Frank's was "rock"?

Jean-Luc Ponty played in both Mahavishnu Orchestra and Zappa's band (I don't think he was using the "Mothers of Invention" name at the time, but I could be mistaken). His style seemed to remain consistent even into the beginning of his solo career. So when did it quit being "rock" and start being "jazz"?

I think the lines may have been a little more clearly drawn in the 70s, Weather Report and Miles Davis were very different from Emerson Lake and Palmer or Yes. But what about King Crimson or even Traffic? A little less defined?

And now? There are acts like Medeski, Martin and Wood; Frank Gambale; The Tangent (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDE8prPWRxc) (one of my faves); The Mars Volta; even Tool where genre lines seem to be practically non-existent. (or a hyphenated mess. "Post-modern-progressive-acid-trip-hop" may mean something to someone, but... )

Screw it. I just like what I like.

Le Ministre de l'au-delà
11-14-2010, 10:05 AM
I don't think there's a hard and fast rule about what gets considered 'fusion', even when the music is hard and fast. (Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.)

What follows is Wild Ass Guessing and Opinionated Speculation. Some factors - songs with lyrics vs. instrumentals. Return to Forever had Flora Purim on a couple of albums, but the core of their fusion repertoire (Hymn of the Seventh Galaxay, Romantic Warrior) was instrumental. Zappa did some instrumental numbers, but I wouldn't have said it was the core of his output. Mahavishnu Orchestra had lyrics on rare occasions, but I wouldn't say it's the first thing you remember about their music. ("Oh, Lord Supreme, Supreme/Let me fulfill my dream" is the first thing that comes to mind.)

Is Steely Dan fusion or jazz-influenced rock? Jazz-influenced pop?

And what Zappa made the most money from was the songs with off-colour lyrics. Zappa also had a long-standing thing about jazz musicians - he was looked down upon for liking and performing R&B, and he found that condescending jazz-bo attitude insufferable. Hence songs like 'Yo, Cats', where he skewers the attitudes of various session musicians of his acquaintance.

In the fifties and sixties, if it swung, it was jazz. Even the latin stuff, with its straight eighth notes, was considered jazz because it swung. Rock didn't swing; it drove. Late sixties and seventies, the jazz tried driving and swinging at the same time. It opened up a whole new spectrum of funky music. Some of it was great, some of it was crap.

And I'm with you - f@ck 'genre'; just play me some music I mighty like.

Le Ministre de l'au-delà
11-14-2010, 10:23 AM
If you like cross-cultural, I assume you know McLaughlin's stuff with Remember Shakti, which I like very, very much. (Last night when he said "Hm, what shall we play next?," I yelled "Lotus Feet!" which isn't a phrase I'd have predicted I'd ever find myself yelling, but there you are.) (He didn't play it, though. :( )

I'm afraid I'm old enough that I remember Shakti back from the day when you didn't need to 'remember' - I picked up the first album in '76 or '77. Thank you for assuming I'm younger than I really am. :D

twickster
11-14-2010, 12:03 PM
I'm afraid I'm old enough that I remember Shakti back from the day when you didn't need to 'remember' - I picked up the first album in '76 or '77. Thank you for assuming I'm younger than I really am. :D

;)

He revisited it right around the turn of the century, putting out four (+/-) albums, most (all?) of them recorded live, with Zakir Hussain, U. Shrinivas, and some other people. My favorite is The Believer, with the aforementioned "Lotus Feet."

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