All That Jazz: Let’s talk about Fusion

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Did you know that Jazz Fusion can be, like, SUPER HEAVY? No? Keep reading…

 

-“I study Jazz. You know, real music.”

-“Jazz? You mean that stuff old people listen to? Isn’t that like, really really boring?”

-“Oh, you poor fool, let me explain…”

 

Ever had that conversation with someone? If so, congratulations: you know a Jazz Snob! I actually did study Jazz for like 10 years when I was a kid, but it didn’t really do much for me. Since then I’ve had the pleasure of meeting several of these people, and I honestly think that they’re at least as bad as IMNs. They dismiss anything that doesn’t conform to the blueprint for what they think Jazz is and should be. There’s too much guitar. It’s too loud. Too much distortion. Too weird a scale. Too much improvisation. You get the idea.

Being a guitarist, in the past couple of years I’ve gotten back into Jazz through Fusion, which features guitars a lot more prominently than in the more “traditional” styles of Jazz. As if I needed to clarify, Fusion is obviously not “Real Jazz”. I love it when nerds and snobs get their jimmies rustled, so the fact that a lot of the stuff I’ve started to listen to doesn’t get the Jazz Purist Stamp of Snobbish Approval (TM) makes me jock it even harder than I normally would.

So, I’m going to talk about some of my favoritest heavy Fusion jamz for the better enrichment of your earholes. To clarify, I’m assuming everyone already knows that Periphery invented Fusion in 2010, so everything I’m going to talk about now is technically not Fusion, but SCREW YOU SNOB. I’ll start with some of the more obviously metallic choices and make my way towards the least “metal” stuff.

-Exhibit A) What happens when you put a bunch of prog metal nerds in a studio together? Gordian Knot happens, of course! Featuring some of my favoritest Ron Jarzombek solos of all time, their self-titled album is basically like a 70s prog album but with more distortion, more shredding and more tripped-out funk passages. Not convinced? At one point the band even had Bill Bruford from Yes and Steve Hackett from Genesis contribute, so there!

 

-Exhibit B) Next up are Exivious, another band made up of mostly prog metal musicians (people from Textures and Cynic). They actually remind me of Gordian Knot quite a bit, only with better production, younger musicians and even more of The Jazzes.

 

-Exhibit C) Father Figure are a New York band I found out about fairly recently through someone on my beloved Thank You Scientist‘s Facebook page. They do kinda sound like a vocal and wind-less TYS with more Real Jazz bits, but plenty of hard-hitting and catchy stuff as well. These guys get really stuck in my head sometimes (the good stuck, of course).

 

-Exhibit D) Ever wonder what happened to former Megadeth guitarist Chris Poland? He’s been alive and well, releasing music with his Fusion band OHM. I might be in the minority here, but I always liked CP’s Megadeth solos more than Marty Friedman‘s (come at me, brahs). Poland has a bend & vibrato technique second to almost no one, and very distinct note choices as well. The other two OHM dudes are no sluches either.

 

-Exhibit E) Moving on, anyone know who’s currently playing guitar for Deep Purple? (Wait, they’re still a thing?!?) A ridiculously talented dude named Steve Morse, that’s who. His band The Dixie Dregs were hugely influential to prog nerds the world over, and it’s no real surprise when you listen to their stuff. Violin? Check. Contrasting shifts in dynamics? Check check. Overall virtuosity? Check check check. Why are you not listening yet? (Check check check check).

 

-Exhibit F) If you don’t know who Guthrie Govan is, you need to stop leaving the house so much. I don’t have that much else to say, other than words of warning for anybody who plays guitar: this will make you want to quit.

 

-Exhibit G) Ah, good old Tribal Tech. I know the name sounds like it could belong to some obscure world music/trance band, but it doesn’t. The brain child of guitarist Scott Henderson and bassist Gary Willis, Tribal Tech is probably the closest thing to Real Jazz I’m going to talk about in this here post, only both those dudes SHRED stuff up like it’s nobody’s business.

 

-Exhibit H) If for some reason you still doubt that certain jazz guitarists could outshred many a metal d00d, Al Di Meola would like to have a word or two. You might want to sit down and hold on to something. Side note: I want Al Di Meola to be the new Archspire. ALDIMEOLA ALDIMEOLA ALDIMEOLA, repeat ad nauseum (I think that basically means “until you puke” in latin, and I bet you didn’t know that).

 

-Exhibit I) Mr. Di Meola used to be in a band in the 70s. That band was Return to Forever, and throughout its many incarnations it was basically a who’s who of jazz fusion legends. The most well-known lineup featured Al Di Meola on guitar, Chick Corea on keyboards, Stanley Clarke on bass and Lenny White on drums. If you’re not already screaming like a giddy little girl, you know, listen.

 

-Exhibit This Turned Out Kinda Long) Last but not least, John McLaughlin‘s Mahavishnu Orchestra. The very first album was made up entirely of JM’s compsitions (don’t really know why it says “with John McLaughlin” on the cover) and featured none other than Billy Cobham on drums and Jan Hammer on keyboards. Listen to it, is where I’m getting at.

 

So there ya have it! Please post your Fusion jamz ov choice / tell me why I suck / ask to marry me in the comments section. Peace oot.

(Photo Via)

 

P.S. ALDIMEOLA ALDIMEOLA ALDIMEOLA ALDIMEOLA ALDIMEOLA

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  • Romantic Warrior fucking rockets!

  • Death

    Charles Mingus is love, Charles Mingus is life!

    • Janitor Jim Dvggan

      Miles Davis is better. Listen to Sketches Of Spain and tell me that wasn’t revolutionary.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqwjUtf0bas

      • Death

        Miles Davis most certainly is not better than Mingus.

        • Janitor Jim Dvggan

          You are lying. Bitches Brew levels any Mingus album.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNu8V_Dyg1E

          • Death

            The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady by Mingus. I rest my fucking case.

          • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

            Kenny G levels all

          • Death

            God dammit Billy!

          • Janitor Jim Dvggan

            You got me. That album levels Bitches Brew.

        • Guacamole Jim

          Davis has nothing on Mingus. I’m with you, Death. SOLIDARITY

    • DeeSnarl

      Juuuust picked up Mingus Ah Uhm. Awesome stuff. Also, Miles was a beast. Also: Trane…

      • Death

        Ascension is a beast of an album.

        • DeeSnarl

          Don’t know that one – I’ll check it!

          • Death

            You better love free jazz (like I do) if you want to enjoy it.

          • Janitor Jim Dvggan

            I’m listening to The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady right now. It’s so good that it makes Sketches of Spain look inferior. I’m going to listen to Bitches Brew next so that my faith in Miles Davis isn’t permanently shaken.

          • KJM

            Miles Davis Rotterdam 1969(I think)

          • DeeSnarl

            So I read. Usually I like a little structure, but we will see….

      • KJM

        Blue Train!

  • Upon seeing the first videos I was ready to flush, groaning, “oh, not *real* fusion then” but by the end you had redeemed yourself mostly. *flushes Exivious for good measure*

    • yeah, silly Exivious (srs)

    • YOU DID NOT FLUSH MY EXIVIOUS

    • Stockhausen

      *Approves Exivious flush, also flushes*

  • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

    Jazz is at least as diverse as metal. And just like metal, I haven’t heard a single jazz genre I couldn’t find a good band from. Also I thank thee for a couple of new good seeming bands I’ll have to check out.

    • Death

      Smooth Jazz is something that I just can’t listen to. Thanks Kenny G!

      • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

        I hate him. But I do love smooth jazz, thanks pa.

        • DeeSnarl

          I can tolerate a decent amount of cheesiness, but smooth jazz per se is a bridge too far….

          • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

            Miles Davis, Kind of Blue. Not Cheesy, just beautiful

          • DeeSnarl

            Oh, well yeah…!

  • Death

    Frank Zappa made amazing jazz albums as well.

    • MoshOff

      Too much to choose from, honestly. I was going to include him but I couldn’t make up my damn mind.

      • Death

        The Grand Wazoo and Hot Rats sit on the top for me.

        • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

          Hot Rats is maybe the best Zappa, and Jazz From Hell is crazy, done with Synclavier. Love it’s weirdness

          • Death

            Never heard Hit Rats. When did he release it?

          • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

            Corrected it a long time ago. Juusanofabits

    • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

      After the first paragraphs I was sure Zappa and Beck were gonna be included. Neither were

      • MoshOff

        D’aaaah Jeff Beck. Knew I was forgetting something, damnit.

        • Janitor Jim Dvggan

          You forgot to mention that Steve Morse was in Kansas as well.

        • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

          ‘Cause all that guitar and jazz don’t get more metal than him. Love the article nevertheless

  • Janitor Jim Dvggan

    On the subject of fusion who here loves Mahavishnu Orchestra? I love this album of theirs.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBOk_s41uic

    • MoshOff

      I love them so much I wrote about them.

      • Janitor Jim Dvggan

        I did not see that. I did see Return to Forever though. You also forgot about Weather Report. They were amazing.

        • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

          Weather Report FTW, especially with Jaco. Also I Forgot Dixie Dregs FTW. I wish he’d quit DP and make more love with the guitar that wants to kill your mama

        • Death

          Fun fact: Jaco Pastorius was partially of Finnish ancestry.
          #PointlessFinnFacts

          • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

            Jaco always reminds me of Pekka Pohjola, my musical hero. Did you know that Zappa wanted to make an album with PP but died before they could collaborate.

          • Death

            Pekka was a genius as well. I hate how Keesojen Lehto is sometimes thought to be a Mike Oldfield album.

          • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

            It was released in UK as Mike Oldfield, Sally Oldfield and PP album. That was the name. And Sally HUMMED on one or two songs. Mike only produced it (and played some guitar). I hate it too. It’s a great album

          • Death

            Tasavallan Presidentti also released great jazz influenced prog albums. Lambertland is my favourite.
            https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=t91dLyvNGTk

          • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

            Before Tolonen went nuts. (And later religious) He was a stunnibg composer. Have you tried his solo debut.

            Also he played in wigwam unofficially for years.
            Which reminds me, Jukka Gustavson FTW

          • Death

            I have his solo debut on vinyl and it’s a good one. Doesn’t he make stupid and boring gospel music now?

          • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

            Tolonen? Im not sure. Stopped payong attention a LONG time ago. He’ on the new Peitsamo album at least (which I think I’ve already said)

          • Death

            I think I remember hearing that Tolonen now makes gospel.

          • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

            Disappointing, but then alcohols have done negative miracles on his skills

          • Death

            Wigwam was great until Jim Pembroke took controll.

          • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

            Uo to Being they were awesome. Although I like single songs fron pretty much every album afterwards as well. Just not as good albums. Live fron the twilight zone is a beast. They almost never played their own songs live before Jim became boss, so that live album is essential.

          • Death

            Fairyport and Being are their best ones. Pohjola is on them, which is nice.

          • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

            Anything with Pohjola is gorgeous. Except his symphony, that I don’t dig that much

          • Death

            I don’t think that I’ve heard it, or at least I don’t remember it.

          • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

            I seem to recall there was nothing too fascinating going on. Called symphony parts 1-3 I think

          • Death

            On a note of Finnish prog, have you listened to Kuusumun Profeetta?

          • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

            Some, Kaivos, VeitsiJokaViiltää and some from the newest album are killer songs. I love Finnish prog and have been checking it out with Finnish jazz for quite a while now.

          • Death

            Hän jota ei koskaan ollutkaan is one of my favourites from them. When it comes to Finnish jazz, Edward Vesala is on the top for me.

          • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

            DrumGod he was. What was the name of the german Free Jazz legend he recorded with? Also have you listened to Ilmari or Verneri Pohjola? At least V is really good. And speaking of Free, Are you familiar with Black Motor. If not get familiar

          • Death

            Of course I know Black Motor. A great band. Do you mean Peter Brötzmann?

          • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

            Yes, I think it was him

          • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

            There’s an over ten minute Beatles cover there

          • Janitor Jim Dvggan

            I did not know that. I did know he lived in Florida until he died tragically.

          • DeeSnarl

            Aaaand along with the Mingus, I picked up the eponymous Jaco, but haven’t listened to it yet.

  • Bob Saget

    Let it be known: Guthrie Govan makes me moist.

    • Max

      I showed him where his dressing room was once. When we got there, his minder or somebody showed up with his rider. Govan looked at his minder, then at me, clasped his hands in a Zen-like gesture, bowed slightly, and said: “I want for nothing!” Seems legit.

  • Tyree
    • Bob Saget

      Ah, Mr. Burgundy and his illustrious “yahz” flute.

  • Listening to gordian knot right now, digging the shit out of it, will check the others out at work. Great article!

  • Bob Saget
    • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

      Who else thinks of the Dixie Chicks whenever they hear Dixie Dregs

      • MoshOff

        Opposite happens to me.

        • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

          Well yeah I can’t think of the other without the other. But I think it’s clear which is better.

          Edit: The Dixie Chicks of course.

          • MoshOff

            Booooooooourns

          • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

            You disagree then ?

          • KJM

            I was saying Booourns…

  • Tyree
    • W.

      GRIND!

    • Whoa this is pretty sweet.

      • Tyree

        They are from Norway too.

    • lol their bandcamp says released december 2037…

  • Janitor Jim Dvggan

    I had no clue Guthrie Govan did fusion. I knew he was in Asia from 2000 to 2006 and then was in the band of the former Asia singer John Payne from 2007 to 2009.

    • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

      And Steven Wilson

      • Janitor Jim Dvggan

        I did not know he was involved with Steven Wilson.

        • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

          He plays on Raven and on the upcoming I think

    • Cock ov Steele

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1ZmIFR4Sc0 I believe Steve Howe either helped found or served a longer stint in Asia

      • Janitor Jim Dvggan

        He was in the original lineup and I saw him with the original lineup on their last tour together in 2012. Guthrie Govan was in the lineup of Asia which had Geoff Downes as the sole original member.

  • Bob Saget

    Not sure if I’d consider this “jazz-fusion”, but it’s close enough that I’d relate it to this article. Chris Thile is a GOD on the mandolin. Give this a shot, @moshoff:disqus

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BuNrPWm9WNk

    • MoshOff

      Interesting, for sure. Thanks man.

      • Bob Saget

        Jazzgrass?

        His other stuff is worth looking into as well. My wife and I caught his band Punch Brothers last year — they play a really cool blend of progressive bluegrass. Chris also does a lot of classical sonatas and the likes. All-around talented musician.

  • The Dillinger Escape Plan is my type of smooth jazz.

  • Howard Dean

    Good article! Jazz and fusion is not really my cup of tea, but it was an enjoyable read.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVG44ABkTzk

  • Yeah how about we get three flamenco guitars, then throw Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin, and Paco De Lucia in a room and record what happens?

    http://youtu.be/FcXaRgV7HRw

    • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

      I forgot Paco De Lucia FTW

        • MoshOff

          GOD AMONGST MEN, RIP. Honestly one of my main sources of Spanish pride. I didn’t write about Friday Night in San Francisco ’cause I thought the article was getting too long, but that album is just…

          JUST

          • You know how I know you didn’t watch the second video?

          • MoshOff

            I’ve seen it before, but why?

          • Because it’s a parody?

          • MoshOff

            Oh fuck haha. I’ve seen the real one, damn shreds videos.

          • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

            It’s that Finnish guy St.Shreds isn’t it.

          • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

            St Sanders shreds that is

        • lol’d 😀

          • Tyree

            HA!

    • Woah, this is sweet.

      • Yeah once you get me to shut up about power metal, I know a bit about good music 😉

    • Stockhausen

      RIP Paco.

  • W.
    • Cock ov Steele

      Bass n drums bass n drums

    • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

      Their newest qith the violin and piano and all is pretty jazzy at times. Good Shit. I prefer Om over their previous, more known incantation

      • Death

        You’re doing this on purpose!

        • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

          Whatsa mean, mean man?

        • Cock ov Steele

          Nah he did it on porpoise

          • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

            You I liek

        • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

          Also did you check Verneri & Black Motor

  • Cock ov Steele

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ni8KBhnebwE I always thought Chet Atkins had a jazzy feel to his playing, unless that was just the Gretsch talkin.

    • Love this shit.

      • Cock ov Steele

        Anything Jerry and Chet touched turned to awesome.

  • W.

    Also, great post, MoshOFF!

  • Cock ov Steele

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=er2vnOhqxm0 I credit this group with getting me into the jazzy side of things.

  • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=lCnFyDKfTig
    Not Pekka’s best but awesome anyway.
    Also @MoshOff will you marry me.

  • AyatollaAssahola

    Marco Minneman’s Broken Orange, anyone? Straight jazz, but still. Or on second thought some of that stuff is borderline fusion.

  • Cock ov Steele

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IjS9Y-T589g Jaco was so awesome, his bass began to play itself.

  • Gurp

    Awesome! I listened to Allan Holdsworth a bit, but he was really the only fusion artist I ever got into (or even heard of, for that matter).

    To sweeten the jazz-metal pot:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7ZipHFZTaY

  • TheCheezFace .

    Love me some jazz (though I do admit I’m not too familiar with fusion)

    • TheCheezFace .

      And I too, prefer CP”s solos to Friedman’s.

  • zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    visions of property rights—what is mine is yours

    unless i say so motherfucker——>misdirection—-ludicrous side effects—and true occultism

    a spell of baphomet—-and fire–

    worldwide metal feast

    (all 3 at once)

    phil anselmo teaches a grasshoper

    http://youtu.be/jJX-CJyAY0E
    mahavishnu orchestra – visions of the emerald beyond
    http://youtu.be/zg6bnKKGKdc

    apollo earth (xtra low vol)

    http://youtu.be/thuViaxRd_w

  • Jointsalot

    Awesome article MoshOff! I too prefer Poland to Freidman. Just hearing his leads that sound like they belong on a miles davis record still gets me.

  • KJM
  • KJM

    And here’s the tour inspired by that album
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qaCIG6ykWts

  • KJM

    And here’s 2 hours worth of outtakes from the sessions

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XF25KKFYZoY

  • KJM

    Hendrix & McLaughlin? It happened.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lcjivCDdqs

  • KJM

    Oh, and IMNs have nothing on Jazz snobs. They are the worst.

  • Quarter Ounce Harrell

    Animals As Leaders, The Mars Volta, and Suicidal Tendencies Jazz fusion album? yes please my favorite! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBX8an0PY5c

  • HessianHunter

    Don’t forget that punks can jazz too!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_BqufJhHYA

  • Link D. LeonhⒶrt V.

    loved the Birds of Fire from Mahavishnu.. and the Romantic Warrior from Return to Forever <3.. thanks for this awesome post!!!