Jazz at 100 Hour 83: Road to Fusion

Miles Davis

Jazz-rock fusion or, often, simply “fusion” emerged in the late 60s as the child of many mothers. Characterized by electric instruments and rock rhythms, it could be loud and fast, but just as likely, could be melodic or lyrical or funky. The Charles Lloyd Quartet, the Gary Burton Quartet, Tony Williams Lifetime and the Joe Zawinul Group all showed elements of what became the best-selling strain of jazz in the 1970s. And once again, of course, Miles Davis was in the center of things.

Charles Lloyd Quartet.
In 1966 and 1967, tenor saxophonist Charles Lloyd led a quartet that introduced pianist Keith Jarrett and drummer Jack DeJohnette; a quartet that became a sensation in the San Francisco music scene dominated by the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane.

“The music, like the band itself, is so fresh and innovative that it caused a mighty stir, eventually reaching Miles Davis himself. Miles picked up on Lloyd’s sound and energy, ultimately recruiting DeJohnette and Jarrett, and moving forward to launch the musical revolution known as Bitches Brew. But before all of these radical changes, there was Lloyd, who deserves credit for dramatically expanding the audience for ‘jazz’ to include the hordes of acid-dropping, long- haired children of the 60s. Lloyd built up a new market for jazz artists, inadvertently paving the way for the commercial success of fusion. There are unmistakable elements of rock in the rhythms of DeJohnette and Jarrett.” – John Ballon (All About Jazz)

Is It Really The Same. Charles Lloyd Quartet
(Charles Lloyd-ts/fl, Keith Jarrett-p, Ron McClure-b, Jack DeJohnette-d). From Love-In. 1/27/1967
Composed By Keith Jarrett

Gary Burton Quartet.
Gary Burton introduced blues-inflected electric guitar into his quartet when, in 1967, he brought in Larry Coryell, whose later band, The Eleventh House, became a characteristic fusion group in the mid-1970s.
Gary Burton’s “Duster, [in 1967], was one of the first jazz-rock records, and though it seems tame compared to later examples of the genre, it had impact, even if only as permission to mix rock beats and distorted guitar into a jazz performance.” – Brian Morton & Richard Cook

One, Two, 1-2-3-4. Gary Burton Quartet
(Gary Burton-vib, Larry Coryell-g, Steve Swallow-b, Roy Haynes-d). From Duster. 4/18/1967

Tony Williams Lifetime.
As he was completing his tenure with Miles Davis, drummer Tony Williams recruited British guitarist, John McLaughlin and Parisian expat organist, Larry Young to form the band Lifetime. “Their LP Emergency! was not only one of the first fusion records, but also probably the defining record that introduced American audiences—and most notably Miles Davis—to John McLaughlin. Williams himself, at the age of twenty-four, was already a veteran of groups with Sam Rivers, Eric Dolphy, Jackie McLean, and of course Davis’ second great quintet … But the glue of the record wasn’t just Williams, it was the explosive combination of the Lifetime band with McLaughlin and organist Larry Young. Their expansive sound within the confines of a trio is pure genius. The sound is huge and the jams are rooted deeply in rock styles.” – Trevor MacLaren (All About Jazz)

Vashkar. Tony Williams Lifetime
(Larry Young-org, John McLaughlin-g, Tony Williams-d). From Emergency! 5/26/1969

Electric Miles.
By the end of the ’60s, with rock music dominant in the marketplace, Miles was looking for new directions that carried forward his core values in a creative and relevant way. For him, the “… big break with the past would come with his seminal Bitches Brew release of 1969, but even before that seismic shift, the signs of this coming change could be seen in his growing use of electric instruments and vamp forms.” Electric guitar, electric piano and insistent ground rhythms began to dominate the recordings of late 1967 and 1968. “With [the LP] In a Silent Way from the following February, the change was all but complete. The band’s sound now tended toward uncomplicated patterns reminiscent of the dance and soul music of the day. The harmonies were often static. To cement this change, Davis was enlisting the skills of a wider range of musicians, including keyboardists Joe Zawinul and Chick Corea, guitarist John McLaughlin, and bassist Dave Holland.” – Ted Gioia

It’s About That Time. Miles Davis Octet
(Miles Davis-tp, Wayne Shorter-ts, Joe Zawinul-key, Chick Corea-key, Herbie Hancock-key, John McLaughlin-g, Dave Holland-b, Tony Williams-d). From In A Silent Way. 2/18/1969.

Bitches Brew, recorded at three sessions in 1969 and released the following year, looked and sounded nothing like a typical jazz album. “It was loose and tight at the same time,” said Davis. “Everybody was alert to different possibilities that were coming up in the music” … Bitches Brew was a sprawling double album … No one in their right mind would have considered it a commercial product: it was dissonant, texturally dense, and radio-unfriendly … Nevertheless, Bitches Brew found a niche in the new album-oriented rock of the day, selling a half million copies during its first year. Davis never look back, neither did the music industry which now loudly trumpeted the new category, marked in the record store as ‘Fusion.’” – Gary Giddins & Scott Deveaux

John McLaughlin. Miles Davis Group
(Miles Davis-tp, Wayne Shorter-ss, Bennie Maupin-bcl, Joe Zawinul-elp, Chick Corea-elp, John McLaughlin-g, Dave Holland-b, Harvey Brooks-elb, Lenny White-d, Jack DeJohnette-d, Don Alias-cga, Jumma Santos/Jim Riley-shaker). From Bitches Brew. 8/19/1969

Joe Zawinul.
Joe Zawinul pioneered electric keyboards in jazz with his work in Cannonball Adderley’s Quintet. It has been noted that his attack is unlike anyone else’s and this allowed him to invest electric keyboards – particularly analog instruments – with real personality and expressive power. After providing the title tune for In A Silent Way and contributing to that release and Bitches Brew, Zawinul recorded his influential eponymous LP and then formed what was the most successful and long-lived fusion band, Weather Report.

Zawinul is a beautiful record. Subtitled ‘Music for two electric pianos, jazz flute, trumpet, soprano saxophone, two contrabasses and percussion’, it nods in the direction of his conservatory past almost as much as it anticipates the experiments in fusion music. Woody Shaw’s echoplexed trumpet strongly recalls Miles (who contributes a liner-note) but, with [Miroslav] Vitous handling one of the bass parts and Shorter replacing the little-known [Earl] Turbinton on [one track], the original Weather Report is already in place… The brief ‘Arrival In New York’ is an aural impression of the immigrant wharves; not far removed from Mingus’s ‘Foggy Day’ on Pithecanthropus Erectus, it underlines an interest in pure sound, ‘human sound’ as Zawinul would have put it. The next decade would see him take a giant step in that direction.” – Brian Morton & Richard Cook

In A Silent Way. Joe Zawinul’s Group
(Woody Shaw-tp, George Davis-fl, Earl Turbinton-ss, Herbie Hancock-p, Joe Zawinul-el-p, Walter Booker-b, Miroslav Vitous-b, Billy Hart-d, David Lee-per). From Zawinul. 8/6/1970

His Last Journey. Joe Zawinul’s Group
(Jimmy Owens-tp, George Davis-fl, Earl Turbinton-ss, Jack DeJohnette-melodica, Herbie Hancock-el-p, Joe Zawinul-el-p, Walter Booker-b, Miroslav Vitous-b, Joe Chambers-d, Billy Hart-d, David Lee-per). From Zawinul. 8/12/1970

Arrival In New York. Joe Zawinul’s Group
(Jimmy Owens-tp, Woody Shaw-tp, Hubert Laws-fl, Wayne Shorter-ss, Herbie Hancock-p, Joe Zawinul-el-p, Walter Booker-b, Miroslav Vitous-b, Joe Chambers-d, Billy Hart-d, David Lee-d, Jack DeJohnette-per). From Zawinul. 8/18 – 10/28/1970

Miles Davis – Get Up With It.
Miles Davis’s 1974 release, Get Up With It, “… recorded in chunks over 4 years, is a capstone on a wild period.” It includes a wide-range of moods and on one extreme “…there’s ‘Rated X’ – a fast 7 minutes, thudding and dense, with funk that’s so thick it barely breathes. Guitars and keyboards stay on one cord each through wah-wah pedals. Davis’s organ is a constant and the rest of the band appears and disappears, cut off mercilessly to create gaps at moments of unbearable intensity, as when Davis presses a fore arm on a pile of organ notes. It’s filthy frightening music. Davis alienated many people with it.” – Ben Ratliff

Rated X. Miles Davis Octet
(Miles Davis-org, Cedric Lawson-el-p, Khalil Balakrishna-el-sitar, Reggie Lucas-el-g, Michael Henderson-el-b, Al Foster-d, Badal Roy-tabla, Mtume-per). From Get Up With It. 9/6/1972

Larry Coryell, Chick Corea, John McLaughlin, Herbie Hancock, Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter became best-selling stars of the new jazz-rock fusion. Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette went on to lead significant ensembles up to the present. Miles Davis continued to record electric jazz until his death in 1991.

British guitarist John McLaughlin contributed to creating the bold new sound of Miles Davis’s great proto-fusion works, In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew. He was a member of what might have been the first great fusion band, Tony Williams Lifetime, and if that wasn’t enough, founded what Ben Ratliff describes as “the ideal band for the time” The Mahavishnu Orchestra. John McLaughlin’s late 1960’s and early 1970’s recordings in the next hour of Jazz at 100.

Recordings.
Charles Lloyd Quartet. Love-In. Atlantic LP 1481
Gary Burton Quartet. Duster. RCA Victor ‎LSP 3835
Tony William’s Lifetime. Emergency! Polydor 25-3001
Miles Davis. In a Silent Way. Columbia ‎CS 9875
Miles Davis. Bitches Brew. Columbia GP 26
Joe Zawinul. Zawinul. Atlantic SD 1579
Miles Davis. Get Up With It. Columbia KG 33236

Resources.
Ballon, John. “Charles Lloyd: Forest Flower.” All About Jazz. 11/2/2003. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/charles-lloyd-forest-flower-charles-lloyd-by-john-ballon.php
Giddins, Gary & DeVeaux, Scott. 2009. JAZZ. New York, NY. WW Norton & Company.
Chapter 17. Fusion II: Jazz, Rock and Beyond
Gioia, Ted. 2011. The History of Jazz. New York. Oxford University Press.
Chapter 7. The Fragmentation of Jazz Styles
MacLaren, Trevor. “Tony Williams: The Tony Williams Lifetime: Emergency!.” All About Jazz. 11/16/2005. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/the-tony-williams-lifetime-emergency-tony-williams-by-trevor-maclaren.php
Morton, Brian & Cook, Richard. 2011. Penguin Jazz Guide, the History of the Music in the 1001 Best Albums. New York, NY. Penguin Books.
Miles Davis. In A Silent Way
Joe Zawinul. Zawinul
Ratliff, Ben. 2002. The New York Times Essential Library of Jazz. New York. Times Books.
80. Miles Davis: Get Up With It (1970 – 1974)

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