Jazz Rock

by Pat Jacobs
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The early '60s were very much like the 1950s, when jazz still garnered a sizable segment of the American public.

But with the advent of the British Invasion and TV becoming the dominant form of entertainment, jazz clubs began to close, putting many musicians out of work.

Some musicians carried on, striving to extend the boundaries of jazz into new areas, combining the elements of rock and roll (or folk, pop, reggae, metal, R + B, etc.) to create "fusion jazz". Julian "Cannonball" Adderley was an early pioneer. A stunning result of this movement were the two landmark albums by trumpeter Miles Davis, "In A Silent Way" (1969) and "Bitches Brew" (1970).

At the same time, many rock musicians began adding jazz elements to THEIR music. The original version of "Eight Miles High" by The Byrds (Dec. 1965) emulated the style of John Coltrane's classic quartet. In 1966, Paul Butterfield and Mike Bloomfield recorded "East-West", a long improvisational piece.

Other rock musicians performed and recorded rock songs that featured extended improvisations and jazz-style instrumental interplay as well as longer, multi-part compositions (Examples include Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, and The Allman Brothers in the U.S., and Cream, Soft Machine, and Yes in the UK).

Frank Zappa released his first jazz-rock album "Hot Rats" in this year, 1969. He continued recording fusion music occasionally during his career.

A number of prominent jazz-rock bands also had considerable success (particularly in 1969; jazz-rock became a sensation) including Blood, Sweat, and Tears, The Chicago Transit Authority, later shortened to Chicago, Steely Dan (U.S.), and Traffic (UK). Others would soon follow.

Jazz fusion was criticized by traditionalists who preferred the conventional mainstream form and by smooth jazz fans who found the new genre "not accessible". Others found it too pretentious. But the music preservered and took on a life of its own; there was no turning back.

Latin jazz has two main varieties: Afro-Cuban and Brazilian.

There had already been Latin American rhythms in jazz (beginning in the 1920s, especially those associated with dances such as the rhumba, merigue, and the tango), but in 1960, Antonio Carlos Jobim (a Brazilian guitarist and composer) began receiving recognition for his samba music.

American tenor saxophonist Stan Getz collaborated with Jobim and singer Joao Gilberto, scoring a hit with "The Girl From Ipanema". This type of jazz-plus-samba became known as the Bossa Nova. This would be an example of Brazilian jazz.

Afro-Cuban jazz was played in the U.S. directly after the bebop period, during the mid-'50s. Dizzy Gillespie and Billy Taylor started Afro-Cuban bands at this time. Other examples of this genre would be Xavier Cugat, Tito Puente, Chico O' Farrill, and Mario Bauza.

Free jazz is a term often used to categorize a new direction in jazz in the 1960's. Experimental, provocative, and challenging for many listeners, free jazz was characterized by a high degree of dissonance. Pitch and tone quality were manipulated by players on their instruments to produce squeaks, shrieks, and wails. New sounds from non-western music traditions like those of India, China, the Middle East, or Africa were sometimes used.

Collective improvisation, where all players improvise simultaneously and independently without the framework of a chord progression, was also common. All this sometimes lent to the feeling of "organized chaos." (I personally refer to this genre as "weirdo jazz".) Free jazz was praised by some of the prominent musicians of the time, but was not widely accepted by the public.

Two of the major contributors to the evolution of free jazz were alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman and pianist Cecil Taylor. Other free jazz musicians included saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell, pianist Muhal Richard Abrams, composer/pianist/bandleader Carla Bley, and I believe, John Coltrane (His wife, Alice Coltrane, was a noted musician herself, but I'm not sure if her style was free jazz. I DO KNOW that she DID play in his band, so I would venture to say "most likely").

By the mid-'60s, the heyday of Tin Pan Alley was gone, superseded by music written by individual singers and groups. There were a few recordings by jazz artists that "crossed over" into the pop charts but substantially fewer than in the past. Besides "Ipanema", some of these were: "Stranger On The Shore"-Acker Bilk, "Take Five"-Dave Brubeck Trio, "Midnight In Moscow"-Kenny Ball, "Hello Dolly"-Louis Armstrong, and "Washington Square"-The Village Stompers.

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