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ATWOOD - "A Toiler's Weird Odyssey of Deliverance"-AVAILABLE
NOW FOR KINDLE (INCLUDING KINDLE COMPUTER APPS) FROM
CCJ Publisher Rick Alan Rice dissects
the building of America in a trilogy of novels
collectively calledATWOOD. Book One explores
the development of the American West through the
lens of public policy, land planning, municipal
development, and governance as it played out in one
of the new counties of Kansas in the latter half of
the 19th Century. The novel focuses on the religious
and cultural traditions that imbued the American
Midwest with a special character that continues to
have a profound effect on American politics to this
day. Book One creates an understanding about
America's cultural foundations that is further
explored in books two and three that further trace
the historical-cultural-spiritual development of one
isolated county on the Great Plains that stands as
an icon in the development of a certain brand of
American character. That's the serious stuff viewed
from high altitude. The story itself gets down and
dirty with the supernatural, which inATWOOD
- A Toiler's Weird Odyssey of Deliveranceis the
outfall of misfires in human interactions, from the
monumental to the sublime.The
book features the epic poem"The
well as artwork by New Mexico artist Richard
Meets Larry McMurtry
I am offering another
novel through Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing service.
Cooksin is the story of a criminal syndicate that sets its
sights on a ranching/farming community in Weld County, Colorado,
1950. The perpetrators of the criminal enterprise steal farm
equipment, slaughter cattle, and rob the personal property of
individuals whose assets have been inventoried in advance and
distributed through a vast system of illegal commerce.
It is a ripping good yarn, filled
with suspense and intrigue. This was designed intentionally to
pay homage to the type of creative works being produced in 1950,
when the story is set. Richard Padilla
has done his usually brilliant work in capturing the look and feel of
a certain type of crime fiction being produced in that era. The
whole thing has the feel of those black & white films you see on
Turner Movie Classics, and the writing will remind you a little
of Elmore Leonard, whose earliest works were westerns.
Use this link.
EXPLORE THE KINDLE
If you have not explored the books
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Amazon is the largest,
but far from the only digital publisher. You can
find similar treasure troves atNOOK
Barnes & Noble site),Lulu,
For no particular reason, beyond a recent
viewing of the documentary "Jaco", this issue is devoted to the history
of Jazz Fusion. That documentary is being reviewed on our Cinema page.
As a musical form, Jazz Fusion is not for everybody, though to its
devotees it is the ultimate expression of the potentials of free Jazz.
To those who love it, it is a thrilling high wire act, a musical journey
into some place where few musicians have gone before. To those who don't
like the form, Jazz Fusion is a little precious in its conceit, which
asks audiences to give themselves to the absorptions of another. To
those who like their music right out of the American Standards songbook,
Jazz Fusion can be a little difficult to connect with. Perhaps a little
history, and a richer understanding of the places from where it all came
will help. That is what this issue is about.
Modern Music's Demarcation
Recently I was watching
"Jaco", the long-awaited documentary on the life of bassist
extraordinaire Jaco Pastorius, and while watching live
performance clips of Pastorius with Weather Report I started to drift a
bit. Some people hate Jazz. They hated it coming from Jazz masters
Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, and they hated it even
more when it went electric and eventually turned into Spyro Gyra
and Kenny G. I even have to fight the impulse in myself to turn
off on it because Jazz doesn't really belong to the listener, but rather
to the player. To the person who just isn't that into listening to
somebody else get off, even great - in fact, especially great - Jazz
performance can sound a lot like a guy practicing. Jazz guys know that
and it is why the best marshall their solo time with great discipline.
When I was a kid, adults would advise against staying out too late with
a date, often saying "if it gets to be midnight and nothing has happened
it isn't going to happen and you may as well take her home". Rational
thinking can take the excitement of possibilities right out of life, and
so it is with Jazz. If the guys haven't achieved lift off after 32 bars
or so, it just isn't going to happen and you all may as well go home.
Jazz fans accept that this is a possible outcome of an outing with Jazz,
while people who don't like Jazz simply will not consider that form,
however well credentialed and silky it may be.
So, how did we get this way, locked into this
notion about what works in popular music, and what doesn't? I started to
look into it to answer that question for myself, which took the form of
a historical survey of the development of the Jazz Fusion form.
Mario Bauza and Frank Grillo -"Machito"
Music historians trace the development of Jazz
Fusion back to the Afro-Cuban sounds that came to prominence in the
1940s in the work of composers such as Mario Bauza and Frank
Grillo. Their music was a fusion of clave-based rhythms with jazz
harmonies and techniques of improvisation. I stole that from the
Wikipedia entry on the subject and it sounds right to my ear. Latin Jazz
is a percussionist's expression, in many ways, and quite a departure
from the brassy bombast of Swing. It's musical statements have a smaller
sound, a staccato urgency quite different from the lush horsepower of
the preceding Big Band era. Music entered an age of austerity in the
post-World War II years that it never really came out of. Bands got
smaller and a few select instruments were tasked with carrying heavier
and heavier loads. This trend has gained momentum with the advent of
advanced electronics that put the voice of entire orchestras in the
hands of a single player, but we'll get to modern Jazz Fusion a little
further down the page.
Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo -
"Manteca" is a blend of Afro-Cuban and Bebop.
While Afro-Cuban sounds were evolving in the
Southern Hemisphere, American Jazz musicians, including horn players
Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, and others, were
championing the Bebop sound. There opened the gates of hell, because
Bebop was the 1940s version of the 1960s Psychedelic era in popular
music, just with fewer adherents; possibly because fewer people were
using heroine than would eventually use LSD, marijuana, mushrooms, and
Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker -
"Hot House" is a Bebop standard. Bebop expanded
musical expression through the use of "advanced harmonies, complex
syncopation, altered chords, extended chords, chord substitutions,
asymmetrical phrasing, and intricate melodies"; there again, lifted from
Wikipedia. Bebop demanded small-unit horsepower and in many ways has
remained the thing one thinks about when Jazz virtuosity comes to mind.
That said, Bebop's influence did not really survive the 1950s, as artists such as Miles Davis opted for other stylistic
Miles Davis - "So What"
Miles Davis was only 18 years old when he left his
native Chicago to move to the east coast, where he played with Charlie
Parker. Let that sink in for a moment. Davis was going to become one of
the most important figures in the history of music, a visionary who
would evolve to become the vanguard of new Jazz forms. His influence was
"Bird", Charlie Parker, who was the personification of the Beatnik
iconoclast, and a guy whose heroine use contributed to his early death.
Davis was keeping company with genius, and soon enough he exhibited
genius in himself, originating a form called "Cool Jazz".
Miles Davis - "Bitches Brew"
If Miles Davis was "cool" in the 1950s, he was
flat-out spooky in the late 1960s. He had played his own form of "hard
Bebop" and, in 1957, recorded "Kind of Blue" with pianist
drummer Jimmy Cobb, bassist Paul Chambers, and saxophonists John
Coltrane and Julian "Cannonball" Adderley. Pianist Wynton Kelly also
played on one track. That is the best-selling Jazz LP of all time. Davis
went on to explore with a second quintet that included Wayne
Shorter (saxophone), Herbie Hancock (piano), Ron Carter (bass), and
Tony Williams (drums). In 1968, Davis went electric, featuring a
band that at various times included keyboard players Hancock and Joe
Zawinul along with Chick Corea and guitarist John
The Tony Williams Lifetime - "There Comes A Time"
Tony Williams was only 17 years old when
he was tabbed to join Miles Davis' "Second Great Quartet". He is
considered one of the preeminent drummers in the history of Jazz Fusion.
Williams led his own band in his post-Miles days and worked with a
variety of top Jazz players, while also teaching in the San Francisco
Bay Area. He died of a heart attack following gall bladder surgery, only
51 years of age.
Return to Forever - "Sorceress"
Return to Forever was a Chick Corea
project that featured a revolving cast of players. Among them was Stanley Clarke,
who is certainly one of the most virtuosic
bassists of all time, as this video below amply demonstrates. Others who
came to prominence in that band were Flora Purim (vocal), Airto
Moreira (percussion), and Al Di Meola (guitar). Corea
got his start, in the early 1960s playing in the legendary Cab
Colloway's band. He went on to become a significant Jazz composer, and
when he turned to fusion he became notable for his use of the "ring
modulator" for processing his electric piano sounds.
The Mahavishnu Orchestra - "Meeting of the Spirits"
The Mahavishnu Orchestra was guitarist
John McLaughlin's project following his stint with Miles Davis. It
featured him on acoustic and electric guitars, Billy Cobham (drums,
also a Davis veteran), Rick Laird (bass), Jan Hammer (electric and
acoustic piano and synthesizer), and Jerry Goodman (violin).
"Mahavishnu" is what McLaughlin was called in association with his
studies with Indian guru Sri Chinmoy. It means "Divine
compassion, power and justice." or simply "Great Vishnu", an aspect of
Gary Burton and Larry Corryell - "General
Mojo's Well-Laid Plan"
Vibraphone player Gary Burton worked with
guitarist Larry Corryell, bassist Steve Swallow, and drummer Roy Haynes
to produce Duster, considered a landmark Jazz Fusion recording.
Weather Report - "Birdland"
Weather Report was born of Austrian-born
keyboard player Joe Zawinul, the American saxophonist Wayne
Shorter and Czech bassist Miroslav Vitou, but it also
included noteworthy players including bassists Alphonso Johnson, Jaco
Pastorius and Victor Bailey; and drummers/percussionists
Peter Erskine, Alex Acuña, Airto Moreira and Chester Thompson.
Zawinul and Shorter worked together with Miles
Davis, and both are important figures in Jazz Fusion. Weather Report
became something of a crossover unit commercially when Pastorius took
over bass duties and brought a whole new level of live performance to
the act. Zawinul and Pastorius had a difficult relationship with
father-son overtones that may have contributed to the substance abuse
and mental illness issues that brought an early end to his life at age
Steely Dan - "November Afternoon / Black Cow"
The video left was uploaded to YouTube recently by
someone self-identifying as "edgeofthewind". That person took some
dynamite video of Steely Dan performing at Red Rocks Amphitheatre on
June 13, 2016.
This video is illustrative
of so much about how Jazz became Jazz Fusion and eventually Jazz-Rock.
The opening number is pure Jazz Fusion and is expertly performed. People
who don't enjoy this sound will point out something that is a feature of
instrumental Jazz Fusion: it rarely feels as if it has a destination,
but rather is all about the trip, the road to being there with it. When
Donald Fagen shows up to perform the familiar pop tune "Black Cow",
which borrows so many of the tropes of Jazz Fusion, you experience a
level of musical clarity that really delineates and defines the two
related styles. This thing that Donald Fagen calls his "fake Jazz" is a
story teller's medium, a troubadour's narrative scheme. It uses words.
Outside of the Jazz standard songbook, which features tons of great
story-telling, what Fagen would probably call "real Jazz" is a musical
experience shared between those who express it and those who absorb
themselves in that expression. One must be in a mental space to go with
instrumental Jazz, which is an emotional/intellectual thing that may
live quite well without a melody, let alone words, though the "cooler"
it gets (in the McLuhanesque sense) the more its audience narrows.
Georgie Fame - "Walking the Dog"
Some music historian types will tell you that
there was a Jazz fusion taking place in British Blues-Rock music since
the early 1960s, and it contributed greatly to the Blues craze that
accompanied and followed the psychedelic era of Rock. It also had a
profound influence on the British Invasion, particularly apparent in
such bands as The Animals, The Yardbirds, andlater Cream. A key
figure in that emerging trend in British music in 1961 was Georgie
Fame, who never broke through internationally but was a big star in
Britain. As this video illustrates, Fame was the real deal, doing a
brand of music that would be popularized by his near contemporary Stevie
Winwood with Traffic.
Graham Bond Organization - "Hoochie Coochie Man"
The Graham Bond Organization featured Graham Bond,
who was vocally a little like the street side of Georgie Fame. His band
featured Ginger Baker on drums and Jack Bruce on bass,
with Dick Heckstall-Smith on sax. Baker and Bruce, of course,
would go on to found Cream with guitarist Eric Clapton.
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George Bernard Shaw
"Hell is full of musical amateurs."
Screaming Lord Sutch
David Edward Sutch, aka the Earl of
Harrow, aka Screaming Lord Sutch, had nothing to do with Jazz
Fusion, but he was sure entertaining. A contemporary of The
Beatles, the dark lord was notable for having as his side men
many of the biggest names in that era of British rock, including
Keith Moon, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Ritchie Blackmore, Charlie
Watts and Nicky Hopkins, among others. As you can see in this
video, his technique for getting his female fans to scream was
entirely different from that of The Beatles. His is funnier.