Archive for the ‘Jazz Fusion’ Category

Any Major Fusion Vol. 1

January 14th, 2021 3 comments

It began with Miles Davis and broke down with Kenny G. Jazz Fusion, and the various guises in which it revealed itself, began with the experimental fusion of jazz and rock of Davis’ 1968 album Miles In The Sky. The likes of John McLoughlin, Herbie Hancock, Al Di Meola, Chick Corea, Bob James and so on continued in that avant garde vein. But other, more funk and soul oriented musicians, emerged in the 1970s, and many of the avant garde crowd also contributed to the rise of the more accessible form of fusion, the kind that would be saddled with the horrible moniker “smooth jazz”.

And it”s from the tradition of that horribly monikered “smooth jazz” that this compilation draws, with the intention to rehabilitate the genre, and to reclaim it from the generic and often utterly dull rubbish that also goes by the horrible (but in their case entirely apt) moniker. Be assured that there’s also some unsmooth material by people like Oliver Sain and Bill Summers, plus a great jazz-disco number by veteran saxophonist Houston Person (and check out his phallocentric LP cover; will the lady blow it?).

There is nothing wrong with smooth. Marvin Gaye was smooth. Many great things are smooth. Smooth can be bad. Kenny G is smooth and bad. Gerald Albright is smooth and dull. But in his day, Grover Washington Jr was smooth and great.

Many of the fusion greats were session musicians. And many great session musicians would play on their colleagues” records. I would wager that the jazz fusion scene was the most racially integrated genre in modern music.

Dave Grusin is probably most famous as the Oscar-winning composer of film scores (he wrote the music for films such as Tootsie, The Milagro Beanfields, The Fabulous Baker Boys and The Firm), but through his GRP label, he fostered much great jazz. His beautiful Anthem International features Lee Ritenour on guitar and Steve Gadd on drums. You’ll have heard Gadd’s drumming: on Steely Dan’s Aja, perhaps, or on Paul Simon’s One Trick Pony (which also featured guitarist Eric Gale), or you might have seen him on DVD, backing Simon & Garfunkel in Central Park and Eric Clapton at Hyde Park. Or, of course, you might have downloaded the three mixes in the Steve Gadd Collections that have been posted here: Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 Vol. 3 are all still up.

Gadd also appears on Grover Washington’s East River Drive, alongside the great percussionist Ralph McDonald (who also produced the album it comes from), the brilliant bassist Marcus Miller (who played with Ritenour on Tom Browne’s Funkin’ For Jamaica), keyboard player Richard Tee (whom you’ve also seen on Simon & Garfunkel’s Concert in Central Park; but just check out his amazing list of credits, accumulated before his death at 49) and Eric Gale.

Meanwhile, Hugh Masekela guests on Eric Gale‘s equally gorgeous Blue Horizon, and Earth, Wind & Fire turn up on Ramsey Lewis‘ Whisper Zone (whose keyboard solo reaches a note that might shatter crystal). EWF’s Maurice White also co-produced Roy Ayers‘ Everybody Loves The Sunshine.

The Montana Sextet aren’t very famous, though the Heavy Vibes single did fairly well. They were led by and named after Vincent Montana Jr, founder of the Salsoul Orchestra and percussionist of Philadelphia International’s houseband MFSB, who died in 2013. The man’s credits were dizzying.

We encounter Joe Sample in this mix as a member of the Crusaders, but also as the composer of Blue Mitchell‘s catchy Asso-Kam, on which he also did keyboard duty.

All but two of the acts on this mix are American; quite by chance, the exceptions are the opener, Iceland’s Mezzoforte, and the closer, Sadao Watanabe, who is Japanese — and whose track features Dave Grusin, Ralph McDonald, Richard Tee and Steve Gadd.

And if all this sounded familiar, you might have been reading this nine years ago, when I first posted this mix.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and comes with homefused front and back cover. PW in comments

1. Mezzoforte – Garden Party (1983)
2. Montana Sextet – Heavy Vibes (1982)
3. George Duke – Brazilian Love Affair (1979)
4. Ramsey Lewis – Whisper Zone (1980)
5. Spyro Gyra – Morning Dance (1979)
6. Tania Maria – Come With Me (1982)
7. Blue Mitchell – Asso-Kam (1973)
8. Eric Gale – Blue Horizon (1981)
9. Dave Grusin – Anthem Internationale (1982)
10. Grover Washington Jr. – East River Drive (1981)
11. Crusaders – Keep That Same Old Feeling (1976)
12. Oliver Sain – London Express (1975)
13. Bill Summers & Summers Heat – Brazilian Skies (1977)
14. Houston Person – Do It While You Can (1977)
15. Roy Ayers – Everybody Loves The Sunshine (1976)
16. Sadao Watanabe – Nice Shot (1980)


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Jazzy South Africa

October 22nd, 2012 9 comments

A cover produced by for this mix, utilising an artwork titled ‘Township Jazz’ by Lorraine Marcus.

By request, this is reposted from 17 January 2009.

If I mentioned Jazz Fusion or Smooth Jazz I might hear you running. Please don”t. South African jazz evokes neither Miles Davis nor the dreaded Kenny G-led brigade of monotonomeisters. It draws from jazz: from Davis, from George Benson (the Benson who made that insane fusion cover of White Rabbit, not the smooth soulster), from Grover Washington Jr et al. But more than that, it draws from the many sounds of the townships.

So a guitarist like the late Allen Kwela (1939-2003; the featured track was released a year before his death) drew from the mbaqanga style he knew in the Durban townships, while the Tony Schilder Trio, led by the eponymous veteran (and now sadly retired) keyboardist, borrowed from the imported international flavours of Cape Town”s harbour, the sounds of fellow Capetonian Abdullah Ibrahim/Dollar Brand, the langarm (roughly ballroom) music of the Cape, the rhythms of the Kaapse Klopse.

Tony Schilder (Photo from

The Schilder Trio”s signature song Montreal is the sound of a party in Cape Town”s Coloured community (that is, those of mixed racial heritage thus classified under apartheid). Montreal was the name of the city”s premier jazz club of the “80s, located in the township of Manenberg (made famous, albeit in its misspelled form, by Dollar Brand”s classic), among whose regular live performers were vocalist Robbie Jansen “” an absolute legend in Cape Town”s jazz circles, whose version of What”s Going On needed to be heard more widely, but was never recorded “” and house bandleader Schilder. Expect no lyrical greatness on Montreal, but experience the joyful soundtrack of the Cape”s party mood as Jansen is joined on vocals by fellow Capetonian Jonathan Butler. Tony Schilder died in December 2010 at the age of 73.

Also from Cape Town but younger and from a different background are saxophonist McCoy Mrubata, vocalist Sylvia Ncediwe Mdunyelwa, and Durban-born and classically trained Musa Manzini. Their names give it away that they are from an African background. Their township experience, the rhythm of their lives” soundtracks, are very different from those of Schilder, Jansen or Butler “” or, indeed, other featured Capetonians such as Errol and Alvin Dyers or Allou April (whose Bringing Joy may be this set”s most uplifting track). In Langa township or Gugulethu, the jazz was tinged with the gospel music of African inculturation, the traditional rhythms and the beats of kwela and mbaqanga and jive, R&B and the traditions of American jazz.

If there is one artist here who transcends all regional and local distinctions, it is Gito Baloi, who was so cruelly taken from us at the hands of criminals in 2004 just as his career was beginning to flourish at the age of 39. A Mozambican-born bass player and vocalist, Gito cut his musical teeth in the non-racial jazz trio Tananas, which was based in Cape Town, the country”s jazz capital, but enjoyed great popularity elsewhere, especially in Johannesburg.

I”ve mentioned Durban”s Allen Kwela and Cape Town”s Tony Schilder as representatives of an older generation. In Johannesburg, their equivalent “” besides Hugh Masekela “” was saxophonist Ratau Mike Makhalemele, whose Soweto Dawn from 1990 is a thing of beauty. Makhalemele played on records by the likes of Curtis Mayfield, Champion Jack Dupree and Paul Simon (on Graceland), died some nine years ago.

The best-known name of this lot probably is Pretoria”s Vusi Mahlasela, a wonderful acoustic guitarist with a lovely voice whose earlier albums were quite beautiful. Alas, like Ladysmith Black Mambazo before him, he has benefited too much from the attention of international recording superstars. I can”t blame the man, by all accounts a superb human being, for paying his bills, but collaborations with Josh Groban and the Dave Matthews Band won”t do his street cred much good. Except in South Africa, where any brush with foreign celebrity is considered admirable. Or perhaps the magnificent guitarist Jimmy Dludlu is South Africa”s biggest jazz name, at least locally. If the man was American, he”d wallpaper his living room with Grammies. Stuck in the musical ghetto that is South Africa, he may glance with admiring jealousy in Vusi”s direction.

One performer on this selection pulls together the strings of South African jazz and pop history over the past three decades: Pretoria-born keyboard player Don Laka, who made his first appearance on vinyl as a 14-year-old, was a member of the influential Afro jazz-funk groups Sakhile and SA/Lesotho outfit Sankomota (who were decimated in a car crash), played with Sipho Mabuse and wrote for Brenda Fassie, and finally founded South Africa”s first profitable black-owned label.

1. Tony Schilder Trio – Montreal
2. Allou April – Bringing Joy
3. Don Laka – Ilang Sekolong
4. Gito Baloi – Hinkwafo
5. Vusi Mahlasela – Antone
6. Solly Mabena – Pehilindaba
7. Jimmy Dludlu – Zavala
8. McCoy Mrubata – Phosa Ngasemva
9. Ernie Smith – Lonely
10. Selaelo Selota – Painted Faces
11. Musa Manzini – Renaissance Song
12. Alvin Dyers – Wesley Street
13. Sylvia Ncediwe Mdunyelwa – Abazali
14. Ratau Mike Makhalemele – Soweto Dawn
15. Allen Kwela – Seven Days Ago
16. Errol Dyers – Kou Kou Wa


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