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Jazz LoungeFusion Style
Fusion Style, The styles explained Miles Davis
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Fusion Style

By Loren Schoenberg, Conductor and Saxophonist

Audio sample Spanish Key by Miles Davis
Recorded August 21, 1969
(Courtesy Columbia/Legacy)


"Fusion" was named after the blending of jazz with rock (with a more than a dollop of funk thrown in), a mixture that eventually hit a brick wall. The rhythmic bases of the two styles were incompatible, but there is no denying that many creative musicians found the genre enticing. Certainly, the electric bassist Jaco Pastorius, Herbie Hancock, and the band Steps Ahead created many masterpieces in the idiom, as did a handful of others.

Audio Feature Herbie Hancock, musician
Reflections on Miles Davis' music
(Audio Excerpt from JAZZ A Film by Ken Burns)


The fact that Miles Davis was the prime instigator was undeniably the major factor in the music's initial appeal. As the writer Stuart Nicholson (in his definitive book Jazz-Rock: A History) put it: "For at least two years prior to Bitches Brew, jazz-rock had been bubbling beneath the surface, but the style needed someone of sufficient stature to 'sanction' the dawn of a new era."

Spanish Key is an edited-down version of one of the tracks from Bitches Brew the album which announced Davis' jettisoning of the music that he had been such a pivotal figure in for a quarter of a century. This is not to imply that it lacks complexity, but at the base of the music is a rhythmically static cycle that would have been an anathema to Davis just a few years earlier. As for today, the contemporary music of Bill Frisell, John Zorn and Steve Coleman have clearly borrowed from what fusion wrought.