Progressive Jazz/Fusion. Where to head next.

Nacci

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Quite awhile ago I got four Mahavishnu Orchestra CDs as a gift; The Inner Mounting Flame, Birds of Fire, Between Nothingness & Eternity and Vision of the Emerald Beyond.

I never really did much with them because I was done with CDs and frankly was not listening to music anymore, being caught up with True Crime Podcasts and YouTube Alternative News Videos.

About a year ago I set up a three disc Sony stereo in my workshop, put in those Mahavishnu CDs and let them rip.

Mind blown. I have never heard anything like that. I have no idea what must be going on in McLaughlin’s head or how the rest of those fellas even follow it. Just beautiful stuff.

Anyway, I picked up most of the rest of the Discography but for me, something key disappeared when Cobham left, let alone the other key players.

Having caught the Progressive Fusion bug, I decided to get some other stuff. My local used CD shop had one copy of Weather Reports Heavy Weather.

I knew this was supposed to be a key album in the genre but after listening to it a few times the whole thing fell flat.

Acuna is a much different drummer than Cobham, immediately I missed Ponty and Shorter’s Sax work really grated my nerves. In short, I sounded like elevator music after the early Mahavishnu.

So, my question. Where to go from here? I feel like early Mahavishnu was a collection of some of the worlds best musicians, at the top of their game, breaking ground and creating something new. I also think that Ponty’s beautiful, ethereal violin playing and Cobham’s take no prisoners approach to the drums was key to that.

Who else’s compares in the genre that I can branch off to?
 

DrummerJustLikeDad

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This wasn’t exactly concurrent to Mahavishnu, as I think Brand X’s origins follow along a couple of years later, but they’re a strong example of how British music started to explore the same directions. The boys were certainly aware of Mahavishnu, and while not influenced by them per se, to some extent I think they would say they were inspired by them.

Robin Lumley is one of my favorite writers and performers on keyboard, and the drummer is pretty good too B)

This is the first album they recorded as an official Brand X release, 1976’s Unorthodox Behaviour.

 

EyeByTwoMuchGeer

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I’d branch off into Snarky Puppy for a modern take on extreme jazz creativity and chops. The keyboard solo in the middle of this tune is not to be slept on. Corey Henry is an insane musician. But, everyone is this band is an assassin. I can’t imagine a band having a more densely populated collection of players at the absolute peak of their skills and abilities on their instrument. They have at least three different drumset players in the group that all rotate around, and each one is unreal. Larnell Lewis on this take below.

 
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JDA

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..should've got "Black Market" Weather Report
My local used CD shop had one copy of Weather Reports Heavy Weather.

I knew this was supposed to be a key album in the genre but after listening to it a few times the whole thing fell flat.
that would fix that- the Weather Report fix.
Moving on maybe some Pat Martino (later stuff) or Barry Miles and Silverlight.
There's Eric Kloss. But maybe Fusion crashed and burned in 1980.
Soon as George Benson started singing ; )

 
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EvEnStEvEn

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Return To Forever ~ Romantic Warrior


...and the aforementioned Unorthodox Behavior album by Brand X
 

JDA

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Fusion branched off; from Return to Forever ,Mahavishnu Orch, Larry Coryell's 11th House, into the white ECM album 1978 Pat Metheny Group.
even Jan Hammer went into "Miami Vice" ; )
 
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Tornado

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The Brecker Brother's live album "Heavy Metal Bebop" is worth checking out. Terry Bozio played on that. The song "Some Skunk Funk" is my favorite on that album, and my favorite version of that song. Interestingly, that song is also on Billy Cobham's solo record "A Funky Thide of Sings", which you should also absolutely check out.
 
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Congrats on expanding your listening musical horizons!!! There are many places go from there (and elsewhere.) Sometimes it takes time to absorb denser, deeper music, nothing wrong with that. The musical tragedy would be just stopping. Some of the most obvious music has been mentioned, so I'll skip those and go a little deeper.

Older Weather Report like "Live In Tokyo." Freer, looser, w/ drummer Eric Gravatt (maybe not your thing, but as far from Heavy Weather as it gets.) "Black Market" would have been my first choice too, but "Heavy Weather" get's all the attention because of Jaco.

Larry Coryell and Eleventh House w/ Alphonse Mouzon, sort of a funkier Mahavishnu.

Also Alphonse's stuff with McCoy Tyner is jazz with a "noter fusion" influence "Enlightenment," and "Sahara" and "Focal Point" w/ Gravatt. Alphonse Mouzon "Mind Transplant" is an even funkier and rockier version of that Mahavishnu approach w guitarist Tommy Bolin.

Cobham's "Spectrum" and "Crosswinds" are both classic, and "sort of" Billy's extensions of Mahavishnu (though a little tamer.) Then there is the band "Dreams," with Cobham and the Brecker's.

An even funkier thing is the early George Duke stuff "Faces in Reflection" and "I Love the Blues, She Heard Me Cry." w/ Ndugu Chancler, I love that stuff.

A band that everyone forgets is "Fourth Way" w/ Michel Nock, Ron McCure, Michael White, and Eddie Marshall, pretty cool jazzier fusion, there is even a classic John Handy "Live" record that was sort of a precursor to Fourth Way, and is in this same vein (but with drummer Terry Clarke and Don Thompson playing FUSION!)

I really dig Narada Michael Walden's band The Warriors, there is a live record from 1983, KILLER!

When Jeff Beck and Jan Hammer first hooked up on their "Live" record with drummer Tony Smith it was a rockier version of a Mahavishnu type of thing.

Then there is Jan's "Oh Yeah?" w/ Tony Smith. Must have, ESSENTIAL!!! That might be a great nextstep!

When Jan collaborated on Steve Grossman's "Some Shapes To Come" w/ DRUMMER Don Alias, it messed people up! Again essential! That band evolved in "Stone Alliance" a trio with Jan, Gene Perla, and Don, which was a little jazzier but some of my favorite music EVER!

Santana's "Lotus" (live) was the second band moving into a fusion exploratory place. Pretty cool! And Santana and Mahavishnu John did at least one record together (not my favorite though.) Santana's "Swing of Delight" is very good though.

Stanley Clarke "S/T" is pretty essential Fusion Tony with Bill Connors (playing guitar.) Jan, and Stanley (not much space for anyone else with those four.) Great record!

Which (of course) leads into Tony Williams Lifetime (which since you hadn't heard Mahavishnu, maybe you haven't heard this.) If so, THAT is your next move!!!! "Believe It," "Million Dollar Legs." And while you are at it, how about the seeds (precursor) of Mahavishnu, Tony's Lifetime "Emergency!" Freer, and the first Jazz Rock "fusion."

Sometimes it's fun and more enjoyable to go BACKWARDS from a musical point to see how it came to be. That would involve going to back Miles' "Jack Johnson" and John's "Extrapolition," "Where Fortune Smiles" and "Devotion."

If you get this far, I might suggest the first Steps band (w/ Gadd and then Erskine.) The "Smoking at the Pit" was GREAT. And then Steve Khan "Eyewitness" w/ Steve Jordan, and The Brecker Brothers "Heavy Metal Bebop," "Detente," and "Straphangin."

Get back to me in a few years, that will set you up just fine!
Have fun!!!!!!!!
MSG
 

RIDDIM

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In addition, I would check out Dhafer Youseff, Heernt, Mike Stern, Bill Evans/Dennis Chambers, any live Dennis/Darrel Jones/ Andy Summers (keep an eye on YT), any of Bill Bruford's solo stuff (especially from the 70's), Permanent Vacation, Sixun, Zawinul Syndicate, King Crimson when Bruford was in the band, Lenny White's solo efforts (Venusian Summer, Big City, Streamline), George Duke's solo albums on MPS (with Ndugu), Stan Clarke (plus anything he's done with Ron Bruner or Mike Mitchell) - all of those will keep you busy for a minute. I'd check out Tony Williams in depth; you could start with the Lifetime albums and go on. Be sure to check out his entire body of work, though. Can't forget Narada either.

Also check out Allan Holdsworth.
 
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Skyrm

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The Brecker Brother's live album "Heavy Metal Bebop" is worth checking out. Terry Bozio played on that. The song "Some Skunk Funk" is my favorite on that album, and my favorite version of that song. Interestingly, that song is also on Billy Cobham's solo record "A Funky Thide of Sings", which you should also absolutely check out.
Absolutely LOVE that album!
 

Prufrock

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I tend to like my Fusion dirty and a little out-there, and not necessarily too slick.

Totally agree about the early fusion Lifetime albums:
Emergency!
Turn It Over
Ego

All good. I also dig Larry Young's albums from around the same time, such as Mother Ship.

Miles around 1970, Bitches Brew and what followed, up through Agartha and Pangaea. Some of it funky, some of it like quicksliver.

A few others that pop into mind:

Joe Henderson - Multiple. Highly underrated album. Jack Dejohnette kills on this.

Miroslav Vitous - Infinite Search. Again Jack kills it. The first track, Freedom Jazz Dance, has killer bass by Vitous as well.

Julian Priester - Love, Love. Epic jams in the spirit of In a Silent Way.

Some things that might end up in the "Rock" bin, but definitely fit the bill:

Soft Machine - by Third it is experimental jazz fusion. Bundles is a bit later (and slicker) and has Alan Holdsworth on guitar.

Gong - YOU is jazzy space rock. Monster jams. By Gazeuse! Daevid Allen and the hippy space themes are gone, and Pierre Moerlen leads an amazing fusion unit, again featuring Holdsworth (who seemed to be everywhere around this time period)

Keeping with the Holdsworth theme, Bruford's Feels Good to Me features fine compositions and Holdsworth is again in fine form, as is Jeff Berlin on bass.

Albums by Hatfield and the North and National Health are intelligent rock/fusion. The two Hatfield and the North albums are both strange and appealing, and the second National Health album, Queues and Cures is great.

Henry Cow's first album, Legend or "Leg End." Much jazzier than their other albums, and one of my favorites. Nothing else sounds quite like it.

Manna/Mirage by The Muffins. Some Zappa influence here, quirky in the best independent spirit.

Magma has a lot of fusion elements, especially on their first two albums. Their first album, Kobaia is a good place to start. The Magma Live/Hhai album from 1975 has a slicker fusion sound, and features a young violinist named Didier Lockwood who was influenced by Ponty. The title track "Hhai" from this album is one of the easier entry points to the Magma canon.

Mike Westbrook - Metropolis. There are actually quite a few albums of fine early fusion by British groups and band leaders.

John Surman - Morning Glory. John Marshall on drums. Fantastic album.

Nucleus - first two albums (Elastic Rock, and We'll Talk About it Later). Some of the musicians in Nucleus (there were a lot) later joined Soft Machine (notably John Marshall, Alan Holdsworth, and multi-instrumentalist and composer Karl Jenkins)



AND for some more recent groups:

John Zorn's Electric Masada. Try At the Mountains of Madness.

Led Bib. All their albums are great. The most recent one is a change in direction; good, but start with earlier albums. Young band that gets the early fusion sound.

Polar Bear and Acoustic Ladyland both had fusion vibes, and great drumming from Seb Rochford.

Sons of Kemet - fantastic band that Seb also played with.

Get the Blessing - a group with a good sense of humor and great chops (features the rhythm section of Portishead; the band was brought together out of a mutual love of Ornette Coleman.)

More "out there" would be a group like The Thing. Try out an album like "Action Jazz." It's a type of fusion, but more of free jazz and punk.

So many other great fusion acts out there, but this list is getting long!
 
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jsp210

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Do yourself a favor and get Miles Davis - The Cellar Door Sessions 1970 complete collection. It is beyond description. Also do yourself a favor and spend some more time with "Visions of the Emerald Beyond" with Narada Michael Walden in place of Cobham, that is a masterpiece in its entirety. Also would recommend "Sweetnighter" by Weather Report, ultra-groovy and hypnotic.

Here's some of the Cellar Door 1970 stuff with McLaughlin:

 


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