29 January 2007


Yeah, yeah, yeah, labels/genres are stupid and we all hate them. "...but is it jazz?" and "...but is it music?" are easily the two dumbest questions asked during the last century. But can I make a confession about my take on the 1970's "fusion" of jazz and rock? It does not at all sound to me like equal parts jazz and rock.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, who cares? I'm not saying it's bad or that I hate it. I like a lot of it. But I at least sympathize with the jazz purists of the time on this one: insisting to the death on calling it "jazz" is indeed an odd choice. It seems like most "real" rockers today have utter contempt for "real" jazz, making it hard for someone my age (i.e. not even alive in the 70's) to understand why the fusion people would covet the "jazz" label so much. It can't be for marketing purposes; calling something "jazz" is an excellent way to shoot yourself in the foot. Could it be that bebop virtuosity makes them insecure about their own shortcomings, so they try to appropriate the label and its supposed status without doing any of the actual shedding? Don't answer that.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, so I'm elitist/young/stupid/misguided/whatever. It just intrigues me when someone pulls a doublethink on us and no one says anything. Debussy abhorred the term "impressionism" (and to his credit, did say something about it), but we freely apply that term to his music without a second thought. It was nearly a decade after I learned the word "fusion" that I first heard the term "prog rock." To me, this is the missing link in the label game, yet Mahavishnu Orchestra and Lifetime are still "fusion" while Gentle Giant and ELP are "prog." To the contrary, it would seem to me that some of Dave Holland's or Joshua Redman's recent work, for example, are much more even-steven hybrids of jazz and rock, and hence more deserving of the label "fusion" (which is to say deserving of it in the literal sense, but not the one it has since acquired; their music is outstanding while "fusion" has become yet another "useful term of abuse" akin to the worst ism money can buy).

Yeah, yeah, yeah, this post was a waste of everyone's time because it deals with categorization. Never mind then.

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