Once upon a time there was just rock ‘n’ roll. Then those pesky artists started mixing different kinds of music to create hybrids. And before we knew it there was country-rock, progressive-rock, folk-rock, psychedelic-rock, blues-rock, and jazz-rock, to name just a few. Jazz-rock fusion has taken as many forms as the number of artists who have tried to mix the two. From the Mahavishnu Orchestra and what the Penguin Guide to Jazz called the “gigantic torso of burstingly noisy music” of Miles Davis and “Bitches Brew” to the more accessible branch on the tree with the big horn bands like Blood, Sweat & Tears, Ballinjack, and Chicago. Further complicating matters in the mid 70’s, FM rock radio opened the door for another type of fusion, the jazz-R&B records of Ronnie Laws, Grover Washington, the Crusaders, and others. In the meantime, artists like Van Morrison and Joni Mitchell were seamlessly integrating jazz elements into their songs. And perhaps the band most adept not only at creating a true jazz-rock fusion but in creating popular music at the same time was Steely Dan.
Having said all that, what about Spirit and Blind Faith? Probably not the first bands that come to mind when you think of jazz-rock fusion. But these two very different bands had one thing in common. Both of their drummers had jazz on their resumes. Before Ed Cassidy helped form Spirit, he’d been in rhythm sections behind legends like Cannonball Adderly and Thelonious Monk. And before joining Blind Faith, Ginger Baker came from a string of traditional jazz bands in the UK. So today’s batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl takes a stab at showing the various forms that jazz-rock fusion can take. We’ll hear from Spirit, the Crusaders, and the L.A. Express, without Tom Scott. From Blind Faith, we’ll hear an excerpt from Ginger Baker’s composition, “Do What You Like” followed by Ronnie Laws and wrapping up with Steely Dan. From the Way Back Studios, here’s some fresh fusion.
|Spirit||Fresh Garbage (part 1)|
|The Crusaders||Stomp and Buck Dance|
|Spirit||Fresh Garbage (part 2)|
|L.A. Express||Midnight Flight|
|Blind Faith||Do What You Like (excerpt)|
|Ronnie Laws||Mis’ Mary’s Place|
|Steely Dan||Your Gold Teeth II (excerpt)|
If you joined us somewhere in the middle of that set you may have found yourself wondering, ‘what’s with all the saxophones?’ The answer, they reveal, life is unreal. Just throw out your gold teeth and see how they roll. Steely Dan wrapped up that jazzy little batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl from their album Katy Lied, as fine an execution of jazz-rock fusion as you’re likely to find. The fusion of those two forms being the whole point of that set. Joining Becker and Fagen on “Your gold teeth II” were Larry Carlton and Wilton Felder, who stepped out of The Crusaders long enough to do studio work for countless other bands, including Steely Dan. Near the top of the set we heard Carlton and Felder with The Crusaders doing “Stomp and buck dance” from their 1974 album Southern Comfort. And in the middle of the set, from their debut without Tom Scott, The L.A. Express, produced by and featuring Wilton Felder, we heard “Midnight Flight.”
At the top, on either side of the Crusaders we looked beneath the lid to see the things we didn’t quite consume. Spirit’s “Fresh Garbage” done in two parts for your listening enjoyment. In the middle of the set, we took a slice out of Blind Faith’s fifteen minute “Do What You Like” lifting the part that proved the point I was trying to make in the first place. Then, during the bass solo, we slipped over to Ronnie Laws so smoothly, you didn’t notice. From his album Pressure Sensitive, produced by Crusader, Wayne Henderson, we heard “Mis’ Mary’s Place.” Which brings us to the question of who are these strangers who pass through the door, who cover your action and go you one more in the Way Back Studios? I’m Bill Fitzhugh, thanks for listening. We’ve to the set lists and show commentaries posted on billfitzhugh.com, so drop by and check ‘em out if your curious. I’ll be back next time with a fresh batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl, and I hope you’ll join us, right here in the Deep Tracks.