All That Jazz: Let’s talk about Fusion


Did you know that Jazz Fusion can be, like, SUPER HEAVY? No? Keep reading…


-“I study Jazz. You know, real music.”

-“Jazz? You mean that stuff old people listen to? Isn’t that like, really really boring?”

-“Oh, you poor fool, let me explain…”


Ever had that conversation with someone? If so, congratulations: you know a Jazz Snob! I actually did study Jazz for like 10 years when I was a kid, but it didn’t really do much for me. Since then I’ve had the pleasure of meeting several of these people, and I honestly think that they’re at least as bad as IMNs. They dismiss anything that doesn’t conform to the blueprint for what they think Jazz is and should be. There’s too much guitar. It’s too loud. Too much distortion. Too weird a scale. Too much improvisation. You get the idea.

Being a guitarist, in the past couple of years I’ve gotten back into Jazz through Fusion, which features guitars a lot more prominently than in the more “traditional” styles of Jazz. As if I needed to clarify, Fusion is obviously not “Real Jazz”. I love it when nerds and snobs get their jimmies rustled, so the fact that a lot of the stuff I’ve started to listen to doesn’t get the Jazz Purist Stamp of Snobbish Approval (TM) makes me jock it even harder than I normally would.

So, I’m going to talk about some of my favoritest heavy Fusion jamz for the better enrichment of your earholes. To clarify, I’m assuming everyone already knows that Periphery invented Fusion in 2010, so everything I’m going to talk about now is technically not Fusion, but SCREW YOU SNOB. I’ll start with some of the more obviously metallic choices and make my way towards the least “metal” stuff.

-Exhibit A) What happens when you put a bunch of prog metal nerds in a studio together? Gordian Knot happens, of course! Featuring some of my favoritest Ron Jarzombek solos of all time, their self-titled album is basically like a 70s prog album but with more distortion, more shredding and more tripped-out funk passages. Not convinced? At one point the band even had Bill Bruford from Yes and Steve Hackett from Genesis contribute, so there!


-Exhibit B) Next up are Exivious, another band made up of mostly prog metal musicians (people from Textures and Cynic). They actually remind me of Gordian Knot quite a bit, only with better production, younger musicians and even more of The Jazzes.


-Exhibit C) Father Figure are a New York band I found out about fairly recently through someone on my beloved Thank You Scientist‘s Facebook page. They do kinda sound like a vocal and wind-less TYS with more Real Jazz bits, but plenty of hard-hitting and catchy stuff as well. These guys get really stuck in my head sometimes (the good stuck, of course).


-Exhibit D) Ever wonder what happened to former Megadeth guitarist Chris Poland? He’s been alive and well, releasing music with his Fusion band OHM. I might be in the minority here, but I always liked CP’s Megadeth solos more than Marty Friedman‘s (come at me, brahs). Poland has a bend & vibrato technique second to almost no one, and very distinct note choices as well. The other two OHM dudes are no sluches either.


-Exhibit E) Moving on, anyone know who’s currently playing guitar for Deep Purple? (Wait, they’re still a thing?!?) A ridiculously talented dude named Steve Morse, that’s who. His band The Dixie Dregs were hugely influential to prog nerds the world over, and it’s no real surprise when you listen to their stuff. Violin? Check. Contrasting shifts in dynamics? Check check. Overall virtuosity? Check check check. Why are you not listening yet? (Check check check check).


-Exhibit F) If you don’t know who Guthrie Govan is, you need to stop leaving the house so much. I don’t have that much else to say, other than words of warning for anybody who plays guitar: this will make you want to quit.


-Exhibit G) Ah, good old Tribal Tech. I know the name sounds like it could belong to some obscure world music/trance band, but it doesn’t. The brain child of guitarist Scott Henderson and bassist Gary Willis, Tribal Tech is probably the closest thing to Real Jazz I’m going to talk about in this here post, only both those dudes SHRED stuff up like it’s nobody’s business.


-Exhibit H) If for some reason you still doubt that certain jazz guitarists could outshred many a metal d00d, Al Di Meola would like to have a word or two. You might want to sit down and hold on to something. Side note: I want Al Di Meola to be the new Archspire. ALDIMEOLA ALDIMEOLA ALDIMEOLA, repeat ad nauseum (I think that basically means “until you puke” in latin, and I bet you didn’t know that).


-Exhibit I) Mr. Di Meola used to be in a band in the 70s. That band was Return to Forever, and throughout its many incarnations it was basically a who’s who of jazz fusion legends. The most well-known lineup featured Al Di Meola on guitar, Chick Corea on keyboards, Stanley Clarke on bass and Lenny White on drums. If you’re not already screaming like a giddy little girl, you know, listen.


-Exhibit This Turned Out Kinda Long) Last but not least, John McLaughlin‘s Mahavishnu Orchestra. The very first album was made up entirely of JM’s compsitions (don’t really know why it says “with John McLaughlin” on the cover) and featured none other than Billy Cobham on drums and Jan Hammer on keyboards. Listen to it, is where I’m getting at.


So there ya have it! Please post your Fusion jamz ov choice / tell me why I suck / ask to marry me in the comments section. Peace oot.

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