Jazz-Rock: A History

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Over the last three decades, no musical innovation in jazz has been more important - or controversial - than the wedding of jazz improvisation with rock music. Nicholson's lively text begins with the impact of the Beatles and the British Invasion on American popular culture and how the unexpected rise of rock music in the 1960s almost overwhelmed jazz. He charts how young jazz musicians, growing up in the rock explosion, began experimenting with incorporating the best of rock's energy into their music. Players ...
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Overview

Over the last three decades, no musical innovation in jazz has been more important - or controversial - than the wedding of jazz improvisation with rock music. Nicholson's lively text begins with the impact of the Beatles and the British Invasion on American popular culture and how the unexpected rise of rock music in the 1960s almost overwhelmed jazz. He charts how young jazz musicians, growing up in the rock explosion, began experimenting with incorporating the best of rock's energy into their music. Players like drummer Tony Williams, guitarist Larry Coryell, vibists Gary Burton and Mike Mainieri, and pianist Mike Nock, all brought a young sensibility to a music that was in danger of becoming ossified. Meanwhile, rock returned the compliment with groups like Blood, Sweat & Tears, Electric Flag, and Flock, that incorporated horns and jazz improvisation, and brought a vast new audience of young fans to the music. But the real catalyst for change came in 1969 when Miles Davis leaped into the fray with the seminal album Bitches Brew. Davis's bands were a breeding ground for players who moved the music forward, including Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul's Weather Report, John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra, Chick Corea's Return to Forever, and Herbie Hancock's Headhunters. Nicholson examines how commercial excess eventually undid jazz-rock's early promise through FM-friendly fusion that favored rampant virtuosity, the cute cadences of pop music, and non-threatening electronics. Finally, Nicholson shows how the original premise of jazz-rock, founded on risk, energy, and electricity, continues to be felt in jazz today. Out of sight of a comfortably accessible mainstream, the legacy of jazz-rock continues to flourish in the innovative work of musicians such as John Zorn, Bill Frisell, Steve Coleman, and other bold contemporary experimenters.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this encyclopedic work, Nicholson (Billie Holiday) chronicles the development of jazz-rock from the early interactions of jazz and rock in the 1960sa time when jazz seemed to many to be at a dead endto the present day. He emphasizes that the influences have been mutual: rock did much to revitalize jazz, but rock musicians have also learned from the jazz masters. He discusses a multitude of artists, including major figures such as Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Jimi Hendrix and Frank Zappa; shows how big band leaders such as Count Basie, Stan Kenton and Woody Herman combined jazz and rock; and talks about the conflict between commercialism and innovation, pointing out that when recording companies capitalize on the money-making potential of music, they often water it down to blandness. With so much ground to cover, Nicholson can't go into depth here, but as a comprehensive overview, his book succeeds. An impressive "Jazz-Rock Fusion Discography" by Jon Newey complements the text. It lists the names and album titles of hundreds of artists whose works have been significant in the evolution of the jazz-rock fusion. Photos. (June)
Booknews
Working with a very wide definition of Jazz-Rock that encompasses James Brown, Jack Bruce, Carlos Santana, The Grateful Dead, Sly and the Family Stone, and Jimi Hendrix, as well as more obvious choices such as Miles Davis, Weather Report, Chick Corea, and Jack DeJohnette, the author explores the history of the marriage of Jazz and Rock that burst into being with the 1969 release of Davis' Bitches Brew. He examines how FM radio popularized and then sanitized the music throughout the 1970s, eventually causing it to sink into relative obscurity, and how elements of it live on in the works of such "avant-garde" artists as Bill Frisell and John Zorn. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Kirkus Reviews
An exhaustive look at how some jazz musicians adjusted to the advent of rock 'n' roll. Nicholson (Billie Holliday, 1995, etc.) begins his study with the emergence of the US in the 1950s and '60s as a world center of musical innovation, particularly in the uniquely American forms of jazz and rock 'n' roll. While the jazz influence on acts such as Chicago and Blood, Sweat, and Tears is perhaps obvious, artists such as Cream and Jimi Hendrix, normally thought of as pure rock or as being predominantly blues-influenced, are shown by Nicholson to also have been very much influenced by jazz. But if jazz made an impression on rock, the opposite also occurred. For instance, it was his friendship with Hendrix that led jazz giant Miles Davis out of traditional jazz and into jazz-rock "fusion." Davis was soon opening for the Grateful Dead and working with rock promoter Bill Graham. The development of the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Chick Corea's career are also thoroughly traced here. The 1980s return of Miles Davis to the scene and the juggernaut of bassist extraordinaire Jaco Pastorius are also plumbed for their vast influence. Exploring rock acts persistently influenced by jazz, Nicholson offers a strong analysis of Frank Zappa, probably the most important artist in the genre, and others. The future of jazz-rock fusion is located in the work of such pioneers as Ornette Coleman and in the development of such groups as Digable Planets. If there is one flaw in Nicholson's study, it is his tendency to hew to a stiff, repetitive format: covering staff changes in a band's lineup, discussing a record's release (including the promotional materials from the record companies), and then going intoa close analysis of the music itself. Still, his impeccable music scholarship makes up for this tendency toward structural formula. (50 illustrations, not seen)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780028646794
  • Publisher: Omnibus Press
  • Publication date: 6/15/1998
  • Pages: 454
  • Product dimensions: 6.42 (w) x 9.57 (h) x 1.51 (d)

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