Jazz 100
Fusion
The Best Jazz Ever Released Digitally


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Emergency!
The Tony Williams Lifetime
1969 [Polydor]


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A record that is just now earning its true place in jazz history because of its role in defining new directions for the fusion movement. With guitarist John McLaughlin and organist Larry Young on board, drummer Williams pumps up the volume and boldly goes where only rockers had gone before. An influential record, but showing its age.





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The Inner Mounting Flame
The Mahavishnu Orchestra
1971 [Columbia]


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Guitarist John McLaughlin was touted here as the heir-apparent to rock great Jimi Hendrix. Nevertheless, this is a bona-fide jazz record - albeit a very loud and fast one. Czech-born piano/synth player Jan Hammer and violinist Jerry Goodman shine on the album's quieter moments, but McLaughlin's double-necked guitar steals the show.





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Spectrum
Billy Cobham
1973 [Atlantic]


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Mahavishnu Orchestra drummer Billy Cobham strikes out on his own with a relaxed bluesy style courtesy of guitarist Tommy Bolin. With keyboardist Jan Hammer also on board, this is one of the better (and certainly more listenable) jazz-rock fusion efforts of the 70s. As such, those who don't normally like fusion may find this a pleasant surprise.





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Birds of Fire
Mahavishnu Orchestra
1973 [Columbia]


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The follow-up to The Inner Mounting Flame (1971) finds John McLaughlin's double-neck 6 and 12-string guitar in searing form. The rest of the band - keyboardist Jan Hammer, violinist Jerry Goodman, bassist Rick Laird and fenetic drummer Billy Cobham - doesn't miss a single wildly chaotic beat. Superbly remastered for CD.





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Jaco Pastorius
Jaco Pastorius
1976 [Epic/Legacy]


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Made before he joined fusion outfit Weather Report, Pastorius' debut album is a treasure trove of adventure and imagination. Playing his trademark fretless electric bass, Pastorius works through this set of mostly original compositions. Serious mental illness would eventually lead him to a life on the streets and a tragically premature death.





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Enigmatic Ocean
Jean-Luc Ponty
1977 [Atlantic]


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For a period of time in the mid-70s several jazz-fusion albums actually managed to make some impact on the Billboard charts. This one from French violinist Jean-Luc Ponty managed to get to #1. At this point many jazz purists started referring to this style as 'crossover' - a somewhat derogatory term implying a sell-out of sorts. It is what it is.





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Heavy Weather
Weather Report
1977 [Columbia]


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Deadpanned by some jazz critics, but a big seller nevertheless. Studio leader Joe Zawinul contributes three tracks - including the hit 'Birdland' - all of which highlight his mastery of an array of keyboard instruments. Bassist Jaco Pastorius and saxophonist Wayne Shorter round out the group's sound, which some may find a bit dated.





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Pat Metheny Group
Pat Metheny Group
1978 [ECM]


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Hundreds of club-dates in every corner of America finally led to this breakthrough record for guitarist Metheny's group (featuring keyboardist Lyle Mays). The album is a timeless blend of floating melodies, acoustic nuances and progressive fusion. The group went on to become a major concert drawcard for many years afterward.


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