OK—I’ll get right to the “question marks” around “New”. Many years ago in an article in Bass Player Magazine, Alain Caron speaking about the music he was working on at present, and dealing with the topic of “fusion” being kind of on its way out, made the statement, “Its all fusion”. He was simply making the point that every genre “fuses” elements of other genres, or styles if you will, within the context of their compositions—-sometimes in a very subtle manner, but none the less present in the music in some form. And speaking of the word “fusion”, let’s not forget that record companies many times were behind creating those categorical labels as they felt it was essential to their marketing plan—got to have a bin to put it in. Actually, I think that premise might be a bit dated at this point with the creation of the net and iTunes, (but it sure felt good to say that).
So what’s the greater point I’m trying to get to? I’m beginning to see more and more of a “fusion” of musical elements from artists than in days past, and seemingly a broader acceptance of someone deciding to go that direction. Two particular events got me thinking about this stylistic cross referencing that seems to have become a consideration for many of us musically as a consumer, as well as a performing artist. The first being Herbie Hancock winning the album of the year with his latest release “River—the Joni Letters”. Lets see, a “jazz” musician, reconstructing the music of a “pop” musician, (using that term loosely as far as Joni Mitchell is concerned) creating a “contemporary jazz” CD—kind of makes my point—but beyond that point, it seems ridiculous to have to use the words “jazz”, “pop”, and “contemporary jazz” to speak about this very well received musical event that obviously has touched many listeners. It’s very simply some great music. Right along those same lines, I’m sure you’ll remember the success that Carlos Santana had a few years ago with his genre leaping CD “Supernatural”, which won him a few Grammys, and has sold over 24 million copies.
The second event I referred to in trying to exemplify my point was a bit more personal. I went to see Bela Fleck and the Flecktones play with the Oregon Symphony. (The Flecktones and the Oregon Symphony—that statement alone should further the point I hope I’m making, much less good luck putting the Flecktones into a category). This was actually the first time I caught the Flecktones live. Within the context of a great evening of music, Bela took a solo spot on his banjo, (and by the way, I’d like to go on record that hearing Bela “live” showed me what a truly remarkable musician he really is) and began playing what I believe was a Bach piece which he totally owned, and sounded amazing, and then segued into an improvisational section more or less blending his Bach rendition with some ideas of his own, and then just as smoothly transitioned from that improvisational Bach setting to the Beverly Hillbillies theme. Once again, dropping the need to categorize the genres he employed just leaves the audience with one seriously brilliant piece of music he created, and we enjoyed.
Another example—said another way. In one of our earlier issues we had videos of Victor Wooten and Gary Willis both doing a take on John Lennon’s tune Norwegian Wood. Now, it goes without saying that both of these players are at the top of their game, and have written some of the best “original” compositions I’ve heard to date. But for me personally, I was just as moved by their interpretation of this simple tune as I am by their strongest original compositions. Point being, the type or style of the tune for me becomes irrelevant, as it’s their heightened creativity, their voice, their personal take on this piece of music that makes all the difference to me as a listener.
I could easily go on and on about particular artists and some of the music they’ve given us exemplifying this point. So in an effort to connect all these thoughts, I’ll leave you with this. “New” fusion—this was not the issue here—the door being more open at this point in time as a player and composer to cross genres and possibly receive equal acceptance by the listening audience (now more than ever a world wide audience) —I believe so. So maybe it’s about focusing on writing or playing what you “hear”, what you feel most strongly connected to within the context of the music without worrying about what style it is, and being open to letting the genres fall where they may within that context that gets you to an “honest” representation of yourself, and what you have to say. And that, in my opinion, always seems to be the “best” representation of yourself.
Jake Kot, Editor