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Jazz-Rock: A History Hardcover – 1998


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 472 pages
  • Publisher: Schirmer Books; 1st edition (1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0028646797
  • ISBN-13: 978-0028646794
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.5 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #674,784 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Donald Christensen on March 18, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Let's say you've read Ted Gioia's History of Jazz or watched Ken Burns and you are wondering about the whole new world of contemporary jazz that gets glossed over in those treatments. You're saying to yourself -- Hey! What about Michael Brecker or Larry Coryell? If that is the case, then this book is your answer. It suffices for a slightly out of date icing on the cake of the great jazz heritage that calls for a modern documentary on the prolific stream of contemporary electonic jazz (or jazz-rock) from the mid 60's to the end of the 20th century. Specializing in the Electronic Virtuoso era (Mahavishnu, Return to Forever and the like), you will not find a better documentation of the days when there seemed to be no limit to Contemporary jazz or prototype fusion.

No better accounting of the influence Jimi Hendrix had on fusion is available. Whereas Burns and Gioia rightly trace almost everything back to Louis Armstrong, Stuart Nicholson makes a very strong case for Miles Davis' opening of the fusion floodgates.

I rated Nicholson's book with three stars, however, because of some unfortunate editorial biases and pointless rabbit trails. First, Nicholson draws arbitrary lines between what he considers true Jazz Rock and more commercially driven products. We can agree that those distinctions may exist, but we are left without a clear, objective criterion for what passes for the real thing. Bob James, who demonstrates great authentic jazz capability with his "Bob James Trio" release is otherwise relegated to "fuzak" for example. His best treatment of this issue surrounds Stanley Clarke who made strides to become popularized in his later productions in comparison to Clarke's earliest work.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By The Sanity Inspector on June 28, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This is the first substantial book known to me that deals with jazz-rock, which later became known as fusion. In the '60's, jazz seemed to have ground to a halt. Free jazz was so structureless that there wasn't much to be done with it, once the novelty wore off. Black militancy in the form of Archie Shepp and Pharaoh Sanders was attempting to hijack the whole music for political ends (which some prominent jazz figures today still hope to do). Pioneers of the previous generations were just re-working their catalogs. And upstart rock and roll was suddenly assuming an artistic identity in its own right. The energy of rock, as well as the unexpected sophistication of some of its performers--The Beatles, Cream, Jimi Hendrix--prodded many younger jazz artists to attempt to attached the punch of rock to the fluidity of jazz. This book is about these artists and their successors. Some are familiar, like John McLaughlin and Miles Davis, who are rightly given pride of place. Some are less so, like Larry Coryell, who never could quite get the business end of his career together. And some had been almost forgotten, like Jeremy Steig and Peter Nock, whose existences the reader is glad to learn of. The book consists mostly of brief considerations of artists' careers and catalogs, along with the author's judgment of their worth and influence. There's always room to quibble with these, and it's part of the book's enjoyability. One can also always argue about the cutoff point as to who belongs in this book. For example, Steely Dan and Cream are discussed, while Traffic and Spirit are not. There are a number of great jazz anecdotes (search amazon for _Jazz Anecdotes_, btw), like one instance when the rash young Coryell tries to cut Jimi Hendrix onstage, and Hendrix blows him out of the song with a single massive wail of feedback. The index is excellent, and there's a lengthy discography. This is a treat for music-lovers!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Gregory Edwards on December 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Stuart Nicholson's history of jazz-rock is densly written and provides plenty of information about jazz-rock fusion and the musicians who played it. The book is not written as a chronology, but takes each important musician and gives a detailed history and discograpy of their works.
Beginning with early fusion of the mid-1960s through the 1970s and into the 1980s, a whole slew of musicians are covered. In deference to the many less-famous musicians presented here, too much print was given to Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix, where complete biographies are already available.
One of the strengths of this book is the way in which the author shows how the various artists are linked together, depicting their flow of ideas and influences on one another.
My only complaint is with the front of the book cover, where John McLaughlin or Larry Coryell should have been pictured instead of Carlos Santana.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By The Sanity Inspector on March 16, 2001
Format: Hardcover
By the mid-Sixties, jazz seemed to have ground to a halt. The surviving oldtimers were just re-working their catalogs. "Progressive" trends had dead-ended into the indeterminacy of free jazz, the popularity of which was not boosted by its elements of black militancy. In the meantime, rock and roll and Motown were happening, forging new musical paths upwards from their blues roots and winning broad audiences. Rock in particular at this time was gaining respect, as The Beatles and Bob Dylan brought thitherto unknown sophistication to rock songwriting, and artists like Cream and Jimi Hendrix would soon state their cases for instrumental virtuosity in rock. Some young jazz musicians sought for ways to meld the fluidity of jazz with the power and-let's face it-fun of rock. This book is their story, and of the artists who followed in their trail.
This book is dense with timelines, trends, and capsule histories. It is the only book on this subject known to me, and I am glad to learn of the existence of many of these forgotten pioneers and overlooked innovators. Saxophonist Charles Lloyd, in whose group Keith Jarrett got a start, carved a niche for himself by playing Coltrane Lite to the psychedelic crowd. Don Ellis played to the same audience using wild time signatures with "groovy" coloration. In more modern times guitarist Scott Henderson tries to lure metalheads to his brand of hard fusion. Of course we also meet more familiar acts, like John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report, and that shifting assemblage of uncredited songwriters, sidemen, producers, and engineers collectively known as Miles Davis.
The story is enriched by a lot-and I mean *a lot*-of eyewitness accounts and reminisces.
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