A reaction to Youtube video “Extreme jazz fusion reharmonization” by Adam Neely

After watching this educational and entertaining video, I was left wondering certain questions about jazz and its effects on other genres when fusing. Is jazz exclusively what it has been musically through theory or is it something more of a spirit to carry on, something that changes based on what’s necessary in that period of time. The point of jazz, especially bebop jazz, is to focus on the music and combat any mainstream music becoming too easy or comfortable. Not only “what is jazz” but how can jazz blend so well with other genres. When other genres, like pop, meets with other genres, like rock, it feels more like a transformation rather than an actual genre fusion.

Jazz is one the most easily to blend genres because from the very beginning it has been formed through a multitude of sounds, techniques and culture. Wynton Marsalis said that in New Orleans when “…Opera, military marching bands, folk music, the blues, different types of church music, ragtime, echoes of traditional African drumming, and all of the dance styles…. When all this music blended into one, jazz was born.” Jazz became immensely popular and this popularity lead to a comfortable and almost formulaic mainstream jazz. This is where bebop jazz was created to counter the commercial jazz, and in a broader sense, the commercial music. So this was to give an idea of how jazz from the beginning was already born from many genres, and also had to keep its focus on music first and foremost. With this very brief description you could say the spirit of jazz is whatever music needs it to be to keep music challenging and evolving.

Jazz theory focuses on how the chord progressions are set up in major and minor thirds, along with tensions. Also included in jazz is the inclusion of scales and improvisations. The rules of jazz naturally lends itself to adding. It can not only grab external influences but it can give itself. What Adam Neely was saying in his video is that you take these chord progressions and turn into chords with tensions, and with some different techniques or arrangements, switched up rhythms it can sound jazzy. There are many kinds of jazz fusion. The most common are with rock, funk, blues, and latin music. Even third stream jazz is a fusion with the classical genre. Jazz fusion is important because it can take any genre and open it up to be as free as the musician wants. If the musician needs music to be a challenge again a bebop type of movement can happen again, or maybe just to re-interpret a song. Ever since the 1950’s jazz fusion has always had and always will have an impact on music. Jazz fusion leads to entirely new genres, and can even change a generation of people’s musical way of thinking. Jazz fusion is the inquisitive art to keep music fresh and energetic.

Citations:

http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/bhistory/history_of_jazz.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jazz_fusion

3 comments

  1. Profile photo of Janette Tilley

    That video you embedded is hilarious. That is at least 6 semesters of music theory rolled into 14 minutes of intensity. Slow it down, study it, and then show it off in Theory class!
    Given that Jazz was a sort of musical fusion right from the beginning, what do you think are the most fruitful new harmonic / rhythmic / timbral fusions for Jazz in the future? Have you tried applying any of the rich harmonic techniques outlined in the video in your own re-workings of pop tunes?

    • Profile photo of Jesus Morel
      Jesus Morel says:

      Glad you enjoyed the video! I agree that this video is a bit intense to digest, I’m still watching it over and over trying to understand certain things he says. I’ve come to the realization that it would take a few semesters, at least, to fully understand these massive concepts being tossed around. Slowing it down and studying it piece by piece definitely sounds good!
      I feel like the most fruitful techniques to learn for future jazz fusions are the combination cycle 5 root motion with 7th chords and tritone substitution. These techniques are easier to comprehend for the ears than the more advance techniques he mentions later in the video like “12 tone row.” That is the sound I would strive for foremost because you can add more complicated rhythms and tell a story almost. This is not just for jazz, I hope to be able to apply these techniques to metal, and salsa. I think a another big timbral step for jazz music would be to add even more synthesizers and sounds from electronic music.
      I haven’t tried to apply these techniques to anything yet because I’m still trying to learn pop tunes as they are first but this is my end goal, and to include some jazz fusion into my final student recital and beyond. Simply, I think jazz fusion is important to appreciate the past but also to add to innovate for the future. Jazz fusion also helps understand both genres much better.

  2. Profile photo of Janette Tilley

    Yeah, that 12-tone version was hilarious. I think that’s more a proof that its possible, not that anyone _should_ do that! But now, having taken this course, at least you know theoretically what that means!
    I wonder if we should have an “open mic” sort of recital here where you and other students can experiment with things like re-harmonizing pop songs with tritone substitutions etc.? Practice is the only way to master these harmonic skills, and I, for one, would love to hear the results.

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