As its name would suggest, Jazz Fusion is the merging of jazz with other styles and techniques, most notably those of Rhythm and Blues, rock and funk. It came to prominence during the 1970's but remained popular in later decades and is still alive today.
With the growing popularity of pop rock groups and artists such as the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix during the 60's and 70's, there was a pressure on jazz musicians to make a choice between convention and popularity in order to remain. Fusion was a way of bridging the gap between emerging genres whilst still maintaining elements of the traditional styles of jazz.
At the same time, some rock musicians, such as the Byrds in Fifth Dimension were beginning to incorporate jazz elements in their work. Their hit, Eight Miles High included guitar solos which were intended to be reminiscent of the sounds of John Coltrane's Classic Quartet.
Fusion roots can be found in the work of Miles Davis and Tony Williams in the 1960's, who are generally regarded to be the most influential musicians of the movement. Indeed, much of the style is reliant on a core of musicians who worked with Davis on In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew. The introduction of electronic sounds in music during the 70's enabled Jazz to take yet another new direction. The electric piano, electric guitar and synthesizers were used by Fusion bands and musicians, particularly Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea.
Jazz fusion has been criticised for pandering to popularity and accused of watering down popular jazz conventions in order to do so. However, its diversity and appeal have ensured its survival and have had a significant impact on the styles which followed.
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