JAZZ: Scott DeVeaux, W.W. Norton & Company

RUNNING TIME, 1:53

I would say that [Miles Davis'] Bitches Brew is not really what people are imitating though when they start to get into fusion. It's more the sound of . . . John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra that in some ways takes the idea of fusion and actually puts it into a formula. In somewhat the same way that Fletcher Henderson did that for swing, came up with the formula that everybody could respond to and in a sense creating a genre. It is a music of intense virtuosity, of rhythmic complexity, extreme volume, because of course this is the early ‘70s, which is really like the late ‘60s, really loud electric guitar sounds or synthesized sounds.

And the Mahavishnu Orchestra, as the name indicates, is very interested in Indian music, which means these fairly bizarre rhythmic cycles that last 9 beats or 13 beats or 20 beats or whatever it is that he happens to fit these things into. These are all superb musicians, and they're able to handle these complicated structures in very interesting ways, but that particular kind of sound actually became commercially successful. It became a new kind of genre, and I think that the music industry called it fusion in part to try to create a new genre in the record stores so that if people wanted to find this music they wouldn't look in the jazz section and they wouldn't look in the rock section. There would be a new section called "Fusion" that they would go to. How successful that was is [questionable;] after, say, the end of the ‘70s, the term fusion began to fall out of favor because that's the way the music industry works, but it really was designed to be a new kind of music as far as the music industry was concerned.