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


Latin music is already a kind of fusion music, and one thing that we do that's unusual in this textbook is to say that the fusion idea is something you can trace back into the Bebop Era and see ways in which people after bebop are still trying to play what we think of as jazz against the commercial mainstream. So that in the 1950s there are ways of thinking about jazz and commercial music that we call a kind of fusion; even though that term was not active at the time, . . . nevertheless we now see it as being on the boundary line between jazz and pop. The interesting thing is trying to figure out what happened, however, to create the kind of music that was called fusion. That term started around 1970 or so to create this new kind of stuff.

And I've thought about it because this is the time when I was starting to get involved in music, and I began to realize in writing this book that there are certain ways that you can think about what has changed in the music industry. One of the big things that comes along is the idea of the change in position of the songwriter in the music industry. Songwriters used to be a separate species of people who created music, were understood as composers, created music for the entire music industry, and this actually continues in the 1960s with people like Burt Bacharach, who is continuing to write tunes and have all these people produce them. I mean, occasionally he performed his own, but he did not have a great voice and it really is kind of, just as more a sort of vanity project than anything else. That was the idea of the songwriter.

Of course, that changes. That changes with Lennon and McCartney; it changes with Bob Dylan; and suddenly we have the idea that the singer-songwriter is the authentic way to have music performed. If a Beatles tune comes out, it's a Beatles song. You listen to that performance and if other people are doing it, it's understood as a cover version. A lot of people today think of jazz people as doing cover versions before the 1960s that in turn didn't really make sense. It was more a question of can anybody do "I Got Rhythm"? The song is out there for anybody to perform. But jazz musicians belatedly began to realize that their whole position in the music industry was changing. That if they tried to do versions of the Rolling Stones or the Birds or whatever, that it would seem ridiculous. And their whole attitude that we provide a cover, you know, we provide a version of whatever's happening in pop music, no longer worked.

That and the fact that the music industry was exploding in size and that the kind of material that was coming from this new rock music as opposed to say Broadway musical, uh, you know, it was just reaching the point of a billion dollar, two billion dollar industry. They had to come up with a new approach, and it really came through soul music. They saw in soul music an opportunity to re-create all of the rhythmic contrast things that they understood. You have a base line, you have other layers on top of it, you have all the stuff floating around, and people began to realize you can improvise within these structures and you can create a new kind of jazz that is going to be able to survive in the Rock Era, and it's out of that that fusion comes.