An analysis of post 1970’s electric guitarists who have fused the jazz aesthetic with other music forms’

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This article addresses the often underrated role jazz guitarist composers have played in redefining the jazz aesthetic, specifically through fusing jazz with other music forms. Most publications and broadcasts on jazz history have a tendency to overlook this issue, Ken Burns’ most recent TV series being an indicative example, omitting arguably four of the most influential and experimental jazz musicians of the last 40 years—Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell, Larry Coryell and John McLaughlin. Additionally, although there have been numerous “non academic” texts written about the technical proficiencies of many electric jazz guitarists, there is no academic material examining their compositional impact on the jazz canon. During the late 1960s–early 1970s, it will be suggested that the guitarists’ assimilation of jazz with the emerging rock genre was more an expression of cultural and social paradigms than an overt attempt to fuse the two styles. In direct contrast to the pervasively quoted pioneer of fusion, Miles Davis, who incorporated the rock aesthetic into his music to “reach the people,” or “Third Steam” musicians such as George Russell and John Lewis who fused classical and jazz musics for intellectual reasons, the post 1970’s guitarist/composers were often natural embodiments of both styles, simply being products of their generation. A good example of this paradigm can be seen in the work of jazz-rock pioneers John McLaughlin and Larry Coryell, who could both be considered authentic practitioners of both jazz and rock traditions during their work prior to the fusion movement.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDe – Canonizing Music History
EditorsVesa Kurkela, Lauri Vakeva
PublisherCambridge Scholars Publishing
ISBN (Print)1443813915
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2009


  • electric guitar
  • jazz
  • canon


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