Electric Jazz Funk Fusion Albums Short List of Favorites
Electric Jazz Funk Fusion Albums contain the music of an exciting, inspiring and challenging musical genre. Not everyone can listen to it easily, but those of us who really identify with the sound no doubt have a list of favorite albums.
There are so many amazing electric jazz funk fusion albums to listen to – it’s hard to pick favorites! But having said that, I do have some all time faves that are hands-down exciting and inspiring every time I listen to them. Here is my short list.
Let’s start with Herbie Hancock. Herbie began his career as a quite traditional swing and bebop jazz pianist, but over the years his style became highly infused with electric jazz funk and he pushed the envelope to new levels of jazz never heard before. The albums by the Herbie Hancock Sextet – before “Headhunters” — featured an aesthetic that went way beyond the traditional, but failed to grab the imagination of the public pop-listening audience. That’s why Herbie Hancock decided to change his style and go for straight electric jazz funk fusion with more of a pop edge and he changed his group around.
Of course, the first album in the electric jazz funk series put out by Herbie was Headhunters. I’m sure you will recognize the signature track, Chameleon. Headhunters featured rock steady Harvey Mason on drums and fluently funky Paul Jackson on bass. Herbie sadly had to leave most of his Sextet behind due to the inherent differences in style between more traditional sounding instruments and the updated electric jazz funk core rhythm section he needed. But for Headhunters he brought with him the thoughtful Bennie Maupin on saxophones and flute (great decision Herbie!)
After Headhunters, Herbie released “Thrust” which had a similar electric jazz funk vibe, but incorporated not only what I call “super funk” but also some very esoteric jazz changes behind the funk which were not immediately noticeable in Headhunters, which had been targeted specifically as a commercial effort. Thrust was funky but much more intellectually jazzy than Headhunters.
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Then not least, comes the big band funk album Manchild which continued on the jazz pop vein but also incorporated the sound of a large horn section. One of the more exciting tracks from that album was the opening “Hang Up Your Hangups” featuring a hardcore rock-funk beat drop with dual guitars of Detroit’s Ray Parker Jr. and L.A.’s Wah Wah Watson. Those two were a current “sound of the day”, having popularized songs like “Car Wash” and “Which Way is Up”, which were pop hits of the same era. Ray Parker also had his own hits like “Jack and Jill” and “I’m in Love With the Other Woman”. Wah Wah Watson can be instantly recgonized by the deep textural vistas he creates with his guitar and effects — like of course, the wah wah pedal — but also combining skillful use of the echoplex and picking sound effects that seamlessly weave the music together.
My next two favorite Electric Jazz Funk Fusion Albums come from Jazz Fusion group Weather Report, run and fronted by sax man Wayne Shorter and keyboardist Joe Zawinul. The other members of the group have changed over the years but those two have remained the constant force behind Weather Report, until Joe passed away in 2007. The original persona also included Alphonse Mouzon on drums, Airto on percussion and Miroslav Vitous on bass. Miroslav stayed with the band until Mysterious Traveller album which was released in 1974. Alphonso Johnson held down the bass on several albums until Jaco Pastorius came along. This author had the pleasure of attending concerts with Alphonso Johnson and also a front row seat to the premiere of Jaco Pastorius on the Black Market tour.
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It’s hard to pick a favorite Weather Report album, but for electric jazz funk I have to go with Sweetnighter and Mysterious Traveller. I know, I know.. Jaco was awesome. My taste comes from an earlier time when Weather Report focused less on the individual musicianship of certain members and more on how mature improvisational musicians can form a cohesive unit without having everything charted out. That’s what made Weather Report great, in my opinion. Miroslav was very funky and came from a European perspective. Joe also was from Austria but having worked with Cannonball Adderley and Miles Davis he was all in for american jazz funk.
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Two albums – Mysterious Traveller and Tale Spinnin’ – had Alphonso Johnson on bass, which subtracted some of the European flavor and added a whole bunch of American funk. (Also a couple of tunes on Black Market). For me this was a very special period for Weather Report in between Miroslav and Jaco. Great semi-charted, heavily grooving, soulful music.
But my first favorite will always have to be Sweetnighter, with Miroslav, and then Mysterious Traveller with Alphonso. Mainly because the two exemplify my idea of the best in improvisational electric funk jazz. I love the funky stuff but one of my all time favorites is Manolete, written by Wayne Shorter. 125th Street Congress is sublimely funky as well.
Mysterious Traveller – this is definitely one of our all-time top favorite electric jazz funk fusion albums of all time. I was lucky to see this album performed live – in concert – two different times. The best was at Cobo Arena in Detroit – a gigantic venue with a huge crowd. Boy did they pull it off! If you want to hear how it sounded, simply play the video underneath this paragraph. There is hardly any difference. And turn it up! Alphonso Johnson was smokin! As was everyone in the fairly large band. Joe Zawinul with his array of Arp 2600 synthesizers – was extremely powerful. If I recall correctly it was Dom Um Romao on percussion, and he was an amazing showman who stole the show several times with his antics.
Enjoy Funkatology Artists
Funk Mambo Remix by Jesse Jones Jr.
Scat Hop Anthem by Jesse Jones Jr.
Medicine by Joe Collado
Birds of Fire https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5x0DXwI-vf4 tripped out for real
Aghartha https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crpJgZxqMcg great jam tracks
Bitches Brew https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbCt-iXIXlQ the original soul-jazz