Third Stream – The Art-Jazz Hybrid
In 1957, jazz composer and classical academician Gunther Schuller referred in a lecture to the merging of two streams, jazz and classical to form a new hybrid called the Third Stream. Although the incorporation of classical orchestration had been a part of jazz composition since the arrangements of Paul Whiteman and Fletcher Henderson and the compositions of George Gershwin in the late 1920s, this was a new approach: bringing jazz into the classical forms without an eye towards the popularization of the outcome.
For over twenty years following Schuller’s formal declaration, composers and performers produced a body of work which was just as much fusion as jazz-rock, but without the commercialized compromises. String quartets, jazz concertos, and symphonies were all typical structures for Third Stream compositions. While never gaining popular recognition, such works were still important statements in the exercising of the jazz idiom.
World Jazz – Globalization of a Groove
Although we often refer to jazz as the only true American form of music, it actually has never been exclusively American. From the earliest days before conception, in Congo Square and the compositions of Gottschalk and Joplin, jazz has had an international heritage. The Afro-Caribbean sounds were formed into Euro-Western structures and carried to every part of the world before Charlie Parker blew his first note.
And although the most notable practitioners of the art have been American, there have been notable exceptions such as pianist Oscar Peterson from Canada; guitarist Django Reinhardt and violinist Stephane Graphelli both from France. By the 1930s every major city of Europe sponsored jazz concerts and most boasted at least one “hot” club. Jazz critics in French and British newspapers spoke intelligently of the American art form and offices of the International Jazz Federation (IJF) were springing up in Venice, Italy; London, England; Warsaw, Poland; and Stockholm, Sweden. By the mid 1980s, the IJF was sponsoring festivals, competitions, and workshops in many of the 20 countries in which it had associations.
In the late 1970’s a broader definition of jazz was being developed – one which included more authentic sounds of Latin America, Africa, and India in the jazz idiom.
The roots of Latin American rhythms in jazz can be traced back to Congo Square, through the occasional nods given it by Ellington, but in a more contemporary sense, Dizzy Gillespie’s infusing of Latin instruments and rhythms into his “Cubop” experiment was perhaps the earliest source point. It was the belief of Gillespie, Cuban percussionist, Chano Pozo and others that the mono-rhythmic jazz of the ’30s and ’40s needed to be enriched with the more complex poly-rhythms of Afro-Cuban music.
The asymmetrical rhythmic patterns of Latin music were based on popular dances: the rumba in the ’30s, the mambo, meringue and cha-cha of the ’50s and the samba and bossa nova of the ’60s. With each decade, musicians from Cuba, Latin America, Spain or Brazil brought sounds which seemed to easily dovetail to form a latin/pop jazz sound. Since the mid 1970s, Latin influenced jazz can be heard in the sounds of Miles Davis alumni, Chick Corea, in the sounds of jazz/rock icon Santana and in countless groups who use authentic instrumentation and the persistent groove of the redefined rhythmic beats of the samba or bossa nova.
Following the peak of the 1960s civil rights movement and the rise of a strong ethno-self identity, many in the African-American community felt the need to reach back to their roots. Some, in the art, music and literature communities, desired to adopt a more Afrocentric cultural base adopting African names, donning traditional garb or, in the case of musicians, incorporating more authentic African instruments and rhythms into their sound. While the African influence can be seen in artists like Sun Ra and Pharoah Sanders, neither of them completely abandoned the existing instrumentation of jazz. During the ’70s and ’80s, Sun Ra explored the complexities of the synthesizers while Pharoah Sanders played saxophone in the free jazz, experimental style of John Coltrane.
English born guitarist John McLaughlin was influenced early by recordings of blues artists from America and the jazz guitar of Django Reinhardt. In the ’60s McLaughlin played in England with Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton (2/3 of the legendary group, Cream) and with Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones. In 1969 he came to America just in time to play on Miles Davis’ pivotal recording, Bitches Brew. His conversion to Eastern religion in 1970 caused him to begin to study Indian music and a year later he formed the Mahavishnu Orchestra, an ensemble which blended jazz, rock and Indian music. Others in jazz & rock had a similar interest in infusing Indian music into their own Western efforts. The path towards Eastern religion and music had already been taken by John Coltrane in the early ’60s and by George Harrison of the Beatles in the late ’60s. Both incorporated the sounds and instrumentation of Indian music into their own.
Regardless of the costume or the instrumentation, the essence of jazz can be found in each of these efforts. Whether it is being played in a hall in Belfast, Ireland, a cathedral in Rome or a theater in Sao Palo, Brazil, if it swings, if there is a groove, if involves improvisation and creativity, it came from New Orleans.