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I was playing with some friends the other day and since we all listen to jazz fusion (like Herbie Hancock and Snarky Puppy) we were trying to play jazz standards in that style. However, none of us knew how to actually make music that sounds like funk-inspired jazz fusion. How do we make it sound like we're playing fusion?

  • What jazz standards did you try? – piiperi Reinstate Monica Jun 14 at 17:57
  • @piiperiReinstateMonica we really wanted to get My Favorite Things to work, but we also tried Autumn Leaves and some other random ones out of the Real Book. – Edward Hurley Jun 14 at 18:12
  • Why did you accept an answer so quickly? People have barely got an idea what you're asking, and you certainly haven't got all the answers that could have been coming. :) – piiperi Reinstate Monica Jun 14 at 18:27
  • @piiperiReinstateMonica because the answer I received was well-written and answered the question fully – Edward Hurley Jun 15 at 0:20
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Fusion in music means a musical style which is inspired from two or more different musical styles. I think you are trying to play music which have both funk and jazz influences.

  1. The main ingredient of funk is rhythm. Try to incorporate funk rhythmic ideas into jazz standards.

  2. Take a funk song and reharmonize with ideas inspired from jazz.

  3. There can be different ways to approach fusion, but one thing will always be there: creativity. Listen to as many musical styles you like and understand them technically and spiritually. Hopefully you will find a way yourself.

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  • In a jazz context, fusion is typically considered to have closer ties to rock than to funk. – jdjazz Jun 21 at 3:44
  • @jdjazz I did indicate in my post that I was interested in funk-inspired fusion – Edward Hurley Jun 30 at 17:40
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For context, my teacher is Lenny White, most famous for being the drummer in legendary 'fusion' group Return to Forever. If you don't know him, look him up - he is a founding father of the music, and was present when Miles created this 'fusion' sound. I'm a saxophonist.

I'm 99% sure you guys don't have the rhythmic aspect. Getting your rhythm together is the first and most necessary step in recreating this music, before any harmony ("jazzy reharms", extensions, etc.) or any timbre concerns (what synth to use, how many pedals, etc). Practically, you should learn to play over a simple form as a tight rhythm section. Doing this requires all members, but especially your drummer, to study (listen, transcribe, and play along to) the history of funk drumming outside of jazz, and then do the same for Lenny et al. Your question was too general for me to give any other specific advice on that.

Regarding timbre and harmony, it is telling that Lenny dislikes having this music called fusion. as it is too general. Instead, he refers to it as 'jazz-rock'. The harmonic and melodic language for forms and improvisation was entirely established in the 60's by all the jazz musicians in that era. The timbre of the music was entirely established by rock and pop (funk, disco) musicians of that era. So again, study 60's jazz (Miles 2nd great quintet, Coltrane, et al.), and 70's funk and rock (Hendrix was a huge influence, James Brown et al). Then revisit your favorite jazz-rock albums.

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