Joe Zawinul: The Rise & Fall of the Third Stream (2002)
The term "Third Stream" was coined to describe the marriage of classical and jazz music in composition and performance. Despite bordering on pretension, in most cases this ambitious movement created some of the worst records in history. Fans of either genre remained content to keep their music free from the perceived impurities of the other.
Third Stream music had more or less fallen by the wayside by the mid-sixties, but a chance meeting between Zawinul and composer William Fischer inspired this ambitious 1965 attempt to once again present classical composition in a jazz context. Not bad for a guy who was only on his second album as a leader. Zawinul and Fischer largely succeed in their attempt to meld the two, using a small string section and an assortment of jazz instrumentation as their tools on The Rise & Fall. Parts of the scores are written out, yet plenty of room is left for improvisation. The transition is seamless and allows for a great deal of modal playing based on the original themes as well as some free jazz dabbling.
Along with the string arrangements, which vary from lush to jarring, Zawinul contributes some lovely arpeggios as well as some haunted electric piano. Whether or not this music bears any resemblance to classical (or, for that matter, jazz) is up for debate, but nevertheless The Rise and Fall of the Third Stream is a compelling and challenging listen.
Track Listing: 1. Baptismal 2. Soul of a Village 3. The Fifth Canto 4. From Vienna, With Love 5. Lord, Lord, Lord 6. A Concerto, Retitled.
Personnel: Joe Zawinul-piano, electric piano; William Fischer-tenor sax; Jimmy Owens-trumpet; Kermit Moore- cello; Selwart Clarke, Alfred Brown, Theodore Israel-violas; Richard Davis-bass; Warren Smith- percussion; Freddie Waits or Roy McCurdy-drums.