Some Thoughts On Fusion
Terry Riley, the keyboardist with rather fuzzy-wuzzy intellectual ideas on music in general – some may refuse to include him in a list of respectable jazzmen – has also done an excellent job in his seminal work In C, which happens to be an entire album composed with the note C as the central figure. Downbeat magazine had mentioned during the post-flower power era that Riley, with his barely perceptible ideas on music, had been influenced by a singing minstrel from India, Pandit Pran Nath, who is a globe trotter and sort of a music evangelist.
The fact that some teachers in India take up to three years to teach one single note to a student freaked Riley out, possibly one reason why he wanted to give all he had to one single note: C. It is a classic work, bringing to mind the brilliance of Keith Jarrett and his versatile fecundity in creative compositional matters.
The globe-trotting cornet player Don Cherry [I heard he claims his favourite cornet came from a pawnshop in Pakistan] very candidly showed the influence of Indian music on several numbers in his albums during the ‘70s, a time when the Miles Davis school was continually putting out brilliant new artists, and Davis himself had Badal Roy playing the tabla and other percussion instruments – sometimes sitar sounds are heard on some numbers, too.
Trumpeter Don Ellis, with a more staid outlook, had picked up the thread of "microtones," a topic dear to the Indian classical performer. Microtones are virtually the backbone of this style of music, and without microtones – for instance, when a piano is used for playing such music – the spontaneity, the verve, the "rasas" or the emotional content, and the entire intended effect of the raga or melody gets lost.
This music sounds as flat as yesterday’s cup of tea, sipped today.
Some more on my hobby horse later.
Take care and keep writing in....