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CHAPTER SEVEN NO ONE HAD EVER HEARD A GUITAR PLAYED LIKE THAT BEFORE: THE REDEFINITION OF THE JAZZ

AESTHETIC IN THE WORK OF POST 1970S ELECTRIC GUITARIST COMPOSERS PAUL CARR

This article addresses the often underrated role jazz guitarist composers have played in redefining the jazz aesthetic, specifically through fusing jazz with other music forms. Most publications and broadcasts on jazz history have a tendency to overlook this issue, Ken Burns most recent TV series being an indicative example, omitting arguably four of the most influential and experimental jazz musicians of the last 40 yearsPat Metheny, Bill Frisell, Larry Coryell and John McLaughlin. Additionally, although there have been numerous non academic texts written about the technical proficiencies of many electric jazz guitarists, there is no academic material examining their compositional impact on the jazz canon. During the late 1960searly 1970s, it will be suggested that the guitarists assimilation of jazz with the emerging rock genre was more an expression of cultural and social paradigms than an overt attempt to fuse the two styles. In direct contrast to the pervasively quoted pioneer of fusion, Miles Davis, who incorporated the rock aesthetic into his music to reach the people, or Third Steam musicians such as George Russell and John Lewis who fused classical and jazz musics for intellectual reasons, the post 1970s guitarist/composers were often natural embodiments of both styles, simply being products of their generation. A good example of this paradigm can be seen in the work of jazz-rock pioneers John McLaughlin and Larry Coryell, who could both be

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considered authentic practitioners of both jazz and rock traditions during their work prior to the fusion movement. Echard (2005, 46) describes two aspects of tradition that can have a profound impact on the perceived originality of an artist. He describes clichs as
strongly and exclusively correlated to their tradition in the sense that, even if the feature appears elsewhere, surrounded by elements coded as belonging to other traditions, it will still function as a reference to its own tradition. (46)1

Typical Features on the other hand are an integral part of a tradition but are not unique to that tradition (46).2 He goes on to elaborate the effect of these paradigms on the originality of an artist, commenting that clichs make it more difficult to elaborate a singular and unique persona since they come with so many specific prior associations (46). This argument is important when outlining the contribution and originality of artists such as Coryell and McLaughlin. When closely examining the inaugural Mahavishnu Orchestra album, The Inner Mountain Flame (1971), or many of Larry Coryells early recordings such as Coryell (1969), it is noticeable how few clichs or typical features one would readily associate with jazz at the time. It is also apparent how the stylistic paradigms of both albums became more pervasive in jazz in the years that followed. Gestures on the recordings such as distorted guitar, rock based grooves, modern production techniques, in addition to visual factors such as specific dress codes and stage behaviours could indeed have been regarded as clichs of rock, but today they can be conceptualised as typical features of the jazz canon. It is recognised that musicological factors alone are not enough to classify the qualities of any musical work, and when discussing the stylistic ambiguity of Frank Zappas portfolio, Gracyk comments
When Frank Zappa puts an instrumental track on his albums, its rock music even if we recognise its jazz or classical influences. But when Pierre Boulez records an album of Zappa music, its classical music. (Gracyk 1996, 5)

Gracyk goes on to argue that when Brandford Marsalis releases an album, it is jazz. But when he appears on a Grateful Dead album (Without a Net, 1991) he is playing rock, even if he is playing exactly the same horn part that he might play on one of his own albums. (5) The musical tradition of an artist unquestionably has a profound impact on how their music is interpreted and accepted, and this essay proposes that the dual

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tradition, commercial popularity, and perceived authenticity of guitarists such as Coryell and in particular McLaughlin, had a considerable impact on redefining the jazz genre. After briefly summarising the electric guitars key practitioners and early composers pre-1970, this article proceeds to discuss the increased compositional activity of guitarists post 1970, in particular using McLaughlins and Coryells contribution and influence as primary case studies. Since the electric guitar's inception during the mid 1930s, the emergence of an electric guitarist who could also be considered an influential jazz composer was understandably slow. Although an increasing number of guitarists were experimenting with the instrument during the early/mid 1930s, it required a young guitarist from Oklahoma to bequeath the instrument its first true improvisational voice in jazz and dispel the novelty value the instrument possessed up to this point. In just two years (19391941) the work of Charlie Christian (19161942) with the Benny Goodman Orchestra and Sextet established the standards for the coming generations, and heralded the gradual transformation of the guitarist's role from that of accompanist to soloist, to composer. Although the Benny Goodman Sextet only recorded four compositions co-written by Christian,3 the guitaristic nature of some of the sextets music clearly allude to the guitarist.4 His introduction seemed to encourage Goodmans band to experiment more with original compositions, and his advanced harmonic conception can be clearly heard on pieces such as AC/DC Current.5 Although Goodman often played down Christans impact, his influence can be heard on Goodman compositions such as A Wholly One and A Smooth One. The latter is normally attributed to Goodman, but is clearly identical to a theme Christian developed during a jam session. Later entitled Waiting For Benny, the argument is so obvious to be considered an infringement of Christians copyright. Christians early death resulted in an often-unappreciated perspective of his role in the stylistic transition from swing to bebop, and his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 certainly verifies his influence beyond the stylistic boundaries of jazz. Waksmans (2001) hypothesis that he was the most adept swing musician to play bebop is an accurate tribute to one of the most influential figures jazz guitar has known. The popularity of the small group during the 1940s and 50s exposed the electric instrument to a greater extent, with an abundance of guitarists such as Barney Kessel, Tal Farlow, Johnny Smith, Jimmy Raney and Kenny Burrell all further developing the credibility of the instrument, but like their predecessors not impacting on the compositional or stylistic

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direction of the jazz canon. Although not considered a prolific composer, Wes Montgomery is an interesting early case study of an electric guitarist who did compose, indeed many of his pieces such as West Coast Blues, Road Song, Four on Six, and Bumpin on the Sunset have become jazz standards, and have been recorded on numerous occasions since his death. More importantly, his later albums were commercially successful due to their fusion of jazz and easy listening pop paradigms,6 and by the time his greatest commercial success A Day In The Life peaked at number 13 in the Billboard charts in 1967, Montgomery had already began to reestablish jazz once again as a commercial entity. Earlier recordings such as Tequila (1966) and California Dreaming (1967) had already established this president, and were followed by Down Here On The Ground (1968), and Road Song (1968), all achieving top 100 positions in the Billboard pop charts, and top 5 in Billboard jazz. Although his more commercial ventures were often criticised for their formulaic predictability, his two Grammy awards7 for Best Instrumental Jazz Performance, Individual or Group, further verify his acceptance and influence on the musicological paradigms that determine the reception of jazz. A classically trained composer, Jim Hall also had an early appreciation of the possibilities of the convergence of jazz with other music forms. One of the few guitarists to be involved with the Third Stream movement during 1950s1960s, his Piece for Guitar and Strings8 is the earliest recorded example discovered of an electric guitarist composer mixing jazz elements with classical orchestration. A multi sectioned piece, the composition displays both horizontal and vertical aspects of Joseph Stuessys (1977) adjacent confluent style, predating McLaughlin and Coryells work by a decade. Although the vast majority of his recorded portfolio can only be considered to be pure jazz, later recordings such as Textures (1996), By Arrangement (1998) and Jazzpar Quartet + 4 (1999) display his considerable compositional and arranging proficiency in this area. Although not recorded at the time of its inception, the piece Thesis9 demonstrates an interesting model of how jazz elements can be juxtaposed with string quartet. Although the piece appears to be a Third Stream arrangement of an original straight version composed in 1953, both recordings are essentially a set of variations, with sections of jazz interlinking with strings as the composition progresses. Regarding the stylistic tendencies of these later pieces, Hall commented I still think of these newer pieces as. . . .I dont want to say jazz, but improvised music anyway. He continued I think the differences between jazz and modern composition have become more and more blurred of late (Macnie 1997).

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Having recently assessed 46% of the recorded output of 17 pre-1970s guitarists, the average compositional output is only 20%. This is largely related to the relatively slow emergence of the electric guitar as a solo instrument in jazz and more importantly its lack of cultural significance with both musicians and the general public. It is interesting to note the substantial increase in compositional activity for the post 1970s generation, which equates to an average of 71% of recorded output being self-composed (See Carr 2004). The development of the solid bodied instrument in the late 1940s/early 1950s was to ultimately have a profound effect on the productivity of many electric guitarists, as during the late 1960searly 1970s this instrument alongside studio/live technologies made it possible for composers to fuse jazz with a style firmly associated both visually and compositionally with the solid bodied electric guitarrock music. At a time when jazz was struggling to acquire an audience, many of this generations jazz guitarists were as influenced by rock players such as Jimi Hendrix (19431970) and Eric Clapton (b. 1945) as they were by music heralding from the jazz tradition. Throughout the albums they recorded during the late 1960searly 1970s, it is apparent that Coryell and McLaughlin are comfortable with the performance and compositional conventions of both jazz and rock paradigms, and were prepared to challenge the musicological and physical gestures normally associated with the styles. Coryells recording debut with Chico Hamilton (The Dealer, 1966) and early association with Gary Burton firmly established him within the jazz establishment, despite the obvious rock tendencies of his guitar sound and compositional idiolect. His work with Burton in particular established an experimental paradigm that he would continue throughout his career, pushing the borders of the accepted notions of jazz authenticity. When discussing the influence of Hendrix on his work, Coryell stated:
Jimi Hendrix is the greatest musician who ever lived as far as I am concerned. The stuff I heard him do in jam sessions was some of the heaviest jazz I ever heard. (Nicholson 1998, 108)

This open-minded perspective can be clearly heard on jazz compositions such as The Great Escape (Barefoot Boy, 1971) and The Opening (Live at the Village Gate, 1971). The latter in particular displays Coryells ability to fuse the excitement and energy of rock with the improvisational precision of jazz. Englishman John McLaughlin (b. 1942) spent his early professional experiences engaged as a sideman for The Graham Bond Organisation and Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames. His only pre-Miles Davis solo album

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Extrapolation (1968) displays many of the compositional traits that were to become his trademarks during forthcoming years. Although primarily a jazz record, his semiacoustic guitar has a clear rock influence in terms of sound and phrasing throughout the album, and the integration of Indian scales, displaced root chord progressions, and complex time signatures are all aspects of the mature McLaughlin portfolio. Despite the innovations of this recording, it is clear that at this stage, McLaughlin was still developing his compositional idiolect, three of the ten tracks all emerging again on subsequent albums in more elaborate forms. McLaughlin took this process a stage further, actually departmentalising two distinct ideas from an earlier single composition. Close examination clearly reveals that One Word, recorded in 1970 on the Tony Williams Lifetime album Turn it Over became the impetus for One Word and Resolution, from Birds of Fire (1972). These facts do not belittle McLaughlin's achievements, but verify how important it seemed to be for him to develop his compositional idiolect. Indeed the fact that some of these compositions have independent titles proves that McLaughlin considers the recordings not to be arrangements of earlier works, but independent, albeit derivative compositions. It is generally accepted that popular music rehearsals are more democratic than those deriving from the European classical tradition, and despite the complexity of his music, McLaughlin is unquestionably influenced by the openness of rock practices. There are also however further differences between the rehearsal paradigms of rock and jazz. Whereas jazz rehearsals often focus upon the interpretation and development of a score or lead sheet, research has revealed that rock rehearsals are frequently used as a means of composition (See Johnson 2003, 155). Often involving numerous band members in the creative procedure, rock rehearsals rarely incorporate notated parts, but fragments of ideas that form the basis of a spontaneous development process. Although both rock and jazz practices can be considered extensional10 in nature, the practice of collective composition is although not unheard of in jazz, far more pervasive in rock. Although this working procedure is essential in the development of rock music performance and recording, it unquestionably has the potential to instigate animosity amongst band members. When asked in 1973 why only John McLaughlin had written anything for the early Mahavishnu Orchestra recordings, Jerry Goodman verified this process, commenting:
It's not really true that no one has written anything except John. Although the tunes on the first two albums were all credited to him, they were actually written by the band. (Scumpy 1973)

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Obviously a contentious issue within the band, keyboard player Jan Hammer went on to elaborate:
I would say in most of those songs that are credited to him on those first two albums were about 60% by him and 40% by the other members of the band (Scumpy 1973).

McLaughlin clearly believes that group interaction is a valid aspect of the compositional process, with the potential to set up a musical situation which will precipitate spontaneous combustion. He continues:
When I write a tune and go to a rehearsal, I have a fairly (my emphasis) clear concept of the idea and the emotional dress of that idea. You set a stage but you open up role possibilities and present the characters in the group with both the idea and the emotional stimulus. (Stephen 1979)

Reflecting on his time as a sideman with Miles Davis he rationalised his thoughts further, commenting: He had a way of pulling something out of me that I would have never have figured out myselfwhich is uncanny. In the comment above, McLaughlin is rationalising the approach to rehearsals that Miles Davis adopted in the late 1960s, interestingly when he was engaging in an early form of jazz-rock fusion. It seems that this developing new music form at least initially required a different rehearsal and compositional methodology, one that emphasised the collective compositional practices normally associated with rock music. The social message, raw power, and mass appeal of rock music understandably influenced many of the younger generation of jazz musicians during the 1960s. On both sides of the Atlantic, musicians such as Coryell and McLaughlin began to experiment with fusing the stylistic, visual, and procedural elements of the two styles. In addition to his influence in the field of jazz-rock fusion, McLaughlin has also had a considerable impact on the acceptance of Eastern, Hispanic and classical fusions with jazz. His 1974 Apocalypse recording with the Mahavishnu Orchestra was the first example of how a fusion group could be expanded with orchestral textures. Although sounding like quintessential classical guitar concertos, this was an area he revisited with Mediterranean Concerto (For Guitar and Orchestra) (1988) and Thieves and Poets (2003). As the above two recordings indicate, when McLaughlin interfaces with classical music he not only aligns its stylistic factors into a fusion with jazz and rock (as with Apocalypse), but often engages fully with the tradition of the genre concerned, almost portraying an alter ego personality. When performing this music live, he dresses, behaves, and

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even performs like someone steeped in the classical tradition, the only jazz-rock indicator being his use of a plectrum. What makes his work so fascinating is that he is able to indoctrinate authenticity into Spanish influenced acoustic guitar music and more profoundly into Indian classical music in his work with Shakti. During live performance with these ensembles, McLaughlin can be seen to not only dress and behave in congruence with the tradition, but also to perform with great sensitivity and understanding of the differing stylistic boundaries. As with Coryell, all of these factors instigate a series of dichotomies in the mind of the audience regarding the overall style of the music. Is it jazz, rock, classical, Hispanic, Indian, high culture/low culture, etc? The jazz-rock movement of the late 1960s/early 1970s for the first time featured electric guitarists who consistently and pervasively experimented with the confluence of jazz and other music forms. Guitarists such as Coryell, and McLaughlin in particular were amongst the first wave to combine these elements into a coherent whole, who were able to attract the interest of the general public. In doing so they helped establish career pathways for a generation of musicians who were interested in pursuing analogous principles. As stated earlier, the lack of jazz clichs in the early work of both McLaughlin and Coryell often resulted in stylistic labelling which was not musicologically accurate at the time. Indeed close examination of the first three Mahavishnu Orchestra albums reveals minimal musicological relation to what was previously considered pure jazz, no compositions incorporating stylistic clichs such as swing feel, standard harmonic progressions, typical jazz timbres, or indeed any jazz paradigms that could be cross-referenced with Taggs interobjective comparison materials methodology (Tagg 1982). Selected pieces such as Resolution, Hope, and Power of Love even audaciously omit the most pervasive stylistic indicator of jazzimprovisation. This New-Music approach to jazz composition is also prevalent in the work of Bill Frisell, Terje Rypdal and Pat Metheny, all continuing McLaughlin and Coryells perspective regarding the realisation that jazz can be considered more a process than a specific sound or entity. It is apparent that both musicians considered it important to expand the meaning of the music, Coryell referring to the study of classical orchestration (quoting Schoenberg, Webern, and Berg as major influences) as a means to avoid jazz clichs (Brooks 1975), while McLaughlin commented in 1972:
I dont care what people call my music. We just get up there and play. Its like people ask me what kind of music we play, and I say, You listen, then you can call it anything you want. (Trigger 1975, 70)

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Both McLaughlins and Coryells pervasive use of the musical sophistication of the western classical tradition, distorted guitar, rock rhythms, loud volume levels, non western world musics, rock based rehearsal techniques, as well as visual gestures not normally associated with jazz, are excellent examples of what Tagg describes as a genre synecdoche (Tagg 1992), alluding not only to the foreign musical styles,11 but the entire culture associated with the styles. Combined with the ergonomic nature of many of the compositions, this eclectic fusion assisted the creation of new stylistic rules for the jazz canon, which only a few years later would become formulaic and aligned to market requirements. This essay does not propose that these guitarists were the only musicians on the cutting edge of redefining jazz during the late 1960s early 1970s, but that they played an often unrecognised integral part in its development. Considering that the electric guitar is regarded by many as the most iconoclastic musical instrument of the latter half of the 20th century, it seems absurd to omit the impact some of its player/composers have had on the jazz canon. Although this essay has focused primarily on Larry Coryell and John McLaughlin as case studies, numerous other guitarists have assisted the chronological development of the music by redefining what it means to be a jazz composer and performer. Bill Frisells unassuming comment when discussing how his music eradicates the stereotypical jazz aesthetic begins to outline the principal problem.
I dont really care what its called. It bothers me that people use these names to box things away. What we do comes out of jazz, and I still think it has a lot of the kind of stuff that attracted me to jazz in the first place, but we dont confine ourselves to a certain era of a certain style. We use everything that is around us. As a matter of fact, that is what the great jazz players always did, isnt it? (Mathieson 1993, 28)

This statement is in concurrence with McLaughlins earlier comment, and reflects my introductory statement regarding electric guitarists being products of their generation. Echards earlier proposal that numerous clichs make it problematic for listeners, journalists, and record companies to associate a unique persona to an artist does not address the fact that musicians are of their time, and the transference of these clichs to typical features is a key contribution toward the emergence of new musical styles. When discussing McLaughlin, Chick Corea outlined this process perfectly when stating:
No-one had ever heard an electric guitar played like that before, and it certainly inspired me. John's band, more than my experience with Miles,

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Keyboard players such as Corea, followed in the footsteps of Jan Hammer, who actually incorporated the available technology to make the instrument emulate the expressive qualities of the electric guitar. Indeed in the early 1980s, Corea alongside Herbie Hancock pioneered the use of an electric keyboard in jazz that actually visually resembled a guitar, including a neck and shoulder strap to enable free physical movement. These paradigms were also apparent in the work of Miles Davis and Randy Brecker in the late 1960s and early 1970s, both incorporating wah wah pedals to radicalise the available textures of the trumpet. This process of enculturation has continued over the last 30 plus years, but the aforementioned guitarists still receive little or no credit for their substantial contribution. Hopefully this essay will instigate further research to readdress the balance.

References
Brooks, M. 1975. The Eleventh House. In Jazz GuitaristsCollected interviews from Guitar Player Magazine, 3236. London: Guitar Player Books. Carr, P. 2004. Post 1970s Electric Guitarists Who Have Fused The Jazz Aesthetic With Other Music Forms. PhD diss., University of Hertfordshire. Echard, E. 2005. Neil Young and The Poetics Of Energy. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press. Gracyk, T. 1996. Rhythm and Noise: An Aesthetics of Rock. London: I. B. Tauris. Johnson, B. 2003. Rehearsal. In The Continuum Encyclopaedia of Popular Music Of The World Vol. 2, ed. Shepherd J., D. Horn, and D. Laing, 154157. London: Continuum. Macnie, J. 1997. Halls rich Textures not just on guitar. Billboard 109 (16): 11. Mathieson, K. 1993. Bill is God. The Wire 108. Moore, A. 2001. Rock: The Primary Text. Aldershot: Ashgate. Nicholson, S. 1998. Jazz-Rock: a History. Edinburgh: Canongate Books Ltd. Scumpy. P. S. 1973. John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra: Two Sides to Every Satori. Reprinted from Crawdaddy Magazine, November 1973. http://www.italway.it/morrone/jml-crawdaddy.htm (accessed September 23, 2007).

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Stephen, B. 1979. The Cultural Improvisation of John McLaughlin. Reprinted from International Musician and Recording World, March 1979. http://www.cs.cf.ac.uk/Dave/mclaughlin/art/cultural.html (accessed September 23, 2007). Stuessy, J. 1977. The Confluence of Jazz and Classical Music 19501970. PhD diss., University of Rochester. Tagg, P. 1982. Analysing popular music: theory, method and practice. Popular Music 2: 3765. . 1992. Towards a Sign Typology of Music. Secondo convego europeo di analisi musicale, 369378. Trigger, V. 1975. Mahavishnu John McLaughlin. In Jazz Guitarists Collected interviews from Guitar Player Magazine, 7071. London: Guitar Player Books. Waksman, S. 2001. Instruments of DesireThe Electric Guitar and the Shaping of Musical Experience. 2nd ed. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Notes
For example the use of swing, walking bass, comping chords, compositional practices, specific dress codes and behaviors, etc. 2 For example the use of double bass, acoustic piano, semi acoustic guitars, and notation. 3 Seven Come Eleven (With Goodman), Shivers (With Hampton), AC/DC Current (With Hampton and Goodman), and Airmail Special (With Goodman and Mundy). 4 For example the main theme of Seven Come Eleven, the introduction and breaks of AC/DC Current, and the whole of Airmail Special are all guitaristic in nature. 5 A clear reference to the electric guitar. 6 Indeed his 1966 release Fusion is thought to be the inspiration behind the name of the genre (Nicholson 1998). 7 Going Out Of My Head (1966) and Willow Weep For Me (1969) 8 From John Lewis Presents Jazz Abstractions (1960) 9 Initially recorded on Live at the Town Hall vol. 1 (1990) and entitled 1953 Thesis, the piece was subsequently recorded on Jazz Par Quartet + 4 (1999). 10 See Moore (2001). 11 As in Echards Clichs.
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