At the beginning of the pandemic lockdown, we published a feature on the history of jazz fusion that remains one of our most-read articles of 2020. It also has one of the longest comment threads, and a lot of those comment threads mentioned the absence of Return to Forever. So in our last edition of Bonus Tracks, we revisit jazz fusion, not simply for the purpose of giving Chick Corea his due (though he has certainly earned it) but to offer a warranted expansion into some of the personalities and directions that fusion took that we didn’t quite have the time to get to. Some of it’s avant garde ECM ambience, some of it’s pre-Bitches Brew jazz-rock from a young upstart, and some of it is rock musicians delving into the weird realms of jazz exploration, but it’s all well worth the deep dive.
Tony Williams’ Lifetime – Emergency! (1969)
Tony Williams began drumming with Miles Davis at the age of 18, an impressive feat by any measure. But even more remarkably, the young drummer beat Davis to the punch in releasing a double LP of searing jazz rock. A year before Bitches Brew dropped, Williams’ group Lifetime—a power trio comprising Williams, guitarist John McLaughlin and organist Larry Young—dropped Emergency!, which is about as hard rocking a