A Brief History of Jazz Rock is a sax-meets-Strat bible that dares to inspire a Renaissance—to cultivate a new generation of musicians who might mix brass with bass, and help return forgotten bands like If and Dreams to their place on the main stage.
Writer Mike Baron makes an interesting point about how marginalized the Jazz Rock ‘genre’ has become since its heyday in the 70s in his introduction to this book.
“The number of classic bands who have inspired youngsters continues to grow. Beatles imitators are legion. The Beach Boys have a growing and powerful following spearheaded by Explorers Club. Grateful Dead jam-type bands cover the hills. The Quarter After worship the Byrds. But one group is conspicuously missing. Where are the new jazz rock bands?”
Baron doesn’t really answer this pertinent question so much as to suggest that perhaps Jazz Rock as a ‘genre’ lost ground once the post-punk / new wave of the 80s arrived to drive many of these original Jazz Rockers to seek greater commercial attention by moving their music to the Middle of the Road (like Chicago).
Although not directly addressed in the book, Baron defines Jazz Rock as simply rock artists exploring the possibilities of jazz and somewhat distinct from Jazz Fusion. The former emphasizes the Rock over Jazz, whilst the latter does the opposite. Not as clear cut as that but that’s the general idea.
Thus, Baron is talking about a highly marginalized ‘genre’ and includes the following bands in this narrow definition of Jazz Rock – The Butterfield Blues Band, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Seatrain, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Chicago, Dreams, If, Colosseum, The Electric Flag, the Flock, Jam Factory, Silhouette and so on.
Baron details the process of moving from the Blues to Jazz Rock chronologically in unambiguously casual manner – in plain language sans mythologizing the bands above mentioned. Certainly, for true blue rock scholars, this book will provide endless hours of discovery especially with the availability of the music via the various streaming platforms currently online.
At 154 pages long, A Brief History of Jazz Rock is a concise introduction to a lost world that the reader if so inclined may want to spend more time exploring.
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