Essential Jazz Fusion Albums

The Definitive List of 60s and 70s Hit Records

Though the fusion of jazz and rock began brewing during the mid-60s, it really gained a foothold in the tumultuous year of 1969, when Miles Davis released the first of three ground-breaking "electric jazz" records, "In A Silent Way."

Many great jazz fusion records have been released since but it was during the 60s and 70s, the time of Miles and Weather Report and Return To Forever, that fusion was at its peak. While there are over 80 items on the following list, we've given a brief history in the top 10, explore them and all the rest and rediscover the magic and wonder of jazz fusion in the 1960s and 1970s.

Considered by some to be the godfather of Jazz Fusion, Miles Davis released "In a Silent Way" in 1969. Although this album was originally met with criticism from rock and jazz fans alike for its experiment style, "In a Silent Way" is now considered one of Davis' biggest contributions and influences to music ever. 

Released a year after "In a Silent Way," Miles Davis brought back the electric piano and guitar for "Bitches Brew," which quickly gained recognition as one of the top jazz albums of all time. Later, music theorists and historians would attribute "Bitches Brew" to the advent of the jazz-rock genre.

Produced by John McLaughlin and performed by the Mahavishnu Orchestra, "The Inner Mounting Flame" was one of the biggest smash hits of 1971's jazz-rock craze, the band's first studio album after years touring together.

Weather Report was a jazz fusion band in the 70s and 80s who took America by storm with their self-titled debut album that featured a Czech bassist, Austrian-born keyboard player, and American saxophonist. Weather Report, along with Mahavishnu Orchestra and Miles Davis, are known as pioneers in jazz fusion, but Weather Report far outlasted most of its contemporaries and had a successful career spanning two decades.

"Return to Forever," released in September 1972, was simultaneously a debut album for the band Return to Forever and its pioneer Chick Corea, who went on to develop a number of hits that are now considered "jazz standards." This electric jazz album is a classic in the genre and a great introduction to both Corea's solo work and his music created with Return to Forever.

The twelfth studio album of Herbie Hancock and debut album of the band of the same name, "Headhunters" is considered one of Hancock's greatest works and a defining moment in the history of jazz. Since then, "Headhunters" has been added to the Library of Congress' archives as a "socially or culturally important work." 

One of Columbia Records' best-selling jazz albums of all time, "Heavy Weather" was Weather Report's eighth major studio release, selling over 500,000 copies upon its release and has since been considered one of the last great jazz-rock albums.

A year after he released "Bitches Brew," Miles Davis came out with "A Tribute to Jack Johnson," a soundtrack and studio album for a documentary of the same name, which demonstrated his continued interest in jazz fusion developing at the time.

If you're looking for an eclectic taste of some of the best jazz fusion of the 1960s and 70s, look no further than the debut double album "Emergency!" by Tony Williams Lifetime, which features experimentation with psychedelic rock, funk, hard bop, blues, and free jazz in what's now considered one of the first jazz fusion albums recorded. 

Multi-Grammy-winning guitarist Carlos Santana broke onto the scene in the late 60s and struck jazz gold by working with John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra on the 1973 album "Love Devotion Surrender." The album was inspired by the teachings of Sri Chinmoy and intended as a tribute to John Coltrane and was certified gold in the year of its release.

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Verity, Michael. "Essential Jazz Fusion Albums." ThoughtCo, Dec. 9, 2017, thoughtco.com/essential-jazz-fusion-albums-2039708. Verity, Michael. (2017, December 9). Essential Jazz Fusion Albums. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/essential-jazz-fusion-albums-2039708 Verity, Michael. "Essential Jazz Fusion Albums." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/essential-jazz-fusion-albums-2039708 (accessed December 11, 2017).