The word "fusion" has been so liberally used during the past quarter-century as to become almost meaningless. Fusion's original definition was best: a mixture of jazz improvisation with the power and rhythms of rock. Up until around 1967 the worlds of jazz and rock were nearly completely separate. But as rock became more creative and its musicianship improved, and as some in the jazz world became bored with hard bop and did not want to play strictly avant-garde music, the two different idioms began to trade ideas and occasionally combine forces. By the early 1970's, fusion had its own separate identity as a creative jazz style (although sneered upon by many purists) and such major groups as Return To Forever, Weather Report, the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Miles Davis' various bands were playing high-quality fusion that mixed together some of the best qualities of both jazz and rock. Unfortunately as it became a moneymaker, much of what was labelled fusion was actually a combination of jazz with easy-listening pop music and lightweight R&B. This style of commercially-oriented, melodic, crossover jazz became the dominant style of fusion in the '80s, and by the beginning of the '90s, it had earned a new name -- smooth jazz -- which further separated from the risk-taking fusion that was its forefather.
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