When Rock And Jazz Found Common Ground

allmanbrosyoutubeThis video came across my desktop the other day and it blew me away. It is a clip of an Allman Brothers Band performance on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, recorded on October 9, 1991.

The Allmans were experiencing a nice little renaissance at the time. The band had spent most of the 1980s split apart due to solo projects and your typical Rock & Roll acrimony and turmoil. But they surprised everyone by getting back together in 1989, with new musicians Warren Haynes on guitar and Allen Woody on bass bringing a new vigor to the proceedings.

The second album from the reformed Allmans, Shades Of Two Worlds, was released in 1991, and it’s a real underrated gem. Haynes and Dickie Betts really found a nice chemistry together, and the band covered a lot of ground from boogie to gospel to blues. And on the song “Kind Of Bird”, which they perform on this clip, the Allmans go for a jazz/rock hybrid, otherwise known as, uh, jazz.

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Haynes and Betts co-wrote the instrumental as a tribute to jazz legend Charlie Parker. Think about that for a minute. A major Rock band writing an instrumental tribute to a jazz legend. It speaks volumes about the Allman Brothers, but to me it also suggests that we’ve somehow lost some of that jazz/rock overlap impulse 25 years later.

Watch the clip, it is wild. What’s really crazy about it is that they are performing with Doc Severinsen and the Tonight Show Orchestra, who was your father’s or your grandfather’s favorite jazz band. The Allmans managed to do what Carson never did — make Doc Severinsen look cutting-edge cool.

The point is that the Allman Brothers Band have or had the musical chops to pull off a legitimate foray into jazz. When a Rock band contains highly-skilled musicians, then jazz should always be a possible direction. I guess the problem is that not enough Rock musicians acquire such a high level of skill on their instruments anymore. Wilco and Radiohead are two bands filled with virtuoso players, and both them have approximated a jazz/rock fusion on some of their material, but I wish there were more. There is so much more common ground between Rock and Jazz that is worth exploring, if you’ve got the talent to make the journey.





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2 comments to “When Rock And Jazz Found Common Ground”
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