Birds of Fire
Jazz, Rock, Funk, and the Creation of Fusion
Duke University Press 2011
To introduce his book Birds of Fire: Jazz, Rock, Funk, and the Creation of Fusion (Duke, 2011), Kevin Fellezs quotes Jeff Beck: “For Christ’s sake, I wish somebody would make up a name for this kind of music, ’cause it ain’t jazz and it ain’t rock.” Beck’s words echo Fellezs’s argument, namely, that 1970’s fusion artists situated themselves in the “broken middle” between already established genres like rock, jazz, and funk. They liberally borrowed elements from many musical styles, often to the dismay of genre purists. Fellezs provides a detailed theoretical discussion of the social construction of genre using fusion as an empirical example of how new genres emerge through the appropriation of elements of those that already exist. Fellezs also shows how our conceptions of genre are intimately linked to our ideas about larger social categories–in this case fusion artists are seen as crossing the racially charged boundaries of jazz and rock. More than half of Birds of a Feather is devoted to discussions of four artists in particular: Tony Williams, John McLaughlin, Joni Mitchell, and Herbie Hancock.
Kevin Fellezs is currently an Assistant Professor of Music at University of California-Merced. Beginning January 1, 2012 he will be an Assistant Professor of Music at Columbia University in the City of New York.