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Facing The East: Indo-Jazz Fusion

Much discussion about Indo-jazz fusion rightly focuses on American jazz musicians of Indian heritage. Musicians like Vijay Iyer, Rez Abbasi and Rudresh Mahanthappa have incorporated study of their ancestral music into their own ideas for improvisation. But they represent just the latest development in a more than half-century-long narrative of collaboration between jazz players and Indian classical musicians.

Some combinations have trended toward the loaded terms of "New Age" or "Exotic," while others were genuinely wrought to find commonality among improvising musicians working within their respective forms.

Many well-known recordings find jazz facing east: Buddy Rich and Usted Alla Rakha jamming, Yusef Lateef incorporating the North Indian shennai, late-period John Coltrane, Alice Coltrane's devotional music, and the Mahavishnu/Shakti work of guitarist John McLaughlin. Here are five notable works which feature varying levels of engagement between jazz and Indian classical music.

Copyright 2010 WBGO

Josh Jackson is the associate general manager for content at WRTI in Philadelphia.