Jazz fusion is a style of music that combines elements of jazz with those of rock, funk, R\u0026B, hip-hop, or electronic music. Fusion genres came of age in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and have remained a part of the contemporary jazz scene.\n\nJazz fusion often pushes boundaries in instrumentation. Traditional [jazz](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/what-is-jazz) tends to focus on acoustic instruments like trumpet, trombone, saxophone, piano, guitar, bass, and drums. All of these instruments can be found in jazz fusion, but the genre tends to lean heavily on electronic instruments found in progressive rock bands. Synthesizers, electric piano, drum machines, and effects-laden electric guitars are common inclusions among jazz fusion bands.\n\nDespite their experiments with rock instrumentation, [funk](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/funk-music-guide) rhythms, and avant-garde experimentation, jazz fusion artists maintain key tenets of standard jazz music—particularly harmonic sophistication and a strong emphasis on improvisation.\nJazz fusion music came of age in the late 1960s as prominent jazz musicians began experimenting with new technology and idioms from popular styles like rock and [R\u0026B](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/r-and-b-music-guide). Nearly all of the early purveyors of jazz fusion had one biographical detail in common: they were, or had been, collaborators with legendary jazz trumpeter [Miles Davis](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/miles-davis-life-and-music).\n\n- __Miles Davis__: Davis made his name as a bebop sensation, but also developed several offshoots of the style, including hard bop, [post-bop](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/post-bop-jazz-style-guide), and cool jazz. By the time he recorded legendary albums like *Miles In the Sky* and *In A Silent Way*, Davis had begun pushing toward new feels and textures he had heard in rock music, funk, and R\u0026B. Throughout, he maintained a spirit of improvisation and hired top-notch players to fulfill his vision.\n- __Guitarists__: Among Davis’s collaborators who pioneered fusion music were guitarists John McLaughlin and Larry Coryell, each masters of electric jazz. McLaughlin and Coryell were also entranced by [Jimi Hendrix](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/jimi-hendrix-biography), whose use of Fender Stratocasters played through fuzz pedals and Marshall amps had transformed electric guitar. McLaughlin captured the Hendrix spirit combined with jazz harmonies on *The Inner Mounting Flame*, recorded with his Mahavishnu Orchestra.\n- __Keyboardists__: Other Miles Davis alumni who helped establish the jazz fusion genre were keyboardists Joe Zawinul, Chick Corea, and Herbie Hancock. Corea recorded jazz fusion classics like 1972's *Return to Forever* and 1976's *Romantic Warrior*. Hancock formed The Headhunters, who helped pioneer the jazz-funk style with hits like "Chameleon," which merged the funk of James Brown with the improvisations of Miles Davis. Zawinul’s all-star band Weather Report—which featured players like saxophonist Wayne Shorter (another Davis alum), percussionist Airto Moreira (also a Davis alum), and virtuoso bassist Jaco Pastorius—may have made the most impactful contribution to jazz fusion. Records like *Heavy Weather* and songs like "Birdland" helped cement Weather Report among the most significant jazz groups of the 1970s.\n- __Drummers and keys__: The Davis connection also includes drummers Jack DeJohnette, Tony Williams, and Billy Cobham; pianist Larry Young; and bassist Dave Holland. All of these artists would play on significant fusion albums, and some would be significant band leaders, such as Williams with his group Tony Williams Lifetime.\n\nAs the twentieth century pressed onward, jazz fusion became even more tied to rock music. Composer Pat Metheny and Larry Carlton (a studio musician for Steely Dan and Joni Mitchell) made the guitar a more prominent instrument in the genre. Experimental musicians like Frank Zappa and Soft Machine also dipped their toes in jazz fusion. Even rock guitarist [Carlos Santana](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/carlos-santana-top-songs-and-albums) has teamed up with jazz artists to create his own form of jazz-rock fusion.\nJazz fusion features several notable characteristics that set it apart from other genres.\n\n1. __Embrace of rock instrumentation__: Most jazz fusion bands use electric instruments, such as synthesizers and electric guitars. Many fusion players have set benchmarks for their instruments, including Stanley Clarke on electric bass, Joe Zawinul on electric piano, and John McLaughlin on electric guitar.\n2. __Embrace of funk rhythms__: Many jazz fusion bands borrowed the funk rhythms that became popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Groups like Return to Forever (led by Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke), The Headhunters (led by [Herbie Hancock](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/herbie-hancock-life-and-music)), and The Brecker Brothers added infectious grooves to jazz harmonies.\n3. __Maintained focus on improvisation__: Improvisation is a key tenet of jazz music, and it is preserved in jazz fusion records and performances.\n4. __Emphasis on instrumental music__: Most jazz fusion bands do not have lead vocalists. In the style of bebop and most post-bop, they emphasize instrumental virtuosity and soloing. In more recent years, some jazz-rock fusion bands like The Bad Plus have collaborated with singers, but the style remains primarily instrumental.\nBecome a better musician with the [MasterClass Annual Membership](https://www.masterclass.com). Gain access to exclusive video lessons taught by the world’s best, including Herbie Hancock, Itzhak Perlman, St. Vincent, Sheila E., Timbaland, Tom Morello, and more.\n\nWhen traditional jazz music mixed with popular styles like rock and funk, it birthed a new style called jazz fusion.