|Cultural origins||Late 1960s – 1970s, United States|
Jazz-funk is a subgenre of jazz music characterized by a strong back beat (groove), electrified sounds, and an early prevalence of analog synthesizers. The integration of funk, soul, and R&B music and styles into jazz resulted in the creation of a genre whose spectrum is quite wide and ranges from strong jazz improvisation to soul, funk or disco with jazz arrangements, jazz riffs, jazz solos, and sometimes soul vocals.
Jazz-funk is primarily an American genre, where it was popular throughout the 1970s and the early 1980s, but it also achieved noted appeal on the club-circuit in England during the mid-1970s. Similar genres include soul jazz and jazz fusion, but neither entirely overlap with jazz-funk.
Early 60s James Brown created "pure funk", a genre that created this groovy rhythm, which was played by James Brown's funky drummers Clyde Stubblefield and John "Jabo" Starks.
An extension of the jazz field, jazz-funk exhibits several distinctive characteristics. A first feature is the shift of proportions between composition and improvisation. Arrangements, melody, and overall writing were heavily emphasized. In a nutshell this is a departure from funky jazz and free jazz back to the street funk movement of the era. Examples of early jazz funk albums were Miles Davis' On the Corner (1972) and Jimmy Smith's Root Down (1972). The Last Poets, Gil Scott-Heron, Lightnin' Rod, T.S. Monk, Pleasure, Boogaloo Joe Jones, Lenny White, Don Blackman, Ramon Morris, Monk Higgins, Wilbur Bascomb, and Les DeMerle and Michael Henderson also released jazz funk albums. Miles Davis, Donald Byrd and Herbie Hancock are seldom challenged as major influences on jazz. The Mizell Brothers have received official accolades from the industry and are being listened to widely. Their work has also been sampled in more modern music.
A second characteristic of jazz-funk music was the use of electric instruments, such as the Rhodes Piano or the electric bass guitar, particularly in jazz fusion, and the first use of analogue electronic instruments notably by Herbie Hancock, whose jazz-funk period saw him surrounded on stage or in the studio by several Moog synthesizers. He used Hohner D6 Clavinet and others. Herbie Hancock was dedicated to jazz-funk on albums like Head Hunters (1973). In the early 1980s, he threw electronic influences into the jazz-funk mix when he created Future Shock (1983). Jazz-funk dance is directly related to the genre, with Jennifer Lopez popularizing it in the sketch comedy television series In Living Color.
At its conception, the jazz-funk genre was occasionally looked down upon by jazz hard-liners as a sell-out, or "jazz for the dance halls". It was insubstantially presumed by these to be not intellectual or elite enough, which led to controversy about the music crossing over, but it was making jazz much more popular and mainstream.
From a pop audience perspective, the ambivalence towards the jazz-funk genre arose – despite commercial success – because it was "too jazzy" and therefore too complex.
Many mainstream artists in jazz used the talents of a few producers who were specialists in the genre and generated great commercial success. The Mizell Brothers - Larry and Fonce - were responsible for a lot of the jazz-funk wave as they single-handedly produced many of the major jazz-funk artists (Johnny "Hammond" Smith, Gary Bartz, and more).
Other producers included Philly musician Dexter Wansel, generally acclaimed musicians (especially arrangers) themselves who tried their hand at sound-engineer, arranger, or composer. The Mizell Brothers produced most of Byrd's and Johnny "Hammond" Smith's jazz-funk.
See also: Brit funk
In the UK's nightclubs of the mid to late 1970s, DJs like Colin Curtis in Manchester, Birmingham's Graham Warr and Shaun Williams, and Leeds-based Ian Dewhirst and Paul Schofield championed the genre, along with Chris Hill and Bob Jones in the South.
In the mid to late 1970s, London-based Soul and Funk pioneers drew a new audience to the genre: notably the pirate radio Invicta 92.4 along with pirate station JFM. In the late 1980s, the work of rare groove crate diggers–DJs in England who were interested in looking back into the past and re-discovering old tunes, such as Norman Jay and Gilles Peterson.
While the vast majority of jazz-funk bands are American, several British jazz-funk artists and bands emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s who broke away from the disco and commercial scene. They were encouraged by club DJs like Chris Hill and Robbie Vincent, who was then on BBC Radio London, and Greg Edwards, who had a Saturday evening show on London's first-ever commercial radio station, Capital Radio. They had a big jazz festival in 1980, and the jazz-funk band Light of the World performed in the Festival. This type of music was also heavily played on Europe's first soul radio station, Radio Invicta, and later pirate radio stations such as Solar Radio, Horizon, and Kiss FM. The first of these self-contained bands to establish a real UK identity was Light of the World, formed by Kenny Wellington, Jean-Paul 'Bluey' Maunick and other musicians. It is also worth noting that the more famous acid jazz movement is often seen as a rediscovery of 1970s jazz-funk, interpreted or produced by contemporary artists of the 1990s. Incognito, The Brand New Heavies, Jamiroquai, and the James Taylor Quartet helped the acid jazz movement surge in popularity. UK group US3 signed to Acid Jazz Records, which itself was founded by Peterson and Eddie Piller. US3 covered "Cantaloupe Island", originally recorded by Herbie Hancock.
Nu jazz blends jazz-funk with other music such as EDM, techno, and house. German group Jazzanova is an example of nu jazz.