Jazz Funk

Jazz funk is the natural development from jazz fusion, incorporating, as it does, elements of a strong R&B backbeat, the use of electronic instruments — keyboards, guitars, bass and synth — and the incorporation of what jazz purists see as 'non-jazz' elements borrowed from the world of pop. Its range is wide, encompassing, on the one hand, instrumental pieces with strong elements of improvisation at their heart, and, on the other, songs that sound more like pop songs with a few jazzy elements thrown in.

Pianist Herbie Hancock pioneered the use of synths in jazz funk — he was surrounded by band of keyboards that included several Moog synthesisers, Hohner Clavinet and a Rhodes electric piano. If the 1973 album 'Head Hunters' had seen his foray into fusion, his development down this road was further cemented by the 1983 album 'Future Shock'.

Trumpeter Freddie Hubbard embraced the new genre and embraced a highly polished, produced sound reminiscent of the R&B that had come out of Philadelphia — known as the 'Philly sound'.

Because of its infectious, dance-based rhythms, jazz funk became popular in clubs in the UK and in the USA and a rarified version of the genre, where influences of hip hop, R&B and pop were fused with jazzy elements to create what became known as 'acid jazz' — so called after the drug-infused late night club culture in which it found its natural audience.

Ever-willing to experiment with new genres, trumpeter Miles Davis went through a jazz funk phase, as did jazz artists like Stanley Clarke and Donald Byrd. Saxophonists Grover Washington Jr, Ronnie Laws and, later, contemporary bands like Snarky Puppy keep the funk torch burning.

Key Artists

Donald Byrd

Herbie Hancock

Stanley Clarke

The Crusaders

George Benson
Marcus Miller
Roy Ayers

The Brecker Brothers

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