Jazz is a truly global music, flexible enough to adapt to any situation or sound. It can accommodate a lot of sounds and opinions underneath its umbrella, which is why artists across the globe have long adopted the music's harmonic language and rhythmic innovations and combined them with styles from their homelands or faraway places. Jazz has traveled organically and by force from America to the world: by immigration and emigration, through cultural exchanges and Armed Forces Radio, via recordings brought over by sailors and State Department-sponsored tours that featured the likes of Louis Armstrong.
African styles may be at the heart of jazz though the music has long been creolized into something new. But an artist like pianist Randy Weston has spent his career reaffirming jazz's direct link to the motherland, especially the music of Morocco. The Art Ensemble of Chicago also has a strong African vibe that includes dressing up in traditional garb. Drummer Max Roach has delved into African music and more, collaborating with pianist Jon Jang and erhu player Jiebing Chen in the China-meets-jazz sound of the Beijing Trio. The great bandleader, composer and pianist Duke Ellington also incorporated African and Asian tonalities into his big-band works. Saxophonist and flutist Yusef Lateef blended traditional Arabic music with the Detroit jazz sounds he helped develop. And trumpeter Don Cherry was an inveterate world traveler, dedicatedly incorporating the instruments and music of Africa into his avant-garde leanings.
Africa has also embraced jazz, from Senegal and Zimbabwe to Ethiopia and Nigeria, but perhaps no more so than in South Africa, where the country was one of the few places outside of America where the music was a successful and popular form. Artists like flugelhornist-trumpeter-vocalist Hugh Masekela, pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, vocalist Miriam Makeba, pianist Chris McGregor and saxophonists Kippie Moeketsi and Winston "Mankunku" Ngozi have made true fusions of jazz and South African music such as marabi, indlamu, kwela and mbaqanga. Meanwhile, when Cameroonian Richard Bona was a child he was so inspired by Jaco Pastorius's first album that he switched to bass and is now one of the leading jazz-fusion players.
Latin elements are a mainstay in jazz, from the early days of New Orleans and the Cuban-bebop, or cubop, of trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and conguero Chano Pozo to the bossa nova jazz lifted from Brazil and made popular by saxophonist Stan Getz and the modern-day sounds of Puerto Rican saxophonist Miguel Zenón, who incorporates jíbaro folk music into his harmonically dense compositions.
While the Caribbean has offered numerous examples of Latin jazz, it's also spawned styles as varied as the people who make up the West Indies. Rupert Clemendore and John Buddy Williams mixed the calypso of Trinidad with jazz, while in Haiti a group like Septentrional mixed the sounds of American big bands with the island's ritualistic music. Today, steel pianist Andy Narell plays worldly jazz on his own and also in the group Sakésho, which explores the biguine style from Martinique and Guadeloupe. Saxophonist David Murray has an ongoing project with the Gwa-ko Masters of Guadeloupe, and the Caribbean Jazz Project interprets the region's music into light jazz. In 1950s Jamaica artists like Ernest Ranglin blended the island's mento folk music with American R&B and jazz, which lead to the creation of ska. Jamaican trumpeter Dizzy Reece and saxophonist Joe Harriott moved to London before ska hit, and they became leading lights of England's jazz scene. Reece incorporated Eastern scales and harmonies into his bebop-based tunes, while Harriott experimented with music from India.
In fact, Indian forms have had a particularly keen influence on jazz. Sitarist Ravi Shankar and American saxophonist Bud Shankwho in 1953 did some of the first Brazilian-influenced jazz with guitarist Laurindo Almeida, seven years before Getz broke bossa nova in Americaworked together in the early 1960s, but saxophonist John Coltrane and John McLaughlin really fused Indian music and jazz in a way that took on a life of its own. McLaughlin later formed the popular fusion group Shakti to fully investigate Indian music. Oregon was one of the first American groups whose entire focus was blending world music, especially Indian styles, with jazz. The influence of India continues today with artists like pianist Vijay Iyer, who uses the rhythmic cycles of classical Carnatic music to inform many of his compositions.
Throughout Europe musicians have mixed their country's music with jazz, from the Gypsy improv of guitarist Django Reinhardt to the Italian folk-jazz of saxophonist and clarinetist Gianluigi Trovesi. In Norway and Sweden there's been a definite Nordic jazz sound that's come out of the blending of the countries' gorgeous folk-music traditions with improvisation. Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek has been among the most successful musicians to take the lonesome, haunting sound of his country's traditional music and apply it to jazz. Christopher Porter