"The philosophers have only interpreted the world; the point is to change it." - Karl Marx

Birds of Fire: Jazz, Rock, Funk, and the Creation of Fusion (Duke University Press) is an analysis of the emergence, reception, and legacy of fusion, a liminal music "non-genre" that emerged in the late 1960s and 1970s as musicians combined jazz, rock, and funk. Birds of Fire is honored to be listed with Duke University Press's Refiguring American Music series, co-edited by Ronald Radano and Josh Kun.

CO-WINNER of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music - US Branch's
2012 WOODY GUTHRIE BOOK AWARD
for the most distinguished English language monograph in popular music studies published during 2011

Book award committee report: "Birds of Fire is an engaging, well researched and argued interdisciplinary study of a long vilified musical movement. Fellezs's book destabilizes our concept of genre itself, by analyzing the porousness between musical styles and traditions, and the complex power relations involved in the politics of borrowing and sharing of forms. Fellezs's work not only makes a crucial contribution to jazz and rock studies but suggests approaches to the wider study of the production of popular music."
A heartfelt congratulations to my co-winner, Out of the Vinyl Deeps: Ellen Willis on Rock Music


CORRECTION: Page 1, first full paragraph. Replace "Connecticut" with "Rhode Island."

reviews

"What a pleasure it is to read this insightful, exciting, and extremely well listened analysis of fusion music. Kevin Fellezs suggests new ways of understanding the four artists he profiles, develops a productive framework for rethinking fusion, and helps us to understand why artists and audiences were stimulated by this music even as it was dismissed by purists. Birds of Fire is a major contribution to rethinking the place of fusion within jazz studies, as well as broader questions of genre across disciplines." - Sherrie Tucker, Swing Shift: "All-Girl" Bands of the 1940s, co-editor of Big Ears: Listening for Gender in Jazz Studies

"More than a study of one underexplored market niche, Birds of Fire brilliantly illuminates how the market both inhibits and enables creativity, as well as how creative musicians challenge the music industry's narrowing and naturalizing of complicated, constructed, conflicted, and deeply contradictory social identities." - George Lipsitz, How Racism Takes Place; Dangerous Crossroads: Popular Music, Postmodernism and the Focus of Place; Footsteps in the Dark: The Hidden Histories of Popular Music

"Is there a musical field as maligned, scorned or critically underwritten as jazz-rock or 'fusion'? I don't say 'genre' because as Kevin Fellezs frequently observes in this eye-opening volume most of the music that falls into these categories does so by deliberately, perhaps even defiantly, avoiding the generic form. Indeed he sees the featured musicians of this study as being amongst those who struck a blow against the generic by refusing to allow their music to settle into a genre, even when discussing fusion itself - in fact especially then, as he talks about the 'not-quite-genre' of fusion . . . If you don't know the music he writes about yet, you'll want to soon. Recommended." - Peter Mills, Volume!

"Kevin Fellezs's Birds of Fire is a major contribution to American music history. Critically astute, brimming with insights, and prodigiously researched, Birds of Fire focuses on the efforts of four prominent fusion musicians to pursue new, liminal musical expressions across and between the established popular music genres of rock, jazz, and funk [. . .] Birds of Fire is a profound work of scholarship ; like the music it chronicles, Fellezs's book will inspire and enlighten musicians, music scholars, and music lovers alike." - Kevin Gaines, Journal of Popular Music Studies

"Kevin Fellezs has written a fine account of musical mixing in the 1970s , drawing on published interviews from the time, biographies, recordings, liner notes, and articles and reviews in the jazz, rock, and mainstream press. Depending on how you count them, Birds of Fire has three or four introductions, and they are all valuable [. . .] I like the fact that Fellezs pulls fusion out of a jazz-centered frame and allows it to float equally between jazz, rock, and funk (with some folk thrown in, too), even though chapter 3 tips the scale a bit toward jazz. In other words, the author shows that fusion was not just about adding things to jazz, but also involved a swerve for rock and funk; Fellezs writes about these encounters as a scholar and fan of all sides. Paired with Steven Pond's "Head Hunters": The Making of Jazz's First Platinum Recording (Michigan, 2008), Birds of Fire could almost become the basis for a single, tightly focussed undergraduate course on fusion, and it certainly belongs on graduate reading lists in pop, jazz, and American music studies. " - Benjamin Piekut, American Studies

"Kevin Fellezs's Birds of Fire: Jazz, Rock, Funk and the Creation of Fusion gives a detailed history of the fusion movement of the 1960s and 1970s, with specific reference to four case studies: Tony Williams, John McLaughlin, Joni Mitchell and Herbie Hancock. Fellezs's title refers both to McLaughlin's second album with the Mahavishnu Orchestra and the 'airy yet luminous freedom these young musicians actively sought, soaring between the categories on which musical practices and discourse rested and that they believed all too often constrained their artistic efforts.'
"This is an excellent and engaging study of this under-represented musical idiom [. . .] Birds of Fire will appeal to scholars and fans alike, with enough scholarly engagement for the former, and enough biographical and musical detail for the latter." - Katherine Williams, Popular Music

"In closing, I want to highly recommend Birds of Fire . Overall, it lives up to the illumination of its title phrase and offers a strong introduction to the world of fusion from a well-articulated and convincing theoretical perspective . As Tony Williams sings in "Beyond Games" from Emergency!, "Just be aware / that there are people / who are trying to share [. . .] all of their fears / Just don't be afraid now to stand up when it counts / give in sometimes, it's nice." Opening our ears to the ambiguity of fusion, Kevin Fellezs demonstrates, we might just share in the very complexity that sometimes makes life (and music) so scary and so exciting." - Rob Wallace, Critical Studies in Improvisation/Études critiques en improvisation

"A welcome addition to jazz scholarship, Kevin Fellezs's Birds of Fire: Jazz, Rock, Funk, and the Creation of Fusion is a well-researched and thought-provoking book on fusion [. . .] Fellezs's book is a fascinating account of fusion from a postmodern perspective. In a way, it is not only fusion but also Fellezs's discussion of it that exists in the 'broken middle,' a space of contradiction, inconsistency, and ambivalence. The intended readership consists of those who are interested in exploring how social forces operate in music and those already acquainted with fusion, rather than general readers who seek a broad overview of it." - Eunmi Shim, Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association

"In this critical discussion of fusion music and its development during the late 1960s and the 1970s, Fellezs situates the music's evolution in an American context and provides a welcome addition to the academic literature on fusion, which is very limited (largely to journal articles and one book-length history, Stuart Nicholson's Jazz: The Modern Resurgence (1998)). Fellezs has produced a scholarly yet readable book (I will recommend it to my popular-music undergraduates), which is engagingly written and would be of interest to jazz and fusion fans and musicians as well as academics. . . this is a well-researched and sophisticated text. The issues I have discussed are subjects for debate and further discussion rather than flaws, and Fellezs should be commended for making a significant contribution to the scholarly literature on this neglected form - or idiom - of popular music." - Tom Sykes, Journal of American Studies

"Fellezs should be credited with advancing a provocative thesis about a music that may signify a cultural disruption that continues to affect us today." - Burton Peretti, The Journal of American History

"Fellezs succeeds in being both academic and a fan. He succeeds in bringing these four artists in from the margins while recognising their cross-cultural capital lies in their non-belonging to any mainstream discourse." - Andy Robson, Jazzwise

"Fellezs offers fascinating biographical detail and the kind of serious critical overview that the music has long deserved. His knowledge is impressive, his perspective thought-provoking, reflected in fascinating historical tidbits and observations. . . . [O]ne-of-a-kind, critical reading." - Ken Micallef, Downbeat

". . . Birds of Fire (named for the second album by the Mahavishnu Orchestra) is actually a relatively easy read that posits some fascinating theories about how and why fusion developed and why it was embraced by some, castigated by others ." - Andrey Henkin, New York City Jazz Record

For more information, and to order Birds of Fire directly from Duke University Press, please visit http://www.dukeupress.edu/Catalog/ViewProduct.php?productid=16310

selected articles

emergency! race and genre in tony williams's lifetime

deracinated flower: toshiko akiyoshi's 'trace in jazz history'

playing guitar, performing hawaiian

other publications

interviews

with Karl Hagstrom Miller on the International Association for the Study of Popular Music - US Branch (IASPM-US) website

with Matthew Smith-Lahrman on New Books in Pop Music

recordings


contact info
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