Just for fun, I present a triad of struts from the 70s which build in superlative and scale as the decade went on, showing the progression of jazz fusion.
Eumir Deodato–Super Strut
This first strut is a smooth number by Brazilian jazz pianist Eumir Deodato released on his album Deodato 2 in 1973. It’s the most relaxing, low-key of the numbers offered here, but still has quite a swagger. I’m a huge fan of the interplay between the electric keyboards anchoring the song and the flutes and brass which take the melody. It creates a great contrast between the two types of sounds, electronic and not.
This is also the longest of the three pieces, but ironically the one with the fewest original ideas to put forth. That doesn’t mean it’s not a good song, however!
The Mahavishnu Orchestra–Cosmic Strut
This second strut is another jazz fusion number, this time offered up by one of the most well-known and influential jazz fusion groups around, the Mahavishnu Orchestra. This one is shorter than Deodato’s with a slightly heavier focus on rhythm. This makes sense, as based on album credits, the main composer was the group’s drummer, Narada Michael Walden, at the time just twenty-two years old.
“Cosmic Strut” is the shortest piece of the three I’m looking at, but is quite catchy. The best part for me is the repeated ascending line which sets off the solo sections (for example, audible beginning at the 0:36 mark before running into a funky guitar solo).
Colosseum II–Intergalactic Strut
Colosseum II keyboardist Don Airey was no stranger to either of the struts which had come before him. In fact, “Cosmic Strut” was apparently its chief inspiration. “Super Strut”, meanwhile, was covered by Airey with his first major rock band, Cozy Powell’s Hammer. If his autobiographical documentary is to be believed, it was also the first song he played at the audition for his band.
“Intergalactic Strut” is the wildest and most ambitious of the three pieces I have put here, with a much faster tempo. If “Cosmic” is a nice sightseeing trip through space, “Intergalactic” is a trip at lightspeed. Furthermore, the interplay between the instruments is incredibly tight on this song, most often featuring players in unison or else playing in harmony within the same time frames.
Humorously enough, in a touch that can be attributed to Mr. Airey’s extensive classical training, the piece seems to be loosely in sonata form; there are two melodically similar fast sections split by a slower middle portion. Some of the ideas from the slow section make it into a final recapitulation in the end.
Mr. Airey still occasionally dusts Intergalactic Strut off and plays it live.
Of the three struts I have provided, which is your favorite?