Song before Sunrise by Joe Harriott and John Mayer

John Mayer was an Indian composer who worked with a group called Indo-Jazz Fusions to create music with both Indian and jazz influences. This particular piece was recorded in 1968.

Song before Sunrise by Joe Harriott and John Mayer

Listen For

  • Try to identify how the 2 styles are represented.  Focus on the instruments:

Indian instruments: sitar, tampura, tabla

Jazz instruments: piano, alto saxophone, flute, trumpet, violin, bass and drums

  • How are the two styles of Indian classical music and jazz fused together?
  • The piece begins with a virtuosic violin improvisation and sitar picking out some of the notes. This is similar to an Indian classical performance, where the opening section is an improvised section stating the notes of the ‘raga’ without any drums, therefore the tempo is flexible.
  • A raga is a pattern of notes in Indian music, similar to a scale. There are hundreds of different ragas, all with associations to the time of day, season and mood.
  • At 00:39 the plucked bass enters in a similar style to that of a jazz performance, with flute and trumpet playing dissonant note over the top.
  • At 00:57 the piano enters with the flute flutter-tonguing in response. Flutter-tonguing is a technique achieved by the player effectively rolling their r’s across the lip plate of the flute.
  • At 01:09 the tabla enters, giving the piece momentum and a feeling of suspense.
  • At 01:39 the alto saxophone solo is added to the musical texture, playing quite a jazzy improvisation.

Things To Consider

  • How does the music reflect the title “Song before sunrise”?
  • How successful do you think this piece is as an example of fusion music?
  • How would you approach a fusion composition? Which styles would you use?