Fusion didn't die with the 1970s, but it didn't get nearly as much encouragement as it should have in the 1980s and 1990s. On one hand, Wynton Marsalis and his fellow purists did as much as they could to encourage young improvisers to play acoustic straight-ahead jazz exclusively -- and on the other hand, you had NAC stations that rejected most fusion and were only interested in smooth jazz. Nonetheless, fusion has persisted and still has a lot of possibilities; Ray's Music Exchange shows listeners some of them on Turanga. This Cincinnati outfit has a lot of 1970s influences -- electric Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock's Headhunters, John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra, the Billy Cobham/George Duke Band, Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention. And yet, Turanga isn't retro for the sake of retro -- Ray's Music Exchange has been influenced by the 1970s, but it isn't stuck in them. The band brings its own ideas to the table, and it has many tools in its arsenal. During the course of the album, Ray's Music Exchange incorporates everything from reggae to Indian raga to European church music -- and it does so in a way that is humorous and intellectual at the same time. The unpredictable Midwesterners can be quirky, abstract, and eccentric, but they're also quite funky. Some purists and bop snobs will hear Turanga and claim that it isn't really jazz, but they're wrong. George Duke was once quoted as saying that jazz was always fusion -- even back in the 1910s and 1920s -- and that it simply became more fused when Miles Davis and his electric colleagues added rock and funk to the mix. Duke was absolutely right; Turanga is hardly traditional bop, but this exciting, risk-taking CD is jazz in the true sense of the word.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson