Gunther Schuller

Gunther Schuller was probably the greatest friend jazz ever had from the classical world. A jazz devotee from the beginning, he was the most outspoken advocate of a fusion between elements of European classical music and jazz, inventing the term "third stream" at a 1957 Brandeis University lecture to describe it. Although third stream music had been around in some form since the beginning of the century, it was Schuller who crystallized the idea, and thanks to alliances with such jazz figures as John Lewis, George Russell, Charles Mingus, and Jimmy Giuffre, he actively encouraged new works in that form. Schuller's own compositions often include jazz elements, though usually far more abstractly integrated into his own 12-tone music than the works of the jazz musicians he has encouraged. As a conductor, Schuller inadvertently helped touch off a popular ragtime fad in the '70s with his spirited performances of Scott Joplin, and he participated in some key jazz recordings as a French horn player. He also was a tireless mover and shaker for jazz studies programs in universities, which had a profound and controversial effect on the direction of the music in the last third of the 20th century and beyond.