Thursday, June 28, 2012

Mahavishnu Orchestra

A Band Like No Other - Mahavishnu Orchestra!

Mahavishnu Orchestra is easily the most talented group of musicians that I've ever known of and listened to. Their amazing, extremely complex, sometimes frantic, and sometimes beautiful music is truly a challenging, and mentally stimulating listen on each and every occasion. Musical experimentation was nothing new to the founder of the group, John McLaughlin, as he'd dedicated himself entirely to music years before; and had enjoyed considerable notoriety in one of the most coveted positions in Jazz, as he was the guitarist for none other than Miles Davis.
I grew up idolizing virtuoso musicians, and every member of this experimental jazz/fusion group is a virtuoso of his instrument - and if possible, beyond. I bought the first Mahavishnu Orchestra release on compact disc simply because I'd heard of the band from several very respected musicians interviews. I wasn't prepared for the raw power, and the quite beauty contained within. I quickly bought their most well known release the very next time I visited a record store, and "Birds Of Fire" did NOT disappoint in the least. Later, I was filled with total joy when I discovered that another studio album was available, "The Lost Trident Sessions" might very well be my favorite of them all.

Mahavishnu Orchestra!

See all 6 photos


World Music

Mahavishnu Orchestra created and performed World Music before the term was ever coined. They couldn't hardly help it, you see, as every single member of the super group was a virtuoso musician from a different country than any other member. John McLaughlin, the proto-typical (yet NOT) Anglo-Saxon, Jan Hammer, a Slavic, Jerry Goodman, an American Ashkenazi Jew, Rick Laid, an Irish national, Billy Cobham, an African Panimanian via the United States and Switzerland! World Music, my friends; I'd have liked to have had an Asian in there, but this is as good as it's ever been.

Meeting Of The Spirits.

John "Mahavishnu" McLaughlin

John McLaughlin was born in South Yorkshire, England in the year of our Lord 1942 on the Fourth day of January. John McLaughlin is sometimes known simply as "Mahavishnu." He'd been a very successful guitarist prior to forming the fusion band named after him; and he really came to the world's attention playing for the timeless Miles Davis, and he appeared on his landmark Bitches Brew album, and also In A Silent Way, and On The Corner.. There's even a Miles Davis track on Bitches Brew simply titled, John McLaughlin.
John McLaughlin, perhaps, has been dedicated to the cause of creating World Music more than any other single musician, and certainly more than any other well known guitarist. Indian table maestro Zakir Hussain has called John McLaughlin
"one of the greatest and one of the important musicians of our times"
The Amazing Jeff Beck, far from being an uncreative slouch himself, said in 2010 about John that he was,
"the best guitarist alive."
Suffice it to say that if your Mother, as John's was, is a concert violinist, then you just might have a little bit of musicianship in you!  He's certainly achieved a very high level of skill in a very large number of styles.  In the year 1971, with a stellar cast of virtuosos John would form the first incarnation of Mahavishnu Orchestra, and release it's debut album, The Inner Mounting Flame.

You Know You Know (Studio)

Jan Hammer

The amazing Jan Hammer was born in Prague, in what is now the Czech Republic in the year 1948 on April the 17th. He's a very well known and versatile musician who's work can be found and heard in many, many different places. He's a renowned keyboardist, composer, and pianist. He's probably best known for his theme to the television show Miami Vice, here in America; and that's very sad.  It's not that "Free Fall," is a bad piece of music, no, not at all; it's only that that is such a very small, and less than spectacular bit of work for such an advanced musician and artist to be most known for.  Hammer has collaborated with some of the World's most influential jazz and rock musicians such as Jeff, beck, Al Di Meola, Mick Jagger, Carlos Santana, Stanley Clarke, Neal Schon, Steve Luckather, and Elvis Jones  among many others. He has composed and produced at least 14 original motion picture soundtracks, the music for 90 episodes of Miami Vice and 20 episodes of the popular British television series Chancer.  He's also won many Grammy awards for his music.

Free Fall

Billy Cobham

William C. Cobham was born on May, the 16th, 1944 in the nation of Panama. He's an exceedingly influential Jazz drummer who has also been a composer and band leader, and he's called Switzerland home since the late 1970's. Billy Cobham's drumming combines the raw and explosive power of John Bonham, and the amazing precision of Neal Peart. Though Cobham was born in Panama, he and his family had moved to the United States, where Billy later would join the United States Army, and play in the army's band. He'd later tour with many notable Jazz performers, but nobody in jazz is more well known or influential than the late Miles Davis, and Billy, like John McLaughlin, is an alumni of the Miles Davis band.
In May 1973, while still with the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Cobham recorded his first solo album Spectrum with keyboardist Jan Hammer, from the Mahavishnu Orchestra, guitarist Tommy Bolin, who later played with heavy rock band Deep Purple.  Cobham has also toured post Mahavishnu with John McLaughlin, and separately with Carlos Santana, Jack Bruce, The Grateful Dead, and more.  He's still releasing records as of now, and he'd released Drums n Voice 3 in 2009.

Billy Cobham and Friends, featuring a Cobham Solo.

Rick Laird, Of Ireland - Mahavishnu Orchestra Bassist.

Rick Laird

Rick Laird was born of February the 5th 1941, in Dublin, Ireland; and he's a world renowned Jazz musician, primarily as a bassist.  Though primarily known for his time with Mahavishnu Orchestra, Rick has also played and toured with Jazz great Wes Montgomery.  He's a graduate of the Berkley College of music, in Boston, Massachusetts.  After his stint with the original lineup of Mahavishnu Orchestra, Rick went on to play for the legendary musician, Chick Corea.  Today, Rick tutors students and publishes books on playing the bass, and he's also a fine photographer.

Jerry Goodman

Jerry Goodman was and is considered a soloist on the same level as John McLaughlin and Billy Cobham; and considering his musical and biological pedigree, that's no surprise. Born on March 16, 1949 in Chicago Illinois both of Jerry's parents were professionals who played stringed instruments in theChicago Symphony Orchestra; and an uncle happened to be famed composer, Marty Rubenstein. Jerry first appeared with John on his My Goals Beyond album.  Besides recording and performing with Mahavishnu Orchestra, Jerry Goodman was also a part of the only other band that I've ever been aware of that compares with the Mahavishnu Orchestra, The Dixie Dregs.

The Group, and The MUSIC!

This group was considered an important pioneer in the Jazz Fusion movement. McLaughlin and Cobham met while performing and recording with Miles Davis during the Bitches Brew sessions. McLaughlin was also influenced in his conception of the band by his studies with Indian guru Sri Chinmoy, who encouraged him to take the name "Mahavishnu" which means "Divine compassion, power and justice."
McLaughlin had particular ideas for the instrumentation of the group, in keeping with his highly original concept of genre-blending in composition. He particularly wanted a violinist as an integral contributor to its overall sound. As the group evolved, McLaughlin adopted what became his trademark: a double neck guitar, as his student, Jimmy Page, or James Patrick Page, of Led Zeppelin, had done (six-string and twelve-string) which allowed for a great degree of diversity in musical textures, and Hammer became one of the first to play a Mini "Moog Synthesizer" in an ensemble, which enabled him to add more sounds and solo more freely, like the guitar and the violin.
Their musical style was an unprecedented blending of genres: they combined the high-volume electrified rock sound that had been pioneered by Jimi Hendrix (who McLaughlin had jammed with on his initial arrival in New York as part of the Tony Williams Lifetime), complex rhythms in unusual time signatures that reflected McLaughlin's interest in Indian Classical Music, (NOT Native American music) as well as funk, and harmonic influence from standard, or Europe's Classical Music. The group's early music was entirely instrumental; their later albums had songs which sometimes featured Rhythm and Blues or even Gospel or Hymn -styled vocals. In the afore-mentioned two albums, though, the group goes from an intense fusion of upbeat genres (a representative example of which is the song "Vital Transformation") to very serene, chamber music-like tunes, such as "A Lotus On Irish Streams," a composition for acoustic guitar, piano and violin, and "Thousand Island Park," which drops the violin and incorporates double bass; or from low-key to extremely busy in a single piece, such as "Open Country Joy."

Open Country Joy.


This concludes my hub on Mahavishnu Orchestra, it's certainly true that after the breakup of the original lineup, another band under McLaughlin continued under that name; but I don't really honor that band by it's name. I will in time get around to putting together something about it, and the amazing music that those individuals made. The three original, and now four released albums by the original Mahavishnu Orchestra are some of the most wonderful recordings ever made, and  contain some of the most transcendental music that I've ever heard. I hope that you've enjoyed what you've witnessed above, and I will monitor this hub for now on, and continue to add more music videos by the fab five as I find them. Thank you.

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