Friday, September 1, 2017

Mahavishnu Orchestra - 1973 - Technically Brilliant

Mahavishnu Orchestra
1973
Technically Brilliant




July 21, 1973
Lenox Music Inn
Lenox, MA

101. Introduction
102. Birds Of Fire
103. Miles Beyond
104. Stepping Tones / Sister Andrea
105. Dream
106. Sanctuary
107. One Word

October 28, 1973
Yale University
New Haven, CT

201. Meeting Of The Spirits
202. Trilogy

301. Sister Andrea
302. I Wonder / Awakenning

Bass – Rick Laird
Drums – Billy Cobham
Guitar – John McLaughlin
Piano – Jan Hammer
Violin – Jerry Goodman



When John McLaughlin formed the initial Mahavishnu Orchestra, the personnel included Jerry Goodman, a classically trained American rock musician; Jan Hammer, a Czechoslovakian keyboard player with a strong jazz background; Rick Laird, an Irish bass player with both jazz and rock experience and Billy Cobham, a powerful and technically brilliant jazz drummer from Brooklyn whose style would completely redefine his instrument. Combining the improvisational elements of jazz with the volume and energy of rock music, this globally and musically diverse group brought elements of Far Eastern music, R&B, Blues and Classical music to the table. The Mahavishnu Orchestra created music that was intricate and complex, performed by musicians whose virtuosity thrilled audiences and critics alike. The group had a firm grip on dynamics and was equally adept at dense, aggressive flights of feverish intensity as they were at creating moments of passionate spiritual contemplation.

This legendary performance, from the summer of 1973, is significant for a number of reasons. First, it captures the group playing material from "Birds Of Fire," when it was sharply in focus. Second, it was the unveiling of a new custom designed stereo sound system, which provided the Mahavishnu Orchestra with a greater ability to communicate with each other and an entirely new level of sound reinforcement clarity for the audience. Third, John McLaughlin plays his custom made Rex Bogue double-neck guitar for the first time in concert. And most significantly, this was the era when the band was beginning to headline concerts, allowing them considerably more time on stage. This allowed the group to further explore the possibilities for improvisation, creating a more spontaneous and exciting experience for the musicians and audience alike. Put all these factors together and it's not surprising that this was a truly magical night.

Musicians who recorded with Miles Davis during his early explorations into electric instrumentation inevitably went on to form bands of their own, but few were as adept or as influential as the Mahavishnu Orchestra, a globally diverse group formed by legendary English guitarist, John McLaughlin. Combining the improvisational elements of jazz with the volume and energy of rock music, the group also brought elements of Far Eastern, R&B and Classical music to the table. The Mahavishnu Orchestra created music that was often intricate and complex, performed by musicians whose virtuosity thrilled audiences and critics alike. The group had a firm grip on dynamics and was equally adept at dense, aggressive flights of feverish intensity as they were at creating moments of passionate spiritual contemplation. This diversity and technical ability dazzled audiences the world over and helped to expose jazz and world music to a younger audience. The initial "classic" lineup of the group lasted barely three years and only released two studio albums and one live recording during this era, but these recordings had a profound effect, redefining the jazz/rock fusion movement in the process. By early 1973, the Mahavishnu Orchestra had firmly established their reputation. Their debut album, The Inner Mounting Flame, had mesmerized musicians and listeners alike and with more than a year of live performing behind them, they had arguably become the most exciting live band on the planet. The material from the group's blazing sophomore studio effort, Birds Of Fire was now fully integrated into the live repertoire, additional new material was in development and they were consciously taking a more improvisational approach in their performances. 

One of the most immediately surprising things about the New Haven  performance is the complete absence of Birds Of Fire material. On this performance the band opens and closes with highly improvisational takes of "Inner Mounting Flame" material, but otherwise focus entirely on unreleased material, destined for their ill-fated third studio album - all new to the audience. At first glance at song timings it appears that the first two songs are far too long to be just those two songs, but they are! They begin the set with the track that kicked off their debut album, "Meeting Of The Spirits." The band is obviously in a highly improvisational mood as here the composition is expanded to three times the length of its studio counterpart, possibly the most expansive version ever attempted and a prime example of the band's high energy and fluid virtuosity.

The next hour of this extraordinary set is primarily devoted to new material, beginning with "Trilogy." Beginning with Cobham's gong, McLaughlin's phase-shifted guitar washes gradually increase in volume until the band kicks in to state the melody. Cobham and Laird anchor a 7/8 time signature while McLaughlin and Hammer explore "The Sunlit Path," its initial sequence. The introspective middle section, "La Mere de la Mer," is a stellar display of the group's command of dynamics. McLaughlin plays delicate 12-string arpeggios, Hammer interjects bird calls from his mini-moog as Goodman and Laird begin a tranquilizing duet. This gently weaving second section serves as a tranquil prelude to the pummeling third section, "Tomorrow's Not The Same." Just when one least expects it, Cobham signals the sudden transition with a monstrous snare roll that propels the band into a blazing jam, featuring mind-bending improvisations. Goodman, Mclaughlin, and Hammer all take opportunities to solo, while Cobham and Laird firmly anchor the jam. Possibly the longest version of "Trilogy" ever attempted, this is another example of the group at its most exploratory.

The improvisational abilities of the group were at the most astonishing level during the latter part of 1973. All of this music burns with an intensity few groups have ever matched in live performance. The Mahavishnu Orchestra's tempestuous mix of jazz, rock, and Eastern influences is at its peak here. This is a vivid example of the band taking improvisation to the extreme. All of the musicians are clearly challenging themselves to push the envelope here, with constantly surprising and utterly compelling results.

4 comments:





  1. http://www.filefactory.com/file/18v3dexgr7xf/4813.rar

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, Zen, for this and the others I haven't thanked you for.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks Zen Archer for all the McLaughlin.
    Jan (Netherlands)

    ReplyDelete