Mahavishnu Orchestra

From Academic Kids

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The original lineup in 1972, featuring Billy Cobham, John McLaughlin, Jerry Goodman, Jan Hammer and Rick Laird.

The Mahavishnu Orchestra is an epic jazz-rock fusion group that debuted in 1971 and dissolved in 1976. In its first version, the band was led by "Mahavishnu" John McLaughlin on a double-necked or acoustic guitar, with members Billy Cobham on drums, Rick Laird on electric bass, Jan Hammer on keyboards and piano, and Jerry Goodman on violin.

The group is best known for their two most popular albums: The Inner Mounting Flame (1971) and Birds of Fire (1973).

Their musical style is hardly classifiable into any of the major genres. All of the group's music was instrumental. In general, their songs have the drive and the beat of hard rock or r&b music thanks to Billy Cobham's skill, yet they each display near-Baroque virtuosity in jazz-structured solos. In the aforementioned two albums, though, the group goes from this intense fusion of upbeat genres (the best example of which is "Noonward Race") to very serene tunes such as "A Lotus On Irish Streams" and "Thousand Island Park", which are pieces for acoustic guitar, piano and violin, or from low-key to extremely busy in a single piece, such as "Open Country Joy." The group also pioneered the guitar synthesizer technology which was then on the rise, most evident in "Miles Beyond."

In 1973 the band encountered a variety of problems. After recording a concert in Central Park, New York (eventually to be released as "Between Nothingness and Eternity") tensions started to escalate. In 1973/74 McLaughlin, Cobham, and legendary guitarist Carlos Santana began the "Love, Devotion, Surrender Tour." The three played various tracks that would later appear on an (studio) album of the same same, and Billy Cobham's 1975 "Spectrum". However, although Cobham was playing at the beginning of the USA tour, he bailed out before the album was cut in the studio. The Mahavishnu Orchestra made a quick stop in london to play a few gigs and record various tracks featured on "Between Nothingness and Eternity" as well as others. The tracks were cut at the Trident Studios in London,1974, where a dispute arose between band members regarding royalties and the band's material which, up until then, had been entirely credited to McLaughlin. The rest of the band decided that they deserved more money and recognition than they were getting, and the argument resulted in the dissolution of the original Mahavishnu Orchestra. The sessions from London were not released at the time as the rights to the music could not be allocated correctly; not until 1999, when they were released by Sony as "The Lost Trident Sessions", did this music become available.

After the first version of the group dissolved, it reformed in 1974 with a new cast of musicians behind McLaughlin: Jean-Luc Ponty (who had perdormed with Frank Zappa and the Mothers) on violin, Gayle Moran on keyboards, Ralphe Armstrong on bass, and Narada Michael Walden on percussion. This "new" Mahavishnu Orchestra (which McLaughlin has reportedly called the "real" Mahavishnu Orchestra) released only one studio album, Visions of the Emerald Beyond.

After the dissolution of this version of the Orchestra, McLaughlin formed another group called Shakti to explore his interest in Indian music; following that, McLaughlin went on to form other bands including The One Truth Band, The Translators, The Free Spirits and The John McLaughlin Guitar trio.

Billy Cobham went on to perform as a solo artist, cutting many albums including Total Eclipse, Crosswinds, and Spectrum, and toured with the George Duke Band for many years.

Jan Hammer went on to compose several solo albums and the theme from the hit 80's TV show, "Miami Vice."


External links

nl:Mahavishnu Orchestra


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