MILESAGO - Tours By Overseas Artists 1964-75
THE MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA
THE MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA
Note: these string players performed on the Apocalypse LP and toured with the Orchestra in the USA, but it is not certain if this was the lineup that came to Australia. A contemporary concert review names Hirschi as the cellist at the Sydney concert, so it is probable that they were the string section for this tour, although this is yet to be confirmed.
DATES / CITIES / VENUES:
date unknown - Christchurch, NZ -
The 1975 Australasian tour featured the second (1974-76) incarnation of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. McLaughlin, a former member of the renowned British jazz/R&B group The Graham Bond Organisation, gained international prominence in 1969-70 thanks to his 'discovery' by jazz legend Miles Davis. McLaughlin featured prominently on Davis' landmark 1969 LP Bitches Brew, which is generally regarded as the founding work of the so-called "fusion" style that dominated jazz in the early '70s.
In the spring of 1970 McLaughlin joined forces with Davis' drummer Tony Williams and organist Larry Young to form the trio Lifetime, which was soon expanded to a quartet with the addition of Jack Bruce. They played together for around 12 months but sadly they were thwarted in their plan to record an album of the material they had developed during the year.
McLaughlin then cut his first solo LP, My Goal's Beyond, a largely acoustic affair with session contributions from renowned bassist Charlie Haden, drummer Billy Cobham and violinist Jerry Goodman. This meeting led to the formation of the original Mahavishnu Orchestra in mid-1971, with Cobham, Goodman, Jan Hammer (keyboards) and Rick Laird (bass).
The first Orchestra, which was strongly influenced by the work of Davis and John Coltrane, lasted about two years and recorded two superb studio albums, The Inner Mounting Flame (1972) and Birds Of Fire (1973), both still considered among the finest examples of the genre. The group was highly influential and was considered one of the foremost instrumental ensembles of its day; Cobham was touted as one of the best drummers in the world at that time and he and McLaughlin regularly topped musicians' polls. The last release from the original band was a live album, which most commentators describe as "disappointing". A third studio album was recorded in mid-1973 but the group split acrimoniously soon after the sessions and the tapes were shelved. They remained unheard until 1998 when they were released on CD as The Lost Trident Sessions.
An interesting note regarding the first Orchestra is that in his youth, Irish-born bassist Rick Laird spent several years in New Zealand and Australia in the late Fifties and early Sixties. In New Zealand he toured the country in a jazz band that included renowned pianist Mike Nock, and after moving to Sydney in 1960 he worked with many well-known Aussie jazz performers including Don Burrows; he was a regular at the lergendary El Rocco in Kings Cross and he became a close friend and colleague of Nock, who had also moved to Australia.
McLaughlin reformed the Orchestra later in 1974 with a fresh new lineup including hotshot 21-year-old drummer Michael Walden (who had never appeared on a recording prior to joining the band), 16-year-old wunderkind bassist Ralphe Armstrong and renowned French jazz-rock violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, who also worked extensively (and toured Australia) with Frank Zappa. The group was also regularly augmented by brass players and a string section.
Although it never achieved the popularity of its predecessor, McLaughlin has been quoted as saying that the second version was the "real" Mahavishnu Orchestra. They recorded three LPs, the George Martin-produced Apocalypse (1974), Visions Of The Emerald Beyond (1975), co-produced by Ken Scott (Bowie, The Tubes) and Inner Worlds (1976).
From 1970 McLaughlin's life and music were dominated by his deep interests in Eastern music and philosophy and his adherence to the teachings of Indian religious teacher Sri Chinmoy, who also counted Carlos Santana as one of his disciples. This led to Santana and McLaughlin collaborating on the LP Love Devotion Surrender (1973). The Mahavishnu Orchestra was titled after the spiritual name given to McLaughlin by his guru, and McLaughlin himself was commonly credited as 'Mahavishnu John McLaughlin' for many years; Santana likewise added his own spiritual title, 'Devadip' to his name.
Drummer Michael Walden also followed Chinmoy for a time and was given the name 'Narada'. Walden subsequently moved away from jazz and into R&B and dance music; and became a noted producer and arranger with credits including Whitney Houston and Aretha Franklin. He was voted Billboard's 'Producer of the Year' in 1986.
After the demise of 'Mahavishnu Two' McLaughlin moved away from fusion and formed the pioneering world music group Shakti, which included several Indian musicians including renowned violinist L. Shankar. He has continued to record and perform, both solo and with varying combinations of players. His collaborations with virtuoso percussionist Trilok Gurtu are highly recommended. Although he has never regained the popular heights of the early Seventies, McLaughlin is still regarded as one of the most important electric guitarists of his era.
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|REFERENCES / LINKS|
Mahavishnu John McLaughlin Fan Page
Mahavishnu John McLaughlin Select Discography
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