Mahavishnu Orchestra is tough to replicate. One cd that I have enjoyed in the same vein is a T Lavitz production called "School of the Arts". T Lavitz was the keyboard player for the Dixie Dregs. He did session work for Santana, Widespread Panic, and others. His solo efforts are upbeat jazz fusion and his band Jazz is Dead did some interesting Grateful Dead covers. School of the Arts features violinist Jerry Goodman from Mahavishnu and is great. You can get a used copy on amazon.
70 responses Add your response
Very tough to replicate. McLaughlin is unique. What a great band it was. Yes, Goodman was excellent but I like Ponti in the second Mahavishnu Orchestra as well. Different styles. By the way, it was Jean-Luc Ponti whom McLaughlin initially invited for the first Mahavishnu Orchestra. He accepted the invitation but for some reason it didn't happen. Then McLaughlin found Goodman, who at the time was sort of retired to a Wisconsin farm ! John's mother played violin. Interesting, isn't it?
Thank you for the suggestions, I'll try them.
I saw the original M.O. twice and the second version once. Then I saw the One Truth Band. All different personnel, different sound, different vision. The original M.O. was a one-off, unique group. The closest thing I can think of in terms of sound and energy is Cream, who were a few years earlier. I can't imagine anyone coming close to the original Mahavishnu Orchestra. That's the way it is with the great ones.
One band that is in a similar vein is Brand X that Phil Collins, John Goodsall and Percy Jones were in for a short period in the late 70s early 80s, and that approached, at times, compositions and guitar work that were like some of Mahavishnu, albeit from a different angle. That’s the only band I can think of at the moment.
Brand X’s debut album Unorthodox Behaviour is worth a listen. Goodsall smokes in several solos.
I can't even imagine another band close to Mahavishnu; each artist was a unique star of fusion at that point in time.
John McLaughlin – guitars, vocals
Jean-Luc Ponty – violin, vocals, electric violin, baritone violin
Ralphe Armstrong – bass guitar, vocals, contrabass
Narada Michael Walden – percussion, drums, vocals, clavinet
Gayle Moran – keyboards, vocals
I think "Weather Report" was the only sound I can recall that's even comparable.
Enjoy the music.
I could never warm up to the Weather Report.
Thank you for the suggestions, I'll check them all out.
Yeah, when people like Miles Davis and John McLaughlin are gone, who will come next?
Orpheus10, by the way, once you suggested to listen to Nils Peter Molvaer, so I did. I really like his Miles inspired but very his own style.
The best concert I was able to find on youtube is called Live&direct. He plays with his original Scandinavian band, I understand. Great drummer there too.
Fairly recently I went to the live performance at BB King club in NYC of Allan Holdsworth -- Casio guitar (Soft Machine), Eddie Jobson electric violin and keyboards (UK) and Chad Wakerman(FZ drummer). They're above the level of Mahavishnu Orchestra by all possible means.
Shortly after WTC-9/11 I visited bottom line cafe (near NYU) with performance of B.L.U.E. -- Brufford Levin Upper Extremities with following crew:
Bill Brufford -- drums
Tony Levin -- Fender bass and stick bass
David Torn -- guitars, mandolin and other unusual string instruments; synth and loops not sure of models, pedals.
Chris Botti -- trumpet, pedals
The worm-up artists were California Guitar Trio produced by Robert Fripp.
I think the type of fusion band typified by Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report, Return to Forever, Passport, Caldera, Isotope, Al DiMeola, Billy Cobham, and other 70s fusion band is that this type of jazz was supplanted by more accessible (read: melodic) smooth jazz by the likes of The Yellowjackets, Andy Narell, Bob James, Michael Franks, George Benson, Bela Fleck, and Spyrogyra. I like both genres but they are definitely different. Some great 70s jazz is also found on the CTI labels but tends to be more pop-oriented.
riawry, I agree totally with your summation.
I don't know how you compare "Mahavishnu" to any band, but here is something in a similar vain.
"Shakti" is the concept or personification of divine feminine creative power, sometimes referred to as 'The Great Divine Mother' in Hinduism. As the mother she is known as Adi Parashakti or Adishakti. On the earthly plane; so says "Wikipedia".
Enjoy the music.
I like some of the 'Shakti', both original and 'Remember Shakti', but this is something quite different. Of the original 'Shakti' I'd say that the composition entitled 'India' is the most profound, and of the 'Remember Shakti' John's old composition 'Lotus Feet' is as great as ever.
When thinking of modern jazz or jazz fusion, it is difficult for me to listen to any other guitarist. John's mastering of the instrument is off the scale. By the way, some of his performances, most in fact, in 80s with Paco de Lucia, Paco de Lucia and Al di Meola, and with Jonas Hellborg are quite incredible. His trio in 90s with Trilok Gurtu and bass player was often excellent too.
But, none of this is Mahavishnu Orchestra. I think, he could've taken the concept farther than he did, I don't know why he didn't, maybe got exhausted and had to go meet "The Great Divine Mother'.
Here is something I liked that nobody in the jazz group liked. The bass was so awesome, that I had to take the 12 inch woofer out of my bedroom after my son complained. Although I was enjoying it the most, we have to live together.
Enjoy the music.
I love Fusion! Ever since the old days of listening to Hendrix/Cream/Traffic and the like releasing extended instrumental jams, Fusion seemed like the natural next step in electric instrumental music. The thing is, while there are many, many musicians with equal chops and intensity, the Mahavishnu Orchestra was lightning in a bottle, not to be replicated or duplicated, EVER! That said, Fusion has never completely vanished, and while often maligned, there's always lines waiting to get in at shows and thankfully, to this day, there's still great Fusion being created and released.
- Simon Phillips (drums) has recorded a number of great solo Fusion records but has recorded 3 with his band Protocol (2 & 3 are favorites!)
- Gary Willis (bass) is a founding member of one of the greatest 'unknown' Fusion bands ever; Tribal Tech! He's released a number of sterling Fusionfests but his latest; Larger Than Life, featuring the white-hot Fusion drummer of the moment; Gergo Borlai, is IMO one of the greatest Fusion recordings of the 21st century!
I could truly go on & on but....Nothing solidifies the ongoing popularity of Fusion more than the fact that Al DiMeola's currently on tour (Electric Tour - Elegant Gypsy meets the Romantic Warrior).As is Chick Corea who's recently reformed his Elektric Band for his 75th birthday(!) and started touring this month. And last but certainly not least is a long rumored supergroup finally performing this month and preparing to tour - Carlos Santana/Wayne Shorter/Herbie Hancock/Marcus Miller/ & Cindy Blackman Santana! Yeah, we're still flying our Fusion freakflag high!;)
I think The Mahavishnu Orchestra had/has no rivals. The instrumentation alone makes them completely unique. The band had a power, an energy and an impact that can't be duplicated. However, there are fusion elements in the band's works that most fusion bands have. If you like the soaring energy and the blazing musical speed you might like some of the later King Crimson music (THRAK, THRaKaTTaK, ProjecKts).
Yeah, McLaughlin has no rivals. Back in the 70s he could have assembled one hundred somewhat different Mahavishnu Orchestras and they all would've been excellent or great.
But frankly, to be very impolite, what he has been playing for so many years, with rare exceptions with Shakti, makes no sense and sounds like a screaming of a lonely soul lost in the increasingly incomprehensible wilderness. Even the tone of his supercustom guitars is wrong, I can hear it thru youtube. Not to mention that his bandmates can't play a single note the way it is supposed to be played. Terrible, just terrible. I think, John needs some electroshock therapy. After that either he will start playing what I believe he is still capable of playing or will be gone as a musician altogether. For me either would do but former would definitely be preferred.
Try Steven Wilson. His latest album Hand.Cannot.Erase might be something that you'll like. His albums Grace for Drowning and Raven that refused to sing are also superb. Check out the song Drive Home on Raven. Wait for the guitar solo. If your system can produce deep base all of Wilson's albums have it.
The shorter, tightly composed pieces by the M.O. were often quite good, but the long wailing solos and jams were often boring and indulgent to my ear. I found early Al DiMeola to be more focused and tasteful.
It was the age of the rock n roll dinosaurs, and M.O. should take their share of the blame. On the other hand, we can thank fusion and the like for some of the fine musical genres that were born as a reaction to it.
Psag, I will be the first one to agree that many Mahavishnu concerts were very boring. I probably explored the entire youtube looking for those concerts. I'd say, of what I found one in twenty was great, the rest was not worth it. Same with 70s Miles Davis, by the way.
Al di Meola is much better on acoustic guitar. His 'Cielo e Terra' mesmerising album is a masterpiece, 'Hearts of the Immigrants' and "Kiss my Axe' are excellent overall. There are exceptions though: Egyptian Danza from 'Casino' and Gods' Dinner Music from 'Splendido Hotel' and a few others are excellent with him playing electric guitar.
psag---I feel the same way about Cream live. I saw them twice, and they played the recorded opening version of many of their songs, then went into really extended improvisational take-offs. The problem was that, unlike really good Jazz ensembles, wherein when one player is soloing the rest of the ensemble (particularly the rhythm section) plays in a supportive fashion, with Cream Eric, Jack, and Ginger would often all be "soloing" at the same time, walking all over each other. What a mess! Eric realized the error of his musical direction, he says, when he heard Music From Big Pink by The Band (which contains the finest ensemble playing I have yet to hear, in ANY genre). Eric told Jack and Ginger Cream was over.
I saw Jeff Beck after McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra opened the show and I was blown away! I was there to see Jeff Beck and he was great but John McLaughlin just stood there in all white and blew everyone away! Blow by Blow was a great album but I was about worn out after the opening of John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra fusion! Wow!! Al Di Meola is great and how about Leo Kottke I have never heard anyone play like these guy's? And if you want to listen to some Blues how about Buddy Guy and Luther Allison if you want to hear some great guitar!! All the young players chase the masters and try to improve the sound good luck with that! The 70's still rule when it comes to the super groups of any generation period.
Lots of great recommendations here! While not same-for-same as Mahavishnu but generally jazz-fusion, look into Snarky Puppy!
If you are attracted to the musical fusion of different styles and cultures and stellar musicianship, please find them on YouTube and go from there...hold on to your seat!
The extended soloing Cream and Mahavishnu featured that some posters above have decried comes from John Coltrane’s "sheets of sound" style of lengthy soloing that explored the tune being played to the point where you could hardly find any connection to the original melody at all. Yet, many times, the playing did manage to come back to the song itself, but there have been occasions where, particularly under the guise of "free jazz," it sounded like there was more self indulgent noise than actual music being played. Ymmv.
Studio recordings of the Mahavishnu Orchestra were obviously structured with shorter pieces and no long solos. The Inner Mounting Flame, Birds Of Fire and Lost Trident Sessions are the 3 played by the original group, with Apocalypse and Visions of the Emerald Beyond by the second one, featuring Jean-Luc Ponty in place of Jerry Goodman. The original ensemble also released a live album, Between Nothingness and Eternity, with a second disc of it being released by Columbia as part of a 2011 Mahavishnu Complete Columbia Albums Collection. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahavishnu_Orchestra:_The_Complete_Columbia_Albums_Collection If you've not heard all of these, you should, although Apocalypse is by far the weakest of the bunch.
Advice for similar sounding music would lead to hearing the post MO recorded output of Messrs Goodman, Cobham and Hammer as well as to The Dregs (once known as the Dixie Dregs), whom Goodman played with as well. There are many musicians out there with the skills the band had back in the day, but few have the emotion and fire-Al Dimeola being a prime example.
Nice post, ethiessen1. I think it should be added that the second group, with Ponty, had none of the original members except John. With mostly different material and sometimes with strings and horns in tow, it was an entirely different animal IMO. Great stuff, but for the most part nothing like the first group.
Inna, Mclaughlin's pre-Mahavishnu acoustic release "My Goal's Beyond" is a milestone in realm of modern guitar recordings. It changed the direction of jazz guitar as much as the original Mahavishnu Orch. set the stage for all the fusion bands, good and bad, that followed.
Coltrane's influence is clear. John himself said that the two biggest influences for him were Miles Davis and John Coltrane, he also liked Charles Mingus.
I am familiar with all McLaughlin's official releases of that time and couple of bootlegs.
In my perception di Meola has more elegance than fire. McLaughlin has both, Paco de Lucia mostly fire but he was a flamenco guitarist. Some of McLaughlin/de Lucia concerts in the 80s were simply spectacular, di Meola was not needed.
I only listen to Inner Mounting Flame and Visions on a regular basis, along with Miles's Bitches Brew where McLaughlin played quite well already. All other Mahavishnu releases are much weaker, though the composition " Sanctuary" from Birds of Fire album is great and "John's Song" from Trident Sessions is pretty good. " Inner Worlds I&II" from Inner Worlds okay, "Birds of Fire" from Birds of Fire okay too.
Enjoying your thread. Not new, more of a root, but a direction to go if not already a fan.
Maybe newer Mike Stern, or Allen Holdsworth, but as has been mentioned, Mahavishnu Orchestra was a very unique band, in a unique time. Try some of the Chad Wackerman recordings.
So, speaking of talent, and only talent not how it unfolded, in my view the best two men with electric guitar are John McLaughlin and Yngwie Malmsteen. With acoustic guitar - John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucia. Malmsteen could've become much more than he did. So could Shawn Lane whos technique was quite incredible but the rest of him was not.
Another great fusion band from the 70*s/80*s nobody has mentioned was Pierre Moerlen*s Gong. Great stinging guitar solos by Allan Holdsworth mixed with jazzy sax and xylophone riffs backed by Moerlens fluid drumming. Best albums: Shamal, Expresso ( aka known as Gazeuse ), Time is the Key and Downwind. Have them all on lp don*t know if cd copy is available. Someone else mentioned Brand X WITH Phil Collins which I also endorse . Sounds similar to Return to Forever with Dimeola. Also recommend the original and later version of Tony Williams Lifetime. The later version featured Allan Holdsworth and Williams powerhouse drumming.
Inna, Oz can kick in the afterburners when needed. Most of the time it's not needed. There are many virtuosic guitar players, some mentioned here, with incredible technical facility but whose music leaves me totally unsatisfied. I've seen Oz about 5 times in a trio setting. I've seen Al D. with Return to Forever and with Paco and John. I was very impressed with Al's handling of the guitar, but I'll take Oz any day. I've never thought it was all about the speed but rather the composition, arranging and where applicable, improvisation. There are no absolutes in these things, it's largely subjective. DIfferent strokes.