Mahavishnu Orchestra at Wolfgang’s Vault

Recorded on the second night of a two-night stand at New York City’s Avery Fisher Hall, this recording captures one of the last performances by the legendary original lineup. Although missing the beginning of the set, what is available is a fascinating glimpse of the Mahavishnu Orchestra at the tail end of their existence:

This night’s recording begins in progress, with the group exploring the infectious groove of “You Know, You Know,” one of the most popular compositions from their debut album, The Inner Mounting Flame.

Next up is Jerry Goodman’s composition, “I Wonder.” Recorded during the Trident sessions several months prior and recorded again in 1974 by Goodman and Hammer for their Like Children album following the breakup, this version features expansive improvisations, beginning with an emotional solo from McLaughlin that relies more on bluesy string bends and a fat biting tone as opposed to speed. Goodman and Hammer both take impressive solos as well.

Shortly after the nine-minute mark, Cobham launches the band into a furious version of “Awakening.” A tape change misses a few seconds of this (approximately 1:15 in), but it is otherwise complete. “Awakening” is divided into three distinct sections, each focused around an outstanding solo from one of the band members, bridged together by reinstatements of the original theme.

The version of “Hope” that follows unfolds in an elegant, magisterial way and provides listeners with a brief break in the relentless intensity that preceded it. However, this lasts less than two minutes before Cobham signals one of their classic turn-on-a-dime transitions.

To fully pummel the audience into submission, they close the set with “Vital Transformation.” In 9/8 time, this contains some of the most furious playing that the band would ever achieve.

This is one ferocious concert. Click here to listen to it at Wolfgang’s Vault.

This version of Mahavishnu Orchestra are:

Billy Cobham – drums

Jerry Goodman – violin

Jan Hammer – keyboards

Rick Laird – bass

John McLaughlin – guitar

7 Responses to “Mahavishnu Orchestra at Wolfgang’s Vault”

  1. Hugh says:

    I enjoyed the recording. Thanks, UrbanG.
    Mahavishnu was a turning point in my musical taste when I was 15.
    I remember the arguement then was who was a better guitarist, McLaughlin or Jimmy Page? Sweet . . . I mean, what else did we have to argue about back then?
    Yes, I had an uncontrolable urge to play “air” instruments (you name it, I’ll fake it!) listening to this show.

    This quote from the summary sums it up nicely, “This is a jaw-dropping performance that is simply overflowing with energy; seemingly superhuman in its seething intensity.”

    It’s all good but, listening to Billy Cobham on drums is like being inside a high speed engine! That man has endless power.
    I caught some of the band members over the years in other projects but the one that stands out is the “Jack Bruce Band with David Sancious, Clem Clempson & Billy Cobham” at Bottom Line in NYC, March 17th, 1980. (I even have a pic somewhere)
    Let me know if a tape of this concert pops up somewhere?
    One hell o’ a sho’!

  2. Mike says:

    My first Zappa concert was at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, spring 1973.It was the “Overnight Sensation” Mothers, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and the first act on was Leo Kottke (solo). I was well hooked into the fusion sounds of Frank and McLaughlin by then, but had never heard of Kottke. I learned that day.

  3. xorg says:

    I caught up with the Mahavishnu Orchestra the following year at Knebworth see http://www.ukrockfestivals.com/knebmah74.html. Very different line-up but it featured Jean-Luc Ponty on violin who had been with FZ the year before.

  4. jane23 says:

    Hey Mike: Thanks, I was at the concert too but I had completely forgotten about Leo Kottke having been the opening act.

  5. urbangraffito says:

    A quote from Hugh:

    I enjoyed the recording. Thanks, UrbanG.
    Mahavishnu was a turning point in my musical taste when I was 15.
    I remember the arguement then was who was a better guitarist, McLaughlin or Jimmy Page? Sweet . . . I mean, what else did we have to argue about back then?
    Yes, I had an uncontrolable urge to play “air” instruments (you name it, I’ll fake it!) listening to this show.

    This quote from the summary sums it up nicely, “This is a jaw-dropping performance that is simply overflowing with energy; seemingly superhuman in its seething intensity.”

    It’s all good but, listening to Billy Cobham on drums is like being inside a high speed engine! That man has endless power.
    I caught some of the band members over the years in other projects but the one that stands out is the “Jack Bruce Band with David Sancious, Clem Clempson & Billy Cobham” at Bottom Line in NYC, March 17th, 1980. (I even have a pic somewhere)
    Let me know if a tape of this concert pops up somewhere?
    One hell o’ a sho’!

    I, too, recall arguing about who was the better guitarist when I was 15 or 16 (at that time, and age, there was no questioning my belief in Frank Zappa’s supremacy on the guitar). Fortunately, age has taught me that comparing guitarists is like comparing apples and oranges: each is unique and individual in their own particular way. The same with drummers. I have to say, though, that it was Billy Cobham that woke me up to what an accomplished drummer could do (not just provide a beat to a piece of music), and I never listened to a drummer quite the same ever again.

    I definitely keep a look out for a tape of the show you mentioned. If it’s out there, and available, I’m sure I’ll be able to track it down. There’s nothing like hearing Cobham live is there?

    Speaking of live Cobham, here is a link to play and download the George Duke/Billy Cobham Band (featuring Alphonso Johnson and John Scofield) at McAlister Auditorium, New Orleans, 18 February 1976 over at JazzFusion.TV:

    http://www.jazzfusion.tv/bootlegaudio.614.html

    (there are lots of goodies over there…ponty, duke, dimeola, cobham, weather report, jaco pastorius, the brecker brothers, and the mahavishnu orchestra…you’ll want to bookmark their page)

  6. Hugh says:

    A quote from urbangraffito:

    Fortunately, age has taught me that comparing guitarists is like comparing apples and oranges: each is unique and individual in their own particular way.

    How true. In my teen years I was still exploring a multitude of guitarist, so I always reserved my opinion but I will say that Hendrix was my first “love”.
    That would be great if you found that show. I believe it was billed as Jack Bruce & Friends (My ticket is ripped in half). I’ll keep my fingers crossed.
    Watching Cobham live that night was a lot like watching Bozzio, it was hard to take your eyes off of their playing.
    Thanks for the “jazzfusion” link, I’ll check it out tonight.
    I’m looking forward to McLaughlin, Corea & Colaiuta coming to NYC soon. I haven’t seen these guys in a long time!

  7. jane23 says:

    Billy Cobham live was awe inspiring!!! The drum set sounded like it was about to explode at times.

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