Sunday Big Note – Listening Session #2

It would be another year – the last week of April and the early weeks of May 1973 – before the Mahavishnu Orchestra found themselves on the road opening for Frank Zappa and the Mothers Of Invention on the tour promoting Zappa‘s Over-Nite Sensation album. Yet, as the above clip of Ruth Underwood illustrates, the Mahavishnu Orchestra had a profound effect upon Zappa and the direction which his music took.
Continue reading “Sunday Big Note – Listening Session #2”

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