Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Mahavishnu Orchestra

Before jazz-fusion got to be dull and kind of snottily about how good you could play, but not about whether you could write - these guys were shredding eardrums and exhibiting astounding musicianship while simultaneously playing dynamic, compellingly listenable material. "John Mclaughlin" used to be synonymous with "guitar virtuoso," and Billy Cobham is a percussion god. Just one generation removed from Miles Davis' 1960's experiments in combining jazz and rock, this is about as good as this particular genre gets.


  1. Wow. Talk about your blasts from the past.

    I am one of those who became impatient with this genre. I used to be a big fan of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Al DiMeola, Chick Corea, etc., in my late teens. But then, all of a sudden, a switch flipped in my brain and it all started sounding like so much musical masturbation. Accordingly, I became enamored of the blues.

    I still appreciate musicianship, but I retain a kneejerk reaction against stuff that sounds intentionally complicated. I'm also a connoisseur of the "less is more" philosophy. I tend to prefer music with empty spaces and big dynamic changes. This fusion stuff usually sounds to me like no one in the band has learned the beauty of simplicity or restraint or contrast.

    The example you gave is not especially bad in this regard, but I still felt no burning desire to listen to the whole thing.

    My two cents. Or perhaps, my bad taste.

  2. I'm pretty skeptical of fusion the most part. I have a disproportionate hatred for Al DiMeola, whose music always sounded like finger exercises played really fast to me. And I always liked Chick better as an acoustic act. But I love the first iteration of Mahavishnu.

    I don't really have a problem with complicated music as a general matter. For instance King Crimson, post Lizard can do no wrong in my book... not to mention Zappa, among others. I have an intuition about what works musically that I can't fully describe, but I know it when I hear it. I agree with you about dynamics and empty spaces.