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Mahavishnu Orchestra Links:


    The Mahavishnu Orchestra
    Birds Of Fire
    2000, Sony/Legacy

The Mahavishnu Orchestra may have been an all-star jazz fusion outfit, but when you look beyond the personnel that comprised it, and delve into the actual sound of this recording, you’ll walk away convinced that this was little more than an improvisational extension of guitarist John McLaughlin. McLaughlin came to prominence as a part of Miles Davis’ early fusion experiments, as did so many other groundbreaking musicians during those fertile and creative early ’70s days. The "Orchestra" also consists of Jerry Goodman on violin, Jan Hammer (later of "Miami Vice" theme fame) on keyboards, Rick Laird at the bass and the amazing Billy Cobham on drums. It’s easy to see why so many in the jazz community turned their noses up at this powerful music. McLaughlin mixes monster riffs—the kind usually saved for heavy metal—with a reckless sense of improvisational abandon. There’s also a strong dose Eastern mysticism infusing these mostly non-Western melodies, especially exemplified by the title track "Birds of Fire." Although this particular line-up only lasted for one studio release, they certainly found a lot of quick common musical ground. Cobham’s expressive drumming and Laird’s steady bass work support the multi-note flights of fancy from McLaughlin, Hammer and Goodman. It’s the kind of music that makes you feel like you’re a visitor to some exotic island, where everything appears foreign and new. Even all these years later, this music may not count as jazz in many listeners’ minds, but it’s still pretty doggone cool, whatever it is. So leave all your preconceived notions behind, and let this unique quintet take you—like a bird of fire—to uncharted territory.—Dan MacIntosh

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