The Mahavishnu Orchestra was a primary recording and performing outlet for guitar virtuoso John McLaughlin. Born January 4, 1942, in Yorkshire, England, McLaughlin initially made his name performing in area blues bands, most notably units headed by Graham Bond and Brian Auger. Matriculating to the U.S. after recording the highly regarded Extrapolation (Verve/Polydor PD-5510; 1969), he recorded six jazz-rock albums with Miles Davis and the Tony Williams’ Lifetime between 1969-1971.
McLaughlin experimented with various fusion lineups in his early U.S. solo releases: Devotion (Douglas 4; 1971) featured Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys rhythm section Lifetime organist Larry Young, and My Goal’s Beyond (Douglas 30766; 1972) included drummer Billy Cobham, violinist Jerry Goodman, and Indian tabla player Badal Roy. He then formed the Mahavishnu Orchestra by adding two European jazz-oriented musicians, bassist Rick Laird and keyboardist Jan Hammer, while retaining Cobham and Goodman. Choosing a name provided by his guru, Sri Chimnoy, McLaughlin further refined the fusion formula by adding his own East-West synthesis, melding the stop-and-start melodies and rhythms of Indian ragas with the rock’s power and the improvisational options of jazz. Despite its unprecedented success—the second album, Birds of Fire (Columbia 31996; 1973) reached number fifteen on the pop charts—he disbanded the group after the release of the third LP, the live Between Nothingness & Eternity (Columbia 32766; 1973), due to conflicts over composer credits (generally claimed by him).
McLaughlin retained the Mahavishnu Orchestra moniker for various recording projects; releases included Apocalypse (Columbia 32957;1974), Visions of the Emerald Beyond (Columbia 33411; 1975), and Inner Worlds (Columbia 33908; 1976). In 1976, however, he gave up the name after renouncing Sri Chimnoy; he briefly formed a group as the Mahavishnu Orchestra from 1984-1986, featuring drummer Danny Gottlieb, keyboardist Mitch Foreman, and saxophonist Bill Evans. Throughout, McLaughlin has continued to explore new musical directions both as a solo artist and in a number of group settings, most notably Shakti and Free Spirits. His charting albums have included Love Devotion Surrender (with Carlos Santana) (Columbia 32034; 1973), Electric Guitarist (Columbia 35785; 1979), and Friday Night in San Francisco (Columbia 37152; 1981). [Romanowski and George-Warren. 1995]
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