Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

944

Power, Passion And Beauty: The Story Of The Legendary Mahavishnu Orchestra

By

Sign in to view read count
Power, Passion And Beauty: The Story Of The Legendary Mahavishnu Orchestra
Walter Kolosky
Paperback; 313 pages
ISBN 0-9761016-2-9
Abstract Logix Books
2005

Before the corporate whitewash of the disco plague obliterated a golden age of musical creativity, there was a time when artists with a musical vision, fired by spiritual fervour, could reach a global audience with the full backing of a multi national record label.

Fuelled by previously unheard levels of instrumental dexterity, volume and eastern musical wisdom, guitarist John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra may indeed have been "the greatest band that ever was," as Walter Kolosky claims in this history.

Over the 300 or so pages of this thoroughly entertaining book, writer and self-professed aficionado Kolosky tells the story of the incendiary rise and sudden implosion of this most ferocious of the fusion bands of the '70s. At a time when the term jazz-rock was meaningful, before fusion became synonymous with overblown egotistical fret-melting pyrotechnics, the Mahavishnu Orchestra joined the musical revolution begun by trumpeter Miles Davis and saxophonist John Coltrane, combining jazz improvisation aesthetics with rock volume and propulsion—and a vital third ingredient, Indian rhythm and composition forms.

Along with Weather Report and Return To Forever, Mahavishnu was at the cutting edge of the new movement. The involvement had begun for McLaughlin himself when he was a member of Davis' seminal early electric line-ups, and a founder member of Tony Williams' Lifetime—the first and most riotous jazz rock ensemble.

The author lets the Mahavishnu story unfold through the participants' own accounts, and rarely steps in to let his own, admittedly biased, opinion colour the facts. Complemented by a treasure trove of images, many from private collections and never publised before, Kolosky follows a chronological order of events. He tells the story from the early personal histories of the original band members, through the various incarnations of Mahavishnu, and on to the groups Mclaughlin was to assemble later.

Rather than succumb to the usual headline grabbing gimmicks so loved by the media, Kolosky wisely and respectfully sidesteps sex, drugs and rock and roll gossip. Instead he gathers insightful first-hand accounts of events as they unfolded—from the famous and the not-so-famous. Amongst the former, all the original band members give generous input to the author, so the objective stance and authenticity of the book is unquestionable.

Kolosky is rewarded for his honesty with insights of which even the most ardent enthusiast would have been ignorant. Some mysteries, like the events surrounding the shattering of drummer Billy Cobham's relationship with McLaughlin, are not fully resolved. In the case of the self destruction of the original band however, enough evidence is assembled from those close at hand to get an informed picture of the background to it.

The author's unobtrusive style is perfectly suited to his subject. It's clear he has conducted exhaustive research, gathering together practically any previously published mention of the Mahavishnu Orchestra and its music, from a wide variety of sources. From hip-hoppers sampling the music directly, to film scores borrowing whole tracks, and obscure tributes by relatively unknown artists, there can hardly be any stone left unturned by Kolosky in his quest for completism.


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Listening For The Secret: The Grateful Dead And The Politics Of Improvisation Book Reviews Listening For The Secret: The Grateful Dead And The...
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 10, 2017
Read All That's Jazz Book Reviews All That's Jazz
by Phil Barnes
Published: December 6, 2017
Read Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine Book Reviews Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and...
by Doug Collette
Published: November 18, 2017
Read Claude Ranger: Canadian Jazz Legend Book Reviews Claude Ranger: Canadian Jazz Legend
by David A. Orthmann
Published: November 15, 2017
Read Softly, With Feeling Book Reviews Softly, With Feeling
by Richard J Salvucci
Published: October 24, 2017
Read Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In And Out Of Jazz Book Reviews Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In And Out Of Jazz
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 13, 2017
Read "Charles Lloyd: A Wild, Blatant Truth" Book Reviews Charles Lloyd: A Wild, Blatant Truth
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 25, 2016
Read "Beyond Words by John Prine" Book Reviews Beyond Words by John Prine
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: April 22, 2017
Read "The Blues: Why It Still Hurts So Good" Book Reviews The Blues: Why It Still Hurts So Good
by Doug Collette
Published: February 20, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!