505

The Mahavishnu Project: Return to the Emerald Beyond

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
The Mahavishnu Project: Return to the Emerald Beyond One inherent risk of any tribute band is excessively literal treatment of the material. Since forming the Mahavishnu Project to honor guitarist John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, drummer Gregg Bendian has avoided every possible such pitfall. Bendian views this '70s fusion group's relatively small body of work as repertory alongside music by artists like Miles, Coltrane and Monk. TMP's first two releases put a distinctly personal spin on the music, expanding it and twisting it around without ever losing sight of its fundamentals.

Bendian ups the ante with Return to the Emerald Beyond. An expanded eleven-piece TMP performs Visions of the Emerald Beyond (Columbia/Legacy, 1975) in its entirety, along with three additional MO tracks. Considered by many as inferior to the version of Mahavishnu Orchestra responsible for the classic Inner Mounting Flame (Columbia/Legacy, 1971) and Birds of Fire (Columbia/Legacy, 1973), the group that recorded Visions may not have been as immediate or visceral, but its scope was more ambitious and expansive. While less successful at the time, Visions is retrospectively one of McLaughlin's most envelope-pushing records.

Only violinist Rob Thomas remains from TMP that released Phase Two (Aggregate Music, 2004), and he continues to be a fiery and imaginative player deserving greater recognition. The core quintet of this revamped TMP is the best one yet, also featuring keyboardist/Miles alumnus Adam Holzman and guitarist Glenn Alexander. Alongside Bendian, Thomas and bassist Dave Johnsen, they approach the music with total authenticity while avoiding imitation. Since Alexander's the guitarist, the greatest weight falls on his shoulders, but while he adopts a McLaughlin-like fuzz tone much of the time, his mix of speed-picking and cascading legato runs is all his own.

What set Visions apart from earlier MO albums was its commingling of McLaughlin's growing interest in Indian and classical music with a broader musical palette. Bendian expands the music, sometimes to nearly triple its original length. The material ranges from irregular-metered boogie and funk to fiery rock, Indian-flavored pastoralism, free improvisation and overt classicism, all with plenty of solo space.

Bendian arranged all the music for this two-disc live performance that includes a string quartet, singer and woodwinds (played by original MO member Premik Russell Tubbs), but not all the expansion is devoted to lengthy solos. A classically trained musician whose body of work ranges from free jazz with Cecil Taylor to the progressive rock-informed but unequivocally jazz-centric band Interzone, Bendian is that rare artist with fingers in enough musical pies to be capable of taking McLaughlin's music as a reference for expanded form.

With Mahavishnu Orchestra's relatively small repertoire, Bendian has turned the Mahavishnu Project into an increasingly popular venture with no end in sight. No less ambitious than its source, Return to the Emerald Beyond is the group's best album yet.

Track Listing: CD1: Eternity

Personnel: Gregg Bendian: drums, dumbeq; Glenn Alexander: electric and acoustic guitars, voice; Rob Thomas: electric and baritone violin; Adam Holzman: keyboards; David Johnsen: bass; Premik Russell Tubbs: saxophones, flutes; Katherine Fong: first violin, Kindler cadenza (cd1/4); Zach Brock: second violin; Nicole Federici: viola; Leigh Stuart: cello; Maria Neckam: voice.

Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Cuneiform Records | Style: Fusion/Progressive Rock


Shop

More Articles

Read Overseas V CD/LP/Track Review Overseas V
by Karl Ackermann
Published: March 30, 2017
Read Behind The Mist CD/LP/Track Review Behind The Mist
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: March 30, 2017
Read Salão Brazil CD/LP/Track Review Salão Brazil
by John Sharpe
Published: March 30, 2017
Read Sedimental You CD/LP/Track Review Sedimental You
by John Sharpe
Published: March 30, 2017
Read Overseas V CD/LP/Track Review Overseas V
by Troy Collins
Published: March 30, 2017
Read Disappeared Behind the Sun CD/LP/Track Review Disappeared Behind the Sun
by Karl Ackermann
Published: March 29, 2017
Read "Brasil L.I.K.E" CD/LP/Track Review Brasil L.I.K.E
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: September 30, 2016
Read "Sunkissed" CD/LP/Track Review Sunkissed
by Jeff Winbush
Published: September 11, 2016
Read "Intuit" CD/LP/Track Review Intuit
by Mark Corroto
Published: July 14, 2016
Read "Tie the Stone to the Wheel" CD/LP/Track Review Tie the Stone to the Wheel
by John Eyles
Published: April 3, 2016
Read "Music of Weather Report" CD/LP/Track Review Music of Weather Report
by Mark Sullivan
Published: July 19, 2016
Read "Fierce Silence" CD/LP/Track Review Fierce Silence
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 4, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

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!