johnmclaughlin

Mahavishnu Orchestra ‘Birds of Fire’

Never has brutality sounded so beautiful or precise. ‘Birds of Fire’ is considered by many to be the slightly tamer, more compositionally mature brother of the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s debut LP ‘The Inner Mounting Flame,’ but I don’t know about this notion of “tamer.” Sure, it’s a bit less raw in terms of production values, and as a band, their relentless touring had made them impossibly tighter. But the molten core of nuclear energy that powered the Mahavishnu Orchestra was hotter than ever, making them one of the few jazz/rock bands that—when in beast mode—could make even the mighty Black Sabbath piss their pants and beg for mercy. At the same time, they could also toss a dozen eggs between them without cracking a single shell, playing with a delicacy and sensitivity that made them one of the most dynamic acts ever to set foot on stage, or enter a recording studio. In the 30 months they recorded and toured together before imploding, they left in their wake a long trail of blown speakers and blown minds. On this I’m thinking strategically: *THIS* is how we defeat the Murder Hornets, people….BIRDS OF FIRE

Miles Davis ‘A Tribute To Jack Johnson’

Incendiary. Recorded on this day (7 April, 1970) in Columbia Studio B, this record moves even further into rock, soul, and funk excursions that began as far back as the waning days of the Second Great Quintet. Those initial sparks grew into a flame with ‘In A Silent Way,’ fire with ‘Bitches Brew,’ and full-on conflagration with ‘A Tribute to Jack Johnson.’ Miles, in particular, is playing at the top of his game—his solos are fierce, edgy, and take NO prisoners whatsoever. As a bandleader, his stated goal was to “put together the greatest rock ’n’ roll band you ever heard.” Mission accomplished: John McLaughlin & Sonny Sharrock (guitars), Herbie Hancock & Chick Corea (keyboards), Steve Grossman (saxophone), Bennie Maupin (bass clarinet), Dave Holland & Michael Henderson (bass), and Billy Cobham & Jack DeJohnette (drums). The two side-long tracks cover a lot of ground. Tension. Release. Tranquility. Fury. The lines between what was planned and what happened are difficult to ascertain, and ultimately I’m not sure it matters. Whether you see this is a rock record with jazz cred or a jazz record that decided to party with a rock band, it’s another example of bending the course of music to his will. And we’re all the better for it

Miles Davis ‘In a Silent Way’ (Directions in Music by Miles Davis)

Released 50 years ago today, this album is ahead of its time, even now. Miles established the ground rules of framework and freedom. Producer Teo Macero leveraged technology in music-making that has since become nearly ubiquitous. The band—Wayne Shorter (soprano sax), Herbie Hancock & Chick Corea (electric piano), Joe Zawinul (organ, elec piano), John McLaughlin (guitar), Dave Holland (bass), and Tony Willams (drums)—all trusted in the creative process. The result: a dreamy, meditative voyage as @milesdavis ushered in a new era in jazz, once again re-writing the rulebook as he saw fit and trailblazing a new trajectory for the genre and for himself. This album’s impact, influence and significance in music, culture and technology continues to resonate. Anything with that much power is deserving of repeat spins, discussion and respect. Happy 50th ‘In a Silent Way’—I don’t think you’ll ever act your age

The Mahavishnu Orchestra ‘Between Nothingness and Eternity’ (Live in Central Park 1973)

The first time I heard this album circa Nov 1982, I thought my head was gonna explode. It did. So I played it again. Same result. So I went to the record store and asked the clerk for more. He sold me ‘The Inner Mounting Flame’ and ‘Birds of Fire’. I mentioned the issue with my head exploding so he also sold me King Crimson’s ‘Larks’ Tongues In Aspic’. I played them all. Obsessively. That December, I received a pair of headphones from my parents for Hanukkah. Correlation/causation…you be the judge