Not too long ago, I was asked by author, Walter Kolosky to write a reflection about my memories of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. This reflection, amongst others, was to appear in his forthcoming book, Power, Passion & Beauty: The Story of the Legendary Mahavishnu Orchestra. I was, needless to say, flattered and honored to have been asked. As it is with all such things, once you have turned in your written work, you surrender the rights to just what is going to happen to it, and if and how it might be used. I had no idea that, in the end, in the published version, my reflection was going to be chopped-up and spread out over several chapters. So, as many of you have written me about this, I thought that I would share with everyone exactly what I wrote, and in its original, unedited form.|
And so, here is the reflection as originally written.....
After carefully going through a box, which contains all my datebooks from 1970, when I first arrived in New York, to the present; I was able to locate the exact date and club for the night when I saw the very first gig, in front of an audience, of John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra. It took place, according to my entry, at the Gaslight in Greenwich Village, New York City, on a steamy Wednesday night, July 21st, 1971. It was a vivid memory for me because, of course, everyone in the music community knew that something was brewing, something important was going to be coming right at us. We just didn't know what it was going to be. On that night, for the first set, a relatively small crowd of musicians and music-heads had shown-up to this club, which was more associated with "Rock" than with "Jazz".....this is certain. One could feel the anticipation!!!
Have you ever thought to yourself, after having seen a well-known band at a serious concert venue, that 'nothing ever goes wrong' for bands like that!!! Well, that has always been my sense of things. It is, in part, for this very reason that I recall that July night so well. There they were: John McLaughlin; Jan Hammer; Jerry Goodman; Rick Laird; and Billy Cobham. And, though I could be wrong, I believe that they opened with "Meetings of the Spirit".....it was an amazing night, filled with all the tunes from what was to become "THE INNER MOUNTING FLAME." And though, I went hoping not to like what I was going to hear, I left knowing that I had witnessed something which was going to change how we were all to approach music-making for the rest of the decade.
However, I also recall that it was a night where many little things went wrong, and these things, perhaps, would never happen again. Because, once a band gets on a roll, not much happens to derail it, except forces from within. On this night, I believe that I saw the unthinkable:  Billy Cobham broke one of his bass drum pedals;  John broke a guitar string; and,  something strange happened to Jan Hammer's keyboard rig too. But, the music went on, despite delays, etc., and everyone knew that something very special, extraordinary had been born that night.
During the early years of the band, I was fortunate to play opposite Mahavishnu a few times as part of the Brecker Bros. Band, and perhaps with some other artists too. I can't recall. I remember when the original group finally broke-up after the 'live' recording. For those who were paying attention, a most important lesson could be learned from that break-up, and that is this: If a "band" and its "leader" are not willing to share the writing duties, and the selection of whose tunes get recorded, NO BAND will survive this, because the players, the 'sidemen', no matter how crucial their presence might be, will eventually leave. And, if you examine what happened, you'll see that this was a crucial factor in the unraveling of this incredible group. Sharing!!! One must share these things, share the wealth! If not, a band cannot work for too long. Three recordings would be just about the 'max.'
During more recent times, I have been fortunate to share various stages around the world with John McLaughlin, and I've always enjoyed it immensely. He has always treated me with kindness and graciousness. He is, without question, one of this music's greatest visionaries. He is someone who has transcended his virtuosity, and only used it as a tool for the betterment of the music to be served. He is a great, great artist, and I truly admire him. But, beyond this, to me, he stands as a great gentleman.
Thanks John! Thanks for a consistently high-quality body of work. One could not ask for more from a life in the arts!!!
New York, NY
March 6th, 2006