Billy Cobham - drums
Jerry Goodman - violin
Jan Hammer - keyboards
Rick Laird - bass
John McLaughlin - guitar
The initial classic lineup of the Mahavishnu Orchestra lasted less than three years and only released two studio albums and one live recording during this era, but these recordings had a profound effect, redefining the jazz/rock fusion movement. Combining the improvisational elements of jazz with the volume and energy of rock music, the group created music that was often intricate and complex, performed by musicians whose virtuosity thrilled audiences, musicians, and critics alike.
By 1973, the Mahavishnu Orchestra had firmly established their reputation and had become one of the most exciting bands on the planet. Midway through the year, the band took a brief hiatus from the road, convening at London's Trident Studios to record a third studio album. Although the new material was strong and McLaughlin consciously loosened his control to allow Jan Hammer, Jerry Goodman, and Rick Laird to contribute their own compositions to the sessions, the album (later released as The Lost Trident Sessions) would not see the light of day for another 26 years. Instead, the band decided to record a live album, featuring much of the same material, which became the final release during the band's existence, Between Nothingness And Eternity.
When Mahavishnu Orchestra took to the stage of Manhattan's Palace Theatre to perform this set for a Don Kirshner's Rock Concert television show taping, they were at the peak of their improvisational abilities, with the newest material now integrated into the performing repertoire. Despite the personal problems and the grueling schedule of the past two years, the group is still blazing with energy here. Although the group had performed live on the television show, In Concert, earlier in the year, for many American fans, this performance was their first visual exposure to this groundbreaking group. The audio from this program has been ubiquitously bootlegged ever since the original broadcast. However, presented here for the first time ever is not only the complete unedited performance, but also the entire recording in stereo, unlike the mono recordings sourced from the televised portion. This recording is far superior to any audio that has ever circulated from this performance and is an intriguing listen to the group during their final months together. Although the band had limited time in which to perform, this is yet another stellar example of the band's improvisational creativity and fluid virtuosity.
Of greatest interest to longtime fans will be the opening composition, "Dream," which was not included in the television broadcast. This remarkable composition allows the group to thoroughly flex their improvisational muscles. "Dream" had become one of the group's finest explorations during their final months together. McLaughlin began playing the initial sequences of this piece acoustically during the final months of the group and this performance is notable for being one of the last performances of it where he performs on electric guitar throughout. A masterpiece of tension and release, "Dream" is equal parts lush and ferocious and features four distinct time signatures! It begins in a tranquil manner, with McLaughlin and Goodman establishing the initial theme. At approximately five minutes in, Cobham signals the rest of the musicians to join in. Rick Laird establishes a strong groove on bass, which is reinforced by Hammer, who then begins soloing. Goodman's violin states the theme again several minutes later, before a ferocious jam ensues, with the tempo increasing faster and faster. This becomes a head spinning display of creativity and technical virtuosity. If one listens closely (at approx 10:30 into this piece), McLaughlin quotes the guitar riff from Cream's "Sunshine Of Your Love" amidst his barrage of blazing guitar pyrotechnics. Toward the end, McLaughlin takes another searing solo that develops into ferocious instrumental combat between he and Billy Cobham, before all reinstate the theme and bring this dramatic opener to a close.
What remains are the three songs featured in the television broadcast. They continue with Jan Hammer's signature composition for the group, "Sister Andrea." The band had been developing this piece for some time, but here it has reached fruition. Uncharacteristically funky, this highly elastic groovefest features sizzling 12-string solos from McLaughlin, wild bursts from Hammer and highlights the grittier rock side to Goodman's violin virtuosity, who pumps his amplified violin through a wah-wah pedal. They conclude the performance with "Hope," unfolding in an elegant, magisterial way, before the group suddenly blasts off into an explosive "Celestial Terrestrial Commuters." This features expressive soloing from Hammer and blazing call and response sequences between Goodman and McLaughlin. This is another thrilling hyperdrive performance.
The improvisational abilities of the group were at the most astonishing level during this latter part of 1973. All of this music burns with an intensity few groups have ever matched in live performance. The Mahavishnu Orchestra's tempestuous mix of jazz, rock, and Eastern influences is at its peak here. Although this initial groundbreaking lineup would call it a day by the end of the year, here they are still clearly challenging themselves to push the envelope, with constantly surprising and utterly compelling results.