In the early 1970s, the John McLaughlin-led Mahavishnu Orchestra coupled rock volume and intensity with jazz virtuosity and interplay, resulting in some of the best fusion in jazz history. Writer-historian Walter Kolosky documents the rise and fall of this seminal group in his new book, Power, Passion and Beauty: The Story of the Legendary Mahavishnu Orchestra, available May 22 from Abstract Logix Books. Kolosky is also the author of 2004’s Girls Don’t Like Real Jazz: A Jazz Patriot Speaks Out, an amusing mission statement on reclaiming jazz in the public sphere.
According to Power‘s press release, the 300-plus page book is the first Mahavishnu bio to “include collaborations” with the classic MO lineup of guitarist McLaughlin (pictured), drummer Billy Cobham, keyboardist Jan Hammer, violinist Jerry Goodman and bassist Rick Laird. Additionally, Power features exclusive, previously-unreleased photographs of the band and input from Sir George Martin, artist Peter Max, sound engineer Ken Scott and Mahavishnu’s ’70s-era jazz-rock peers: Joe Zawinul, Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock and Jeff Beck.
For non-musician jazz and rock fans, Mahavishnu’s first two LPs-1971’s The Inner Mounting Flame and ’72’s Birds of Fire (both on Columbia)-are absolutely essential. Players, however, should be warned upfront: The musicianship on these records is downright devastating, and there’s a decent chance McLaughlin’s breakneck picking and Cobham’s polyrhythmic mastery will intimidate you into dropping your ax off a bridge. They were just that good.
Books can be ordered at the official Abstract Logix site, which includes additional rare photos, message boards and other content.Originally Published