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The Mahavishnu Project: Return to the Emerald Beyond

Gregg Bendian isn’t known for shying away from challenges. In creating the Mahavishnu Project seven years ago, the drummer had to re-enact the complex, militaristic, warp-speed style of Billy Cobham with the original Mahavishnu Orchestra 1971-1974 lineup. Cobham and founding guitarist John McLaughlin were the catalysts for a group that was at once beautifully melodic, profoundly harmonic and furiously rhythmic (akin to playing Cream LPs at 45 rpm). Currently working on a duo CD with another manic guitarist, Richard Leo Johnson, Bendian’s latest Mahavishnu Project release boldly goes where no band has gone before.

On the live, two-disc Return to the Emerald Beyond, Bendian expands his quintet lineup to 11 pieces to match the unmined gem of McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu catalog. Visions of the Emerald Beyond, released in 1975, featured violinist Jean-Luc Ponty in for Jerry Goodman, bassist Ralphe Armstrong for Rick Laird, keyboardist-vocalist Gayle Moran for Jan Hammer, and drummer Narada Michael Walden for Cobham. String and horn sections filled out McLaughlin’s vision, which never saw the stage, since the guitarist disbanded Mahavishnu soon thereafter.

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