So – I did say I was going to write a post about playing the music of John McLaughlin, and all that that entails.
Well…..this isn’t it.
However, I wanted to – for the sake of those who are fans and cannot attend (or can and want to know what to expect) – post the complete list of material we will be performing over the next 2 nights. Once again the venue is:
Shows 1 & 2 are tuesday night (tonight!) and show 3 is wednesday night.
So, without further ado, here are the set lists for this year’s VISHNUFEST.
Show 1: The John McLaughlin Songbook – Before & After Mahavishnu.
New York on my Mind
Do you hear the voices?
Special: SUITE FOR CHOIR:
I Am My Beloved’s
Law Is Not Love
God Then, God Now
Name of Truth
Show 2: BEST OF MAHAVISHNU
Birds Of Fire
Celestial Terrestrial Commuters
You Know You Know
Dance of Maya
Meeting of the Spirits
Show 3: RETURN TO THE EMERALD BEYOND
(-includes String Quartet, Premik Russel Tubbs on sax/flute and Melissa Stylianou, voice)
Can’t Stand Your Funk
If I Could See
On The Way Home To Earth
And there you have it! Hope those of you in the area who like this music can make it – you won’t be disappointed. 🙂
“A long, long tine ago…I can still remember how that music used to make me smile….”
It’s been a long way around. But if, as the physicists say, the Universe is curved, then it figures you’d end up back where you started. So why am I still somewhat surprised? If you’d told me someday people would want to hear this music again I might have laughed, and given a sad little smile…
First, a little background: I first got the “Birds Of Fire” disc back when I was 12 (13?) years old. At the time I was deep into ELP – particularly “Trilogy”, and was just discovering bands like “Yes” & “King Crimson”. (Alternately, another friend I used to hang with would play me Charlie Parker records ALL DAY.)
Anyway, when I tried to listen to “Birds”, I really just didn’t get it. I could tell it was something special, interesting, but…. just “out of reach” of my developing ears..
As time was passing, I was being introduced to more and more great music: the Classic Genesis Lineup; “Tales From Topographic Oceans” and “Relayer”; Patrick Moraz “Story Of i”; also “Bill Evans at the Village Vangaurd”, Herbie Hancock “Headhunters” (and way too many more to mention). It was an exciting time. I was also playing with my High School Big Band, and was writing and arranging for them. I was in it up to my ears, and…loving it.
But I noticed a disparity (at least in my mind) between the Rock & the Jazz worlds.They kind of didn’t “talk” to each other. (What a shame, I thought….)
There were many “moments” – you know what I mean, those points where you experience music in a new way, or hear something startling that changes you’re whole perception..
One of those moments that sticks out in my mind as being relevant is when I went to see “Lasarium” at the Hayden Planetarium in NYC (now the Rose Center). Amongst the Pink Floyd and other prog and experimental tracks was a weird little piece that featured, without a doubt, the coolest synth solo I’d ever heard. The track was called “I Remember Me”, and the synthesizer was played by non other than Jan Hammer. Here. have a listen: I Remember Me
I don’t remember exactly when, but at some point I pulled out “Birds of Fire” and listened, with new ears, to the most astonishing music I had discovered yet. Around the same time I became aware of their other records – “Inner Mounting Flame”, “Between Nothingness and Eternity”, “Visions Of The Emerald Beyond”. Then I got my hands on the Mclaughlin Book, which has the first 4 CD’s in score form – every part written out! My musician friends and I dug into this stuff will military-like discipline. We each learned all the parts – not just our parts, but all the parts. We would mix & match. Play them slow, fast, in different registers, etc. We “workshopped” this stuff to death! I made it my personal mission to get inside this music and be able to play it well – not just to be comfortable with the odd time signatures, but to “feel” them, to internalize them. I learned and memorized 90% of the material. In addition, the music had very strong spiritual connotations, and I was very drawn to it on a lot of levels. I began to see the odd time signatures as “mantras”….
Over the next few years the house of cards slowly came down, and the heyday of Jazz Fusion and Prog Rock came to an end. To quote George Duke from the Billy Cobham/George Duke Live record, “Disco’s taking over the universe”. Disco and Punk Rock. (The latter I learned to appreciate, thanks to my beautiful wife.)
I continued to play this music, mostly with my group “A. Animal”, but interest was waning. We played a lot of original stuff too, mostly in the progressive vein. It became apparent that people were “just not that into it”. (I’ve only recently realized a satisfactory blend of prog rock and jazz elements with NAIL, but that’s another story).
In 2000, I finally gave up the ghost, and looked towards playing new music – moving forward into uncharted territories. One of the first folks I met along the way was drummer Dean Sharp. We began to work together, producing the CD “Galvanized” along the way.
Around the same time, drummer Gregg Bendian was forming “The Mahavishnu Project“. At the time I was full time in “The Machine”, and trying to reinvent NAIL to include ALL of my influences (from Eno to McLaughlin to Metheny to King Crimson to Bill Evans). But they certainly caught my attention, and I began to court the band as something I was interested in. It just so happened that I knew all the music…!
I finally secured an audition with Gregg in early 2008, and did my first gig with the MP in May of that year. It was a little rough getting “back on the horse”, but much to my delight, like riding a bike, it all came back.
And now we come to something I thought I would never see, not to mention get a chance to play: a live rendering of “Visions Of The Emerald Beyond” – complete with string quartet, winds, and vocals. And at a killing NYC venue besides!
Well, I’ve gone on too long already. I’ll stop here, and present to you:
THE 4TH ANNUAL VISHNUFEST
REDISCOVERING & EXPLORING THE CUTTING EDGE JAZZ-ROCK OF JOHN McLAUGHLIN & THE MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA.
3 Shows in 2 Days. Info: Mahavishnu Project
JULY 7th & 8th, 2009
It’s All Happening At: Le Poisson Rouge
158 Bleeker St. New York, NY
Tickets are $23 at the door / $18 in advance
ADVANCE TICKETS STRONGLY SUGGESTED. THREE SHOW DISCOUNT PASS AVAILABLE.
THE MAHAVISHNU PROJECT (Vishnufest 2009 band)
Gregg Bendian, drums
Chad McLoughlin, guitar
Neil Alexander, keyboards
Zach Brock, violin
Jim Cammack, bass
Melissa Stylianou, voice
Premik Russell Tubbs, reeds
Esther Noh, violin
Matt Szemela, violin
Jon Weber, viola
Leigh Stuart, cello
Randy Taber, live sound
And introducing The VishnuVoices Choir with Melissa Stylianou, Abigayl Ventner, Missy Castleberry, Martha Cluver, Avery Griffin, Roosevelt Credit, John Young and Matt Hensrud.
I just had the best day ever. Seriously, a really great day of Music & Money making. First, a dance class in the morning. I forget, sometimes those are really FUN. Then, onto Long Island NY and Hofstra University for a NAIL performance for the music students, part of their “Music 20” concert series. 150 – 200 students, mandatory attendance. They HAVE to be there; we get the benefit of a built in Audience. Nice little theater type space; holds about 380 people so the place felt close to full.
And then we played – and did we ever! Man, we rocked the free world. No major gear issues… I even got a little Q & A in there, bit of a lec/dem vibe. There was a beatiful grand piano which we used for “Darn That Dream” – we usually do it electric, but we did a short acoustic version up front adding to the “demonstration” aspect. And then on top of all that I sold something like 8 CD’s at $15 a pop. But – what I friggin’ great show. I was on toop of the world after that…
Then – it was on to Teaneck NJ for my first gig with the Mahavishnu Project. Even though I was travelling from Long Island, through NY City and on to NJ at the height – the middle – of rush hour, I encountered almost no traffic at all, and arrived the the club an hour before I expected to. So far so good. In any case, I felt so good from the afternoon show I had no fear and no worries.
Then we played the show. Another success! Completely killer. Honestly, I live for the NAIL gigs – to me those are the REAL deal – but damn this was good. My old friend Conrad was there, and afterwards we went to a diner – like we hadn’t done in 15 years. I got home at 3 am – but I was still wired, and flying. “Cloud Nine” is what I think they call it. And Iget to do the Maha gig again n Wednesday, at the Iridium in NYC. YES!!!
Seriously though, it was the kind of day I dream about. Playing music I love, with great musicians (at high volumes!), and making money doing it. I mean really. I’m having trouble with the bills this month; things have been tighter than usual. But for me, a day like that? There’s not much more I could hope for – except of course for many many more of them. The memory of that day will help me through. I can’t wait to do it again.
So thanks all you people for the support. I hope to make music for you again soon.
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