Thursday, February 15, 2007

Mahavishnu Project - Return to the Emerald Beyond (Cuneiform Records, 2007)

The Mahavishnu Project is a repertory band performing the music of the 1970's jazz fusion outfit The Mahavishnu Orchestra, which was begun by guitarist John McLaughlin. The current group is led by the drummer Gregg Bendian and includes Rob Thomas on violin, Adam Holzman on keyboards, David Johnsen on bass and Premik Russell Tubbs on saxophones and flutes. Visions of the Emerald Beyond is not really considered to be one of the finest hours of the original band, but the current group does a solid job of breathing new life into the material. They perform improvised versions of that entire album and a couple of other songs associated with the original band. The group really does achieve an orchestral sound, mixing jazz, progressive rock and classical influences into an intense blend of sounds. This two disc live concert mixes the ethereal cosmic groove tracks like the violin and vocal led "Eternity's Breath" with some straight fusion groovers such as the amusing "Can't Stand Your Funk." The group works very well together, and solo honors are divided well between Glenn Alexander's guitar work, and the swirling violins of Thomas and Katherine Fong. Vocals are used sparingly throughout the concert, at times approaching an operatic grandeur. Fans of progressive rock and jazz fusion should find this album quite appealing with the many varied rhythms and virtuoso playing.

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