Ever since I discovered the illuminating music of John McLaughlin, I have been exuberant about Tony Williams. I recall writing a term paper for a music course about Mahavishnu John McLaughlin in 1973. I was doing research at CBS Records in NY City when I learned about how formative John McLaughlin’s fusion development was with Tony Williams Lifetime. The power trio of Tony Williams on drums, Larry Young on keyboards and John McLaughlin on guitar laid the foundation for jazz/rock fusion on their seminal recording, Emergency.
It was during John McLaughlin’s tenure with the band that Tony Williams introduced the young guitarist to Miles Davis, who was conducting his own fusion explorations at the time. This introduction led to McLaughlin playing on some of Davis’s most acclaimed and influential albums, including In a Silent Way, Bitches Brew, A Tribute to Jack Johnson, and On the Corner. Davis had a particular influence on the band, as Williams had played in his “Second Great Quintet” with Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, and Herbie Hancock, and Larry Young would go on to record on Bitches Brew. (Source: wikipedia, Emergency (album)
Jack Bruce joined the Tony Williams Lifetime for their second album, Turn It Over in 1970. It is fitting that Jack Bruce is a member of Spectrum Road today.
John McLaughlin went on to record two recordings with Douglas Records, one of which Devotion took jazz/rock fusion to the electric stratosphere level (Larry Young also played on these sessions, Buddy Miles played drums). The cosmic track, “Marbles” is a standout piece and a must hear.
Spectrum Road is more than a Tony Williams Lifetime tribute band. The supergroup consists of Cindy Blackman Santana on drums, Jack Bruce on bass, Vernon Reid on guitar and John Medeski on keyboards. They are ultra-true to the sound and vision of Tony Williams Lifetime. They take his music legacy to a whole new level by building on his catalog and then extending it with their unique collaboration and improvisation.